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Hailo, the Uber of Europe, Plans to Let Drivers Register in Any City

Hailo App for Hailing Taxicabs
Sir Richard Branson, an investor in Hailo, in London on Sept. 24, 2013. The company has launched in 13 cities worldwide and recruited 42,000 drivers to the service. Photographer: d: David Parry/PA Wire via AP Photo

Uber is winning the race to roll out its car-booking service globally, with tires on the roads in 62 cities. But Hailo, one of the most popular apps after Uber for waving down taxis with your smartphone, has a plan to quickly expand its footprint.

Hailo is working on a program that will allow people to sign up to drive for the service in places where the company doesn't formally operate, CEO Jay Bregman said in an interview. The new initiative, called Hailo Anywhere, is expected to debut early next year, he said. While the number of cabs outside Hailo's main cities will be lower, users shouldn't otherwise notice a difference.

Currently, Hailo lets users book taxis in 16 cities. The app has gained the most traction in Europe, and its two strongest markets are London, where the company is based and works with the city's 23,000 black cabs, and Dublin, where it generated $100 million in fares in its first couple of months in 2012. Toronto is Hailo's best-performing city in North America, Bregman said. Hailo has struggled to displace Uber in the U.S., but it's seen some traction in Chicago and New York.

Outside of the London headquarters, New York is the largest of Hailo's 11 satellite offices, which support the company's 220 or so employees globally. Hailo raised $30 million earlier this year from Japanese telecom KDDI and other investors. Bregman said his company wants to connect cities' existing taxi networks rather than create its own like Uber has done.

"We're very focused on keeping the guy in the front seat happy," Bregman said. "This market is way big enough for there to be multiple winners. We do not believe this will be a winner-take-all market."

Hailo Anywhere will be new territory for the ride-booking industry, where most technology companies bring on new drivers by vetting them one at a time or by working with existing black-car providers. That strategy is working for Uber, which saw global usage in October increase more than 20 percent from the previous month as it prepares to offer auto-financing deals to bring on more drivers. When asked about his rival's Anywhere initiative, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick dismissed the idea, and said his company will continue to choose specific markets where it believes it can achieve significant financial success.

"We're not really seeing Hailo make much of a dent in the cities that they're in," Kalanick said in an interview.

For his part, Bregman doesn't expect the Anywhere service will replace Hailo's big-city launches, but the self-service registrations could help the company expand without stretching itself too thin.

"We don't want to open up 100 cities,” Bregman said during an on-stage interview in Dublin after our meeting. "We want to open in 15 cities, and we want to own them."

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