Driving taxis to new fortunes

After overseeing the production of Macquarie Bank's most ambitious online project to date, Ned Moorfield turned his back on the corporate workforce to chase his start-up dreams.

After overseeing the production of Macquarie Bank's most ambitious online project to date, Ned Moorfield turned his back on the corporate workforce to chase his start-up dreams.

Moorfield had been managing the project that produced EDGE, Macquarie's online stockbroking play, where he interacted with the divisions across the investment bank including: legal, finance, IT, user experience and, most importantly, risk management.

The job was like running a start-up inside a big corporation, which presented unique challenges.

"How do you keep this original vision, how to keep intact and make sure success but still address concerns?" Moorfield said.

The experience inspired him to start his own technology company. He teamed up with Andrew Campbell to develop taxi app goCatch, which connects empty taxis with desperate passengers.

The app uses a phone's GPS functionality to map out passengers waiting for a cab in a particular area and the taxi drivers in that vicinity. Users enter their trip details, information that is used by the driver to select the passenger they would like to pick up.

Last Friday the pair launched the iPhone version of the free app, with versions for other devices due in the near future.

It has been downloaded about 500 times since launch, and Moorfield estimates that this includes about 200 taxi drivers in Sydney. They plan to expand to cities across the country, and he anticipates in the coming weeks that activity will go up to "thousands of downloads a day".

So far only a "trickle" of jobs have been facilitated by the app and he admits the key to success will be getting the drivers on board.

To that end, the pair have been going down to the airport every day since launch to promote the app to drivers, and the response has been positive with some drivers already having downloaded the app.

At the moment it's free for drivers to accept bookings, but in the future goCatch will charge them to access premium services, including a fee to accept a pre-booking.

Moorfield assured that the fee will be comparable with what drivers are already charged by the existing cab booking networks.

"Drivers don't get a lot of jobs coming through existing networks, it's a way to help drivers pick up extra jobs and put them in touch with other passengers."

SWOT analysis

Strengths

It is an innovative use of the GPS and maps features built into smartphones. It has a clear revenue model.

Weaknesses

It lives and dies with the take-up of the service by taxi drivers, and the subsequent ease of use for passengers.

Opportunities

The current booking system is expensive and inefficient. Drivers want more jobs. Similar models overseas have been very successful.

Threats

It will fail if taxi drivers are prevented from using the app, or if the taxi industry launches a rival product.

Updated at 2:43pm, 1 July 2011: the developers won't be charging for the app itself in the future, but premium services for taxi drivers.

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