Order a taxi at the tap of a button
A new way of ordering cabs in minutes, from your phone.
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Serial entrepreneur Shahar Smirin is not alone in seeing the potential of his latest venture, Get Taxi.
Russian American billionaire Len Blavatnik, who recently bought Warner Music for $3.3 billion, has invested $9 million in the company, which is changing the way taxis throughout Europe are ordered and dispatched.
Get Taxi, aimed at both consumers and taxi drivers, is a phone app that enables you to order, track and pay for your cab from your phone. It is operational in Israel - where it is growing at 30 per cent week on week with a 100 per cent rise in monthly revenues - and more recently the UK. Moscow and Paris are also on the agenda.
How does it work? Once users have downloaded the free app, available on all smartphones, when they want to order a taxi they click the icon. This sends a signal to all Get Taxi's registered drivers within one-and-a-half miles who can accept the job. The consumer gets to see a picture of the driver, estimated arrival time and can monitor their journey on a map. The driver can also track the passenger's location.
Registered drivers pay a monthly fee of £100 to receive a hardware device that coordinates orders and payments.
The app, co-founded with fellow Israeli Roi More, is proving particularly popular with businesses: offices, restaurants and hotels, which can order through the website.
In Israel, several major companies including Google, PwC, Disney and the Sheraton hotel chain use the service. And the potential, believes Mr Smirin, is huge.
The 36 year-old has founded and built six profitable companies but says Get Taxi has the greatest opportunity.
"It is unlimited. It is a $30 billion market in Europe that we are tapping into. There are 600,000 taxi drivers in Europe and they can't survive without a dispatch service, which is costly - around £350 a month. But we are offering drivers an alternative at around a third of the price."
And it seems others are cottoning on to the possibilities.
$11 million has already been ploughed into the start up and Mr Smirin, who is fluent in Hebrew, English and Russian, is receiving regular calls from other interested investors. Hardly surprising given his track record.
A year ago the entrepreneur, who divides his time between his various companies in Israel, Russia and Silicon Valley, founded Vigoda, Russia's answer to daily deal site Groupon. It is already achieving $50 million in revenues ($200 million expected next year) and has 230 staff (forecast to grow to 500 by the end of the year), but Mr Smirin says "the trend for Get Taxi is way higher."
He is particularly confident about London, number one in Europe for the amount of taxis - 60,000.
Key to his companies' success, he says, is timing-to-market and being a part online/offline business. He places great emphasis on service and consumer experience.
"I believe in ideas. Sometimes an entrepreneur will try and create a solution to a problem but these are often not realistic. We haven't had to invent something. We are just improving what's already there."
He adds: "You have to be fanatical about user experience, as we are. Every service has to be entertaining and giving people more than they would expect."
For instance, if there is no cab available for dispatch, Get Taxi will automatically order one for you through a competitor. "Our customer-care philosophy is no excuses, no bulls**t."