One developer is hoping to put an end to the taxi booking app wars by producing a harmonious experience for cab companies, drivers and passengers, and he wants to do it by leveraging people power.
The NSW taxi council has accused taxi booking apps, such as goCatch and ingogo, of being unsafe, because anyone using an app can claim to be a driver. The developers have responded by saying that their apps increase safety because they use GPS and mobile phone numbers to track job information.
These apps connect passengers directly with drivers, but a new competitor — Taxi Pro — hopes to go a step above the drivers, working directly with taxi companies to connect them with smartphone users.
Taxi Pro allows commuters to book taxis through the existing taxi networks, and has already attracted 40,000 users via word-of-mouth marketing, according to developer Zac Altman. An Android version is due to be released by the end of the month, he said, followed by Taxi Pro 2.0 for the iPhone.
The 20 year old is aiming to raise an additional $10,000 to ramp up development and marketing and has chosen to do this via crowdsourced funding.
Crowdsourced funding allows people to raise one lump sum by aggregating small contributions from a large number of friends, family and prospective customers. Donors commit to providing the funding, but only have to pay once the target amount has been reached.
The funding will cover the back-end server development, server costs for the next year and also viral marketing (including t-shirts and stickers).
The benefit of raising investment from crowdsourced funding is that it creates a stronger connection with the customers, he said.
"I have lots of vocal advocates for the application, and this is the perfect way for them to help directly contribute to the development," Altman said.
"Boiling it down, it was a matter of where I wanted to place my energy, and not wanting to have a stringent focus on making money.
"People don't just give away $10K, and I don't think a box of t-shirts counts as an ROI. I want to focus on my ten thousands of loyal customers, rather than a few investors."
He stressed that all of the money would be spent with external parties for development and marketing, in pursuit of the goal to produce the world's best taxi booking app.
"I am not in a space to compete with the existing platforms; I want to work with the taxi companies to give customers the absolute best booking experience possible, regardless of the taxi company they book through."
It has a huge user base already through word of mouth. An Android version is soon to be released. The app benefits the taxi companies, because the app pushes bookings to their own networks.
It's reliant on the taxi networks. There's no clear business model at the moment.
There is huge potential to dominate the local market and replicate the system globally (if it can be easily ported to overseas markets and cab companies). There also could be a logistics play in monitoring the bookings behaviour.
The taxi council could attack the app, in the same way that it has gone after other taxi booking apps. There is a lot of competition for booking apps out there.
It's a very cool piece of proven technology, which appears to have earned the support of other companies in the industry. There's a clear development roadmap ahead.
The threat of retaliatory action by cab companies seems unlikely, because Taxi Pro generates extra bookings through their own networks. Still, there are question marks over the business model.