Ireland a glowing success for Hailo

Ahead of his visit to Dublin’s Web Summit next week Hailo co-founder Jay Bregman says the success of taxi hailing app here has helped firm refine its service worldwide

Jay Bregman, co-founder of Hailo: “What we see happening and what we hope for is that as the market for these taxi applications becomes more established there will be a harmonised policy standard across the countries, regions and the world, which will make it much easier to regulate apps that are licensed.”

Jay Bregman, co-founder of Hailo: “What we see happening and what we hope for is that as the market for these taxi applications becomes more established there will be a harmonised policy standard across the countries, regions and the world, which will make it much easier to regulate apps that are licensed.”

 

When Hailo launched in Ireland in 2012, Jay Bregman and his co-founders didn’t think it would prove to be quite as successful as it later proved to be.

The service, which began in London, was set up by Bregman along with executive chairman Ron Zeghibe, chief operations officer Caspar Woolley, and driver community leaders Russell Hall, Gary Jackson, and Terry Runham in 2011, with Dublin the second city on the list.

Although Dublin may be smaller than some of the other cities where Hailo has launched its electronic hailing system – it’s a fraction of the size of London or New York, for example – it seems that Irish people have taken to the service in a big way.

“Irish consumers are by no means afraid of new technology – they are some of the biggest advocates of trying something new if they think it will help them,” he says.

Bregman will get the chance to meet with some of those consumers at the Web Summit in Dublin next week.

“Entrepreneurship is in the Irish blood,” he says.

“I think over the next couple of years you will see companies that are born in Ireland become international successes,” continues Bregman.

For Hailo, the only way is up, and Ireland has played a role in that.

The app has been downloaded more than 325,000 times in Ireland to date, and is growing at a rate of 5,000 to 6,000 per week.

“Its growth has been staggering,” says Bregman.

“I continuously make bets with Tim, the general manager, and I lose because I never actually bet high enough to accommodate the growth we’re seeing.”

Since its Dublin launch last year, the service has been expanded into regions around the country, with Cork next to get it, followed by Limerick and Galway.

Ireland has the potential to become one of the biggest regions for Hailo, Bregman says.

But aside from the growth, the experience in Ireland is helping to refine the service as a whole, with best practice filtering throughout the company.

Although generally viewed as a small market, the establishment in the city opened up the possibility of a country-wide service.

“There are no bounds. Because of Ireland, we’ve developed the application not just to be Dublin’s taxi app but to be Ireland’s taxi app,” he says. “Ireland will be the first country that we really have mass supply adoption.”

The service is aiming to have more than 50 per cent of vehicles using Hailo within the next 12 to 18 months. “That’s pretty staggering,” he says. “Ultimately Ireland is our real testbed for that nationwide coast-to-coast coverage.”

The brand has become a well known one around Ireland, a success that the company is hoping to replicate around the world. As the success of the brand grows, it has become easier to recruit drivers and generate customers.

“People are coming to us, and taxi drivers are coming to us,” says Bregman.

Tough times
It hasn’t all been a walk in the park for the Hailo team, however. New York was one of the toughest markets to crack for the company; not because of resistance from passengers, but because with tough regulation on hailing cabs, the introduction of ehailing through apps such as Hailo was always going to be a battle.

“I’ve got the grey hairs to prove it,” says Bregman. “I knew New York was going to be a tough fight. I moved back there about a year-and-a-half ago to start what many people thought would be impossible due to the political and regulatory situation. We thought it would take five to 10 years for this type of technology to make its way to New York.”

Court ruling
But the New York native was determined to bring the technology to his home city, however, and in June, a judge ruled that the beta of the Hailo system could go ahead.

The problem now, he says, is signing up the cab drivers fast enough. “That’s our biggest problem – trying to outfit and train the cabbies as quickly as we can,” he said.

The system, particularly in New York, is highly automated. Drivers can be authenticated by scanning a secure barcode on the back of their taxi licence, and the app can be downloaded and set up directly from the smartphone. There’s an online tutorial that takes them through the different steps, and cab drivers are ready to go.

“What we see happening and what we hope for is that as the market for these taxi applications becomes more established there will be a harmonised policy standard across the countries, regions and the world, which will make it much easier to regulate apps that are licensed,” he says. Although that might be some way off, it seems that for Hailo passengers at least, the future is looking bright. “The future of Hailo is Hailo anywhere,” says Bregman.

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