I’ve been a big fan of Hailo cabs since their launch last year, and even more so since last year’s campaign to discourage drunk driving by offering free rides. In fact, on my recent trip to NYC I needed a reliable and safe driver to get me from Manhattan to Brooklyn late at night. I opened my Hailo mobile app and the closest car was 6 minutes away. I’ve used Hailo in Toronto a lot so I know that I’ll get a clean car, a good (and usually very nice) driver, and no funny business like using longer routes to drive up the fare.
An added bonus: I was squirrelling my U.S. cash for shopping and Hailo charges your credit card directly through their app.
Last month Hailo celebrated one year of service in Toronto and it’s no surprise to me they’ve found success in our city. Their average pickup time is under 4 minutes and the average time to complete payment (via credit card, no less) is about 8 seconds. If you’ve ever been successful in convincing a regular cab driver to let you pay by credit or debit you know how impressive this is. They have carried 7.5 million passengers and are available in cities around the world including New York and London, but I sat down with Hailo’s founder Justin Raymond to ask him about Hailo’s place in Toronto’s taxi industry.
What growth does Hailo have planned in Toronto for the next year?
We expect 2014 to be the year that Hailo goes mainstream here in Toronto. They say that when a brand becomes a verb that it’s really made it so hearing thousands more Torontonians “Hailo-ing” their taxi next year is the goal for us.
Since launching a little over a year ago, we have continued to invest heavily in our technology, customer service and taxi driver community and I can tell you the result has been the creation of an amazing, game-changing taxi experience that a world-class city like Toronto deserves.
We fully expect to see significant growth in our driver network and a two or three-fold growth in rides next year. We’re also adding complimentary cities including Montreal in the very near future .
What gap in Toronto’s taxi industry did Hailo fill and make Hailo more successful?
Before we launched, getting a taxi in Toronto was basically a game of chance. In the worst cases, this meant waiting indefinitely on a wet or freezing street corner for the next free taxi to happen along. Hailo traces a customer’s location anywhere they want to hail a cab – bar, restaurant, office – tells the customer how long they’ll wait and then tracks the arrival of their taxi on a live map.
We have also taken the pain out of taxi transactions by processing seamless, secure payments directly from our app. Our integrated payment system means customers simply hop out of the cab at the end of a ride without having to hand over a credit card or cash and an electronic receipt is sent immediately to their email address.
At what point did you know that Toronto and Hailo would make such good friends?
It really was a hand-in-glove fit: Toronto is a dense, sophisticated city where taxis were already well-established as part of the overall transportation network. But there was something missing in terms of a convenient, efficient way to bring those taxis and the customers who need them together – and Hailo was the natural solution.
What has been the biggest challenge in bringing Hailo to Toronto?
We see and hear a lot about “disruptive technologies”, but we don’t necessarily place ourselves in that camp. What’s disruptive about increasing convenience and control for people on-the-go?
The truth is that our biggest challenge wasn’t replacing an old industry but asking people to change their deeply-rooted behaviour for getting a taxi. Spreading the idea that a mobile application can actually improve quality of life and increase personal control is a huge task and we still have a long way to go, but after just a year in Toronto there are already tens of thousands of people that know there’s a better way to get around safely and conveniently.