Cabforce is an online platform for pre-booking (and pre-paying) taxis, mini-buses and executive cars across Europe.
At launch, two weeks ago, the startup was offering the ability to book certified cabs in 23 cities across 15 countries online or via its iPhone application.
Back in March, it received seed funding from angel investors including TripIt co-founder Gregg Brockway and Finland government grantsÂ andÂ revealed a target at the time of 40 cities by the end of 2012.
Cabforce is staffed by a team of 10 including Andreas Hansson, chief executive, Tommi Holmgren, chief product officer, Stephen Bradshaw general manager, UK and Ireland, Jani NiinimĂ¤ki, chief technology officer and Tuukka YlĂ¤lahti,communications.
The startup, which works on a commission basis, says it’s playing in a $50bn annual market with competition from corporate transit providers, chauffeur services, pre-bookable single country taxi apps and local taxi companies. An affiliate program allows partners to earn a share of the commission.
Q&A with Andreas Hanssen:
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
Cabforce.com is the only European-wide pre-booking technology platform and service for taxis, MPVs and executive cars. It is the first service to disrupt the traditional taxi industry by providing all-inclusive, up-front transparent rates, and the first to offer this service to affiliate partners through its public Taxi APIs – to be launched in Q4 2012.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
For people and enterprises:
Travel is the second most controllable expense for many companies. By using Cabforce as a single source supplier, enterprises can have compete visibility of taxi usage and spend ensuring full travel policy compliance. Payment can be made by central or individually billed cards, negating the requirement for foreign cash advances. No more unaccounted taxi expenses; all completed bookings are VAT receipted ensuring full financial control.
Cabforce is the most convenient and reliable solution for booking a taxi in Europe. It is dedicated to providing safe, reliable and trust-worthy taxis, with no hidden costs. It benefits from a network of certified taxi providers in 23 cities across 15 countries, providing airport transfers, in-city travel and longer distance trips. By pre-booking taxi journeys with Cabforce, any concerns regarding unreliable in-car payments, carried out in an unfamiliar currency, are negated. No other service currently provides accurate, real-time costs for all journeys upfront and guarantees every journey. Simply put; if a booked taxi does not show within 10 minutes of the time it was meant to, Cabforce will reimburse the cost and pay for the next booking.
For travel industry:
Cabforce is not just a taxi booking platform; it is an ancillary revenue driver for the entire travel industry. We enable our affiliate partners to sell pre-booked and pre-paid taxis, either in addition to their core product or as a stand-alone service, increasing spend-per-visit on their websites.
Cabforce’s technology and service brings transparency and trustworthiness to the taxi business, enabling the first pre-priced taxi fares with demand driven pricing on a large scale – not just for airport transfers but for any taxi ride. Reliable and carefully screened taxi suppliers are easily plugged into the Cabforceâ€™s system, and the offering is available globally through Cabforceâ€™s own website, app, affiliate program and industry leading Taxi API.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
As taxis have traditionally been used ad hoc and on-demand, a behavioural change of the traveller is needed. To accelerate this behavioural change, and to ensure market penetration, Cabforce is tapping into existing booking flows of Affiliate Partners such as TMCs, airlines and rail companies.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
Our motto is: go big or go home
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
Our original taxi dispatch solution approach was not scaleable which made it impractical for the company to grow quickly across the region, and demonstrate to potential affiliate partners the strength of the service. However, it did teach us a lot about the industry.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Cabforce helps make taxi travel, easier, cheaper, safer and more efficient. The internet has bought a whole new level of convenience and openness to travelling. You can now search and book flights, accommodation, rent-a-cars and even purchase insurance from one portal – providing real-time availability and price information upfront. Yet taxis are not part of this online door-to-door service.
Part of the issue is the industryâ€™s long standing legacy of hailing a cab â€“ travellers donâ€™t think about booking in advance and expect to be able to hail a cab upon arrival. However, our comfort with local taxi travel doesnâ€™t necessarily resonate when we head abroad.
Some countries have highly regulated taxi industries, whilst others have no regulation whatsoever. This means there is a risk you could be paying for unnecessary charges, taken on a longer route to increase the cost, unreliability in getting you to your required destination on timeâ€¦or worse!
This is where Cabforce comes in. We want to make taxi travel as convenient, safe and reliable for travellers as other aspects of their travel preparations. By providing access to an accredited network of taxi providers throughout Europe, either directly via our website, mobile app or through our affiliate partners â€“ while providing all costs upfront which are pre-paid before they travel – weâ€™re creating a convenient, reliable, secure and hassle-free experience.
The idea of pre-book and pre-pay became all the more appealing during a recent trip to Russia where the taxi ride didn’t exactly go according to plan. Ironically that transit was pre-booked and on account, the only trouble was being dropped in the wrong place.
How could Cabforce have solved this problem? Presumably with its promise to guarantee every journey although that wouldn’t have solved the immediate issue.
Back home, is there the same necessity to book and pre-pay for taxis to and from the airport? There are many, many business travellers who do so the market is there. But, there are two issues – first, as Cabforce points out, is educating users into pre-booking via the platform, and hopefully a far wider audience than just business travellers, and second is whether it’s easier to pick up the phone to a local firm.
Travellers from larger organisations are likely to be governed by travel policies so the affiliate scheme is a good way to go. In addition, the spotlight on the total cost of travel and not just the air and hotel elements will play into Cabforce’s hands. Getting to the unmanaged market will be a far harder job but as the startup says: ‘go big or go home’.
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