Hailo was originally founded by 3 London cabbies: Terry Runham, Russell Hall and Gary Jackson, who created a platform made for licensed drivers. Since its inception in late 2010, criticisms have surfaced about the company:
1) Hailo did not embrace ride-sharing; it is a platform for licenced taxis only and when they applied for a private hire license, cabbies revolted; and its minimum fixed fees for rides turned off many passengers who were looking to travel short distances.
2) Hailo's failed launch in North America and their early pull-out of NYC and Canada; they saw the extravagant burn Uber maintained to remain the dominant platform in NYC and did not want to burn as much money as Uber.
3) Hailo's stand against emerging technology- they have created public campaigns against driverless car technology and have not created a beneficial bridge between cabbies and driverless cars, and instead put them up against each other.
How Hailo Can Beat Uber:
1) Hailo Carpool: they can integrate ride-sharing features; carpool (neighbours or otherwise). Currently Google is testing out this model in Israel called "FreeRide". It lets people carpool to work or other places. Hailo can match up neighbours and other people who live close by to carpool to school, work and other commutes.
2) Exclusive contracts for drivers: offer benefits and exclusive contracts to all drivers on their platform- this will wipe out at least 65% of the drivers on other transportation apps whose drivers use more than 1 platform. Thus far, Uber has been marketing specifically towards passengers, lowering prices, giving discounts etc., and been more involved in spending burn related to marketing and public policy than catering to their most valuable asset: their drivers
If Hailo offered their drivers certain benefits- such as reimbursement on petrol and discounted car insurance with an exclusive contract not to utilise other apps such as Uber, Lyft and others; this would harvest all the drivers on other platforms. Of course, Uber might change their stance on "contractors not employees" and we have already seen the very first victim in the share economy startup last week as Homejoy will be shutting down at the end of the month from multiple lawsuits and class action lawsuits from their users wanting to be reclassified as employees not contractors, but Uber is spending a lot of their burn denying their most valuable assets: their drivers, simple benefits.
If we have learned anything about the service-oriented share economy, Hailo should quickly take the lessons learned to woo drivers with a new policy that gives drivers benefits.
Hailo could also lobby the UK Govt- perhaps Hailo drivers who are carpooling could be exempt from London congestion taxes etc., but making it appealing for drivers to use the Hailo app while taking away drivers from other transportation apps is what will make it a more valuable platform for users of the platform as well as for passengers.
3) Integration of new technology: Instead of taking a stance against driverless technology, Hailo could embrace driverless technology and integrate it into their platform.
Things have always ended badly when companies do not embrace emerging technology and a democratic platform. The winning goal for Hailo is to create more jobs, not resist against change that people are excited about. If Hailo could re-strategise their stance, and instead woo cabbies to embrace this new technology by offering them opportunities to re-home their skills and talents and via the creation of new jobs, this would be more beneficial for the company in the long-run.
My experience with London cabbies is that they are the best in the world, along with Parisian cabbies. I even had a Paris cab driver travel across the city, through 5 different arrondisements to return my passport, when he realised that I accidently left it in the trunk of his car after it fell out of my bag. I've always had a great experience with London cabbies who have always handled all my luggage without complaint, as well as telling me amusing stories about certain neighbourhoods and places in London. I even had a London cabbie, who was a South African immigrant with a background in political science, tell me about the various corruption present in the South African university system in a ride from Liverpool Street to Euston Square.
As a society, we should take care of these people, and make it worthwhile for them to join a transportation sharing app. Uber has forgotten that their most important assets are their drivers, no matter what kind of spin they pay people to write about in the media.
A lot of the thought-leaders I follow on blogs have commented that Uber will most likely shift all their drivers towards driverless technology in 10 years, but I am somewhat sceptical this will happen for the following reasons:
1. How will Uber shift drivers to "driverless" technology when Google owns all of the patents? Most likely Google will expand their driverless cars to many nations, and regular taxi companies will shift to the integration of driverless cars, but Uber can't suddenly get rid of all their drivers and replace them with Google's driverless cars, otherwise they will just become like any other taxi company. Also people are fickle; just because people use the Uber app this year does not mean they will continue to use the app in the coming years if it doesn't provide them with what they want.
2. The feature that passengers like most about Uber is that it is less expensive than regular cabs. However, I think transportation matching apps like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are actually trying to solve two different, underlying problems:
a) Congestion/ traffic on the road (ie, most people don't want to drive their own cars and look for parking)
b) Inefficiency of public transportation (ie, subways, metros, trains, Bart, Muni, buses are outdated systems of transportation that the US and other governments have not fixed and have not been updated for several decades)
In comparison, if we take a look at Switzerland's tram and rail system- it is one of the most efficient, safe, clean, convenient ways for people to travel. The Swiss government has made it easy for their citizens and residents to use public transport via its annual update of features, and Swiss citizens pay a certain amount annually to use these services in their annual tax. Therefore, residents don't have to buy tickets for local commutes (only for travel across several cities) which is the most annoying thing about taking public transit (ie, always have enough change to buy tickets or else have an Orange card or Tube card). Instead, Swiss residents just get on and off whenever without having to go through ticketing gates. Switzerland also allows people to travel with their pets which makes it more agreeable to people like myself who like to travel with my dog around different cities.
A passenger on a Swiss tram traveling with their dog. Dogs can have their own seats on Swiss transportation. London also changed their policy to allow dogs on leads in the London Underground after they integrated air conditioning. In comparison, the NY subway only allows dogs that are in cages or dog carrier bags.
In effect, I think the demand for transportation sharing apps is directly derivative from people's discontent with their public transportation system.
In any case, it will be interesting to see how all of these service-oriented share economy startups, especially those in transportation, will evolve over the next 5 years. I certainly hope Hailo will be one of the companies that we can look back on and say that they understood how to integrate change to create a win-win scenario.
By Sierra Choi, Director of Marketing