Taxi technology firm iCabbi to step on the gas

Cloud-based dispatch system by iCabbi spurs growth in Ireland, the UK, and the US, writes Trish Dromey

DUBLIN taxi technology company iCabbi is putting its foot to the floor in 2016 to increase sales by 300% and achieve a turnover of €8m.

The growth rate of the five year old start-up accelerated last year when turnover shot up from €670,000 to €2.6m, and the staff size expanded by 24 to 44.

By the end of 2015, iCabbi was providing dispatch technology for 3,000 taxis in the US, 18,000 in the UK and 2,400 in Ireland.

Company founder and chief executive Gavan Walsh says iCabbi’s success is due to the effectiveness of its technology.

“We have developed the most advanced cloud-based taxi dispatch system on the market.

"Some of our customers are doing over 100,000 bookings a week — none of our competitors in this space can match this volume.”

Back in 2012, iCabbi was one of the first companies to offer cloud-based dispatch systems to taxi companies.

The advantages of making it cloud-based, explains Mr Walsh, are that it’s less expensive for companies than buying hardware.

He says the key selling point for iCabbi’s business-to-business solution is that it allows large taxi companies to compete more effectively in a marketplace where business-to-consumer apps Uber and Hailo are being widely used.

The original iCabbi software, launched in 2010, was actually a business-to-consumer solution.

While lost in a remote area of Portugal in 2009, Mr Walsh decided that the market needed a smartphone app for locating and booking a taxi.

Over the next two years he worked on the idea with freelance developer Niall O’Callaghan and Bob Nixon, who is now iCabbi’s sales director.

Established in 2010, iCabbi launched on the market by providing the new app to 320 independent taxi drivers in Dublin.

In 2011 it changed direction, and began working on a dispatch system.

During 2011, iCabbi signed up with the NDRC launchpad accelerator programme in Dublin, recruited two staff and launched the first version of the iCabbi app.

“We re-launched on November 6 2012, going live with 400 taxis in Dublin,’’ says Mr Walsh, adding that at this time iCabbi raised €650,000 from Enterprise Ireland, AIB Seed Fund and Bloom Equity.

In 2013, iCabbi made a move on the UK market while developing the dispatch system to meet different requirements there.

By 2014, the company was gaining traction in both Ireland and the UK. Early customers included a London company with 400 cars and one in Leeds with 900.

While focusing on the UK market, iCabbi was approached by a US company which wanted its technology.

“We weren’t ready for this, but they came to Dublin and we gave them a system. They went live with 360 cars in Washington, Virginia, in the summer,” says Mr Walsh.

These customers went on to become resellers of iCabbi technology in the US and subsequently employees of the company.

“In 2015, sales took off in both the UK and the US — at the end of the year we sponsored the TLPA, the largest taxi trade show in the US.

"Now we are providing iCabbi dispatch systems to 16 companies with approximately 3,000 cars — all over the US.”

He says that in the UK iCabbi sells to over 100 large taxi companies which collectively have over 18,000 cars.

“We have over 50% of companies with over 500 cars in the UK,” Mr Walsh says, adding that in Ireland, iCabbi has 70% of the taxi firms with over 50 cars.

The aim for 2016 is to increase the number of cars to 40,000 in the UK and to 12,000 in the US.

To make this happen, iCabbi has launched a funding round with a view to raising up to €5m and is planning to recruit 20 new staff.

The long-term plan is to become “ a global leader in taxi dispatch technology”.

Mr Walsh says he will consider an IPO in a few years when turnover gets to €40m.

Company: iCabbi

Location: Howth, Co Dublin

CEO: Gavan Walsh

Staff: 44

Business: Develops taxi dispatch systems Exports: 90%

Turnover: 2015: €2.6m



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