Easy Taxi, a taxi booking app launched in Brazil, has secured $10m in funding to take itself to Africa. The funding comes from Africa Internet Holdings, a joint venture between Rocket Internet and Millicom, the telecoms and digital lifestyle company focused on emerging markets, principally through its Tigo brand in Latin America and Africa. Easy Taxi’s African fare follows a similar $15m funding raised in June from Latin America Internet Holding, another joint venture between Rocket Internet and Millicom, for the purpose of expanding Easy Taxi’s presence across Latin America.
Easy Taxi is one of a long line of corporate venturing deals backing taxi services. Uber, an on-demand car service that allows users to rent private cars via mobile devices, and whose backers include Goldman Sachs, is reported to be raising around $200m from investors including Texas Pacific Group and Google Ventures, at a valuation close to $4bn.
The VC-backed taxi app sector includes London-based Hailo, which in December 2012 raised $30m in its series B round at a $140m valuation. Germany-based MyTaxi raised $13m series B funding in January 2012, with Car2Go, an urban mobility subsidiary of automotive corporation Daimler, and Deutsche Telekom’s corporate venturing unit, T-Venture, among the backers. In the USA, GetTaxi, a US-based smart phone taxi business, raised $20m series B funding in June 2012, helped by Access Industries. And then there is the Beijing-based Didi Taxi mobile phone application that allows users to book taxis by voice, and in which Tencent Holdings, the corporate venturing unit of China-based media conglomerate Tencent, invested a reported $10m to $15m.
From an African perspective, the Africa Internet Holdings/Easy Taxi deal rings a bell with another deal involving a telecoms operator: the recent decision by MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecoms group, to become the cornerstone investor in the Amadeus IV Digital Prosperity Fund, which will invest in late stage venture and growth companies in mature markets, that are developing software designed to be used by the middle classes of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. The MTN and Amadeus fund and Millicom and Rocket’s Africa Internet Holdings and Latin America Internet Holdings, clearly tap into one of the great macro-themes of recent years, which has seen technological advancement creating prosperity in these areas, creating a new market of consumers.
From my own perspective, I look forward to using the Easy Taxi app one day. Last time I took a taxi in Africa, it was the pre-mobile phone age and involved using your wits in the local marketplace. At least it was a proper car, with one person per seat, instead of being crammed into a “matatu” (a minibus) with people hanging off the back. It cost, mind you. But as a perk, and in a spirit of camaraderie between us passengers who had clubbed together to escape from the dusty marketplace, a char-grilled cob of corn was passed around to share a munch.