Taxi Aggregator Launches

Crane Dragon appears to be a London, England based company founded by a bunch of bright, successful guys (no women on board – bad news) to create start-ups. A kind of next-gen tech uber-VC, that invests its own money in creating next-gen tech ventures. Very cool.

Except, I’m sorry to say, that its first concept is doomed – just my opinion obviously – which doesn’t bode well for its future.

Texxi ("the taxi you text") is a Demand Responsive Transit Brokerage system. In other words, this means that if you want to order a taxi, you text in the Post Code of your destination. Then, Texxi’s server aggregates your details with other travellers who want to go to the same place and confirms the taxi driver’s name and badge number and tells you and your fellow passengers where to meet up to board the taxi.

In turn, the taxi driver gets an sms with his/her new passengers’ booking references and is told where the hook up place is.

This sounds pretty cool on the face of it. The Texxi user pays a fixed price per journey of ¨£5 ($8.77) in the launch city, Liverpool, which is probably lower that they would have paid on their own. The driver probably gets a higher fare than they would normally get for the same work. Oh …and there’s some laudable environmental benefits too, of cutting down on CO2 emissions and stuff.

So what’s wrong with the business model? In my opinion, it’s flawed on a number of levels, from simple usability to practicality to a failure to understand human nature.

The first (and biggest) problem is the classic Catch 22 faced by this kind of business. Taxi drivers won’t sign up without passengers – and passengers won’t sign up without taxi drivers.

Just supposing I’m in Liverpool right now and 1. Know about Texxi 2. Remember the not-so-catchy short code of 87222 and 3. Actually know the Post Code of where I want to go.

So I text my Post Code in and wait. The question is, how long will I wait? Because even in a city the size of Liverpool, the chances of finding even one other person wanting to go to the same location at the same time is actually pretty remote – let alone three or four others, unless they happen to be with me already.

Will I wait an hour? Very unlikely, as I’m either in a bit of a hurry (hence the need for a taxi) or it’s late (and I’m drunk, which doesn’t make me a patient passenger able to follow instructions very well.). So after 10 minutes, I get fed up and make other arrangements, forgetting (or I can’t be bothered) to tell Texxi.

15 minutes later, the taxi driver rolls up to find no one there. Or possibly one person offering ¨£5 for a ¨£15 journey. How many disappointments will the driver experience before giving up and slagging the service off to all his driver mates?

Hmmm.

Their next problem is Taxi Driver Inertia (TDI). We’ve seen this problem with Zingo, which I’ve written about before. Zingo is a location-based cab calling service – you call a number and it puts you in touch with the nearest London cabbie. This has equally laudable benefits for drivers and passengers – but drivers just won’t sign up. This means lots of passengers trying Zingo and experiencing disappointing results.

You might try something new, like Zingo or Texxi a couple of times, but if they continue to fail to deliver, you stop trying.

New ventures need self-belief and a management team committed to overcoming obstacles. But at some point before launch, they need to take a hard look at the idea and really tear it apart – or get an independent advisor to critique it. Texxi appears to have skipped this stage in its development.

I hate to criticize new ventures, especially as they need encouragement and nurturing, more than anything else. Equally, sometimes the best advice you can give a management team is "give up now". I’m afraid that’s my take on Texxi.

Pic via Taxi Bot. Story: Green Car Congress, although I have a feeling I may have read about it on SmartMobs….

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