App that calls a taxi every four seconds goes global

The Hailo app seems like a simple premise: a smartphone application that detects your location and that of taxis around you, assigning one to your booking. You get an estimated time of arrival, the driver's licence number and his or her photo, so you can be sure the booking was received.

But up until 2012, it was an untapped market in Ireland. Fastforward a year and not only has Hailo successfully launched in Dublin, but it has just rolled out in Cork, with more than 200 drivers signing up to the service.

Since its appearance on the Irish market, the Hailo app has been downloaded 250,000 times in Ireland, with more than 1.3 million passengers using the network in Dublin. The Hailo brand is a common sight around the capital city now and, globally, Hailo handles a cab hail every four seconds.

“We’ve carried essentially the entire population of the city in our first year in Dublin,” said Hailo’s Tim Arnold. “It’s been unprecedented, the success in Dublin. there’s been an amazing demand in other cities.”


When Hailo was started in London in 2011, co-founder Russell Hall had no idea how big it would become and how quickly it would grow.

“I’d be a liar to say I thought it would be global, but I did realise that we were on to something big,” he said. “Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves.”

The company has since received $50 million in funding, including $17 million in Series A financing led by Accel Partners, a venture capital firm that has invested in companies such as Facebook, Groupon, and Kayak.

Hailo's second city
Dublin was Hailo's second city; the company now operates in nine cities, and more are on the way. New York, Barcelona and Madrid have launched in recent weeks, with Washington DC also on the cards. The company also plans to open in Tokyo.

In Ireland, Galway and Limerick will follow in summer, with plans to get Galway up and running on the network in time for the upcoming race festival, with Limerick to follow in August.

And there is the possibility that other Irish locations will follow, if the company can get enough interest in cities such as Waterford and Kilkenny.

The same app can be used for cities all over the world, meaning Dublin taxi drivers can benefit from visitors to the country who are already using the app overseas.

Hailo has faced some competition in the apps department, but its founders aren’t worried.

Competitive head start
"At the end of the day, competition is always good," Mr Hall said. "But we like to feel that because Hailo was essentially designed by cab drivers like myself, Gary Jackson and Terry Runham, we have a head start. It's important in every city we go to, to put out the message that this is a driver app – designed by drivers, for drivers. Other apps might be designed by designers, techie guys who don't really understand how a cab driver works."

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist