Bob Nixon
Bob Nixon
Sales Director & Co Founder

Bob is the Head of Global Sales, and a co-founder of iCabbi. Bob gives a detailed look into 2016 and how 2017 looks for iCabbi and the industry.

Published on 12.01.2017, in News

2016 has been another great year for iCabbi. In an industry that was disrupted to the point of “write off” status by many with the arrival of services like Uber (“More proof that Uber is killing the taxi industry” Business Insider, Jan 2016) – we have gone from 4 customers at the end of 2012 (Uber launched in the US in 2010, the UK in 2012), to over 300 customers and over 50,000 drivers using our system at the end of 2016. That kind of growth trajectory in such a short space of time – coinciding with the growth of a competing force – simply goes to support the idea that disruption stimulates growth, rather than dampens it.

Sure, it is Darwinian in the way that disruption forces the existing players to up their game to survive but this has to be a good thing in most industries – most importantly for the end user (the passenger in this case), as it forces user experience improvements, from how they book, to their in-car experience and any follow up touch points along the way.

Customer Growth & iCabbi Growth
And that’s where we have been able to help: on average, most of our customers have experienced growth since switching to our cloud-based platform, which helps them compete again. Some of our more established UK customers have experienced an impressive increase in key metrics since go-live – in bookings, drivers and automation, with app bookings in particular increasing by well over 100%.

Our team has also grown, by over 50% last year and we moved to a shiny new head office in Dublin in December – the smell of fresh paint thankfully offset by the wonderful smell of Christmas trees. Come visit!

We’re striving to meet the demands of our growing customer base in Ireland, the UK, US and now Canada – where we successfully launched with our first customer going live in Q4 last year and several more already coming online in Q1, 2017.

Alongside Canada, we continue to be firmly committed to its neighbour, the US, with a rapidly growing and highly influential enterprise-level customer base. This is serviced by a well-established and growing US team, who have enjoyed exponential growth in a market that is at the coal face of a growing threat or at least “noise” from the movement towards increased car-sharing and ultimately, autonomous cars. But more on that later – as we all know, threats are often opportunities in disguise…

A Game of Inches
Market entry in Canada, just like the US at present and the UK before it, requires huge commitment to move forward, inch by inch. Perhaps the famous American Football coach, Vince Lombardi said it best when he said:

"On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us apart for that inch. We claw for that inch. Because we know, when we add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the f***ing difference between winning and losing…"

As well as the investment of time, we overhauled our branding, marketing collateral and website. Our development team worked hard on our open API, allowing our customers to integrate with even more third party suppliers – the likes of eCab, Verifone, Riide, Payleven, Paypal, TaxiButler and Judo.

We attended and sponsored trade shows in the UK, Europe and the US last year. Averaged out, I took at least one flight a week, including a 4-week period where to and within North America I was on 18 flights in 25 days, spending 35 hours in airports, 77 hours in the air and covering 43,300 miles, and in the meantime missing out on the Halloween break with my kids and one son’s birthday.

Having returned from the dog house (!), I can safely say, it was worth it. It’s not just about winning new customers – we genuinely care about helping companies. And all the hard work pays off when you get positive feedback from customers. Just this week, a new customer told us it was the first time in years he felt he could take a two-week holiday because his system was running so well. We heard from another who told us “because of the stability of the iCabbi system it was the first time I felt secure enough to take my wife out on New Year’s Eve in 7 or 8 years”. These truly are “benefits” of the system you simply can’t put a value on.

More to Learn
Above all, we are learning from our customers all the time, which in turn helps us improve our product. We have established a better support structure in the UK, better communication lines and channels between the US and Dublin and our US team growth continues apace – much to the delight of some of our existing customers, it is forecast to treble in size in 2017.

Growing a company at this pace is challenging and hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of our existing customers, who we thank for their support (and patience!) as we continue to build and improve our product and processes.

Opportunities also arose for us to expand our offering into other verticals outside of the traditional taxi industry and we are excited about the prospect of this and any learnings we can share with our core customers in the taxi industry. As I’ve alluded to before, taxi companies are also looking for new avenues and revenue channels… 

We already have customers piloting food deliveries for brands like Subway and KFC, another pilot is running with Amazon deliveries in client taxis (one customer in California is even delivering LEGAL cannabis!) and we are close to rolling out our system with a partner in the area of non-emergency medical transport. The ‘assets’ in a taxi fleet will need to be sweated even more if they are to position themselves favourably in the age of mobility and demonstrate the role they can play.

"A detailed analysis suggests that dense areas with a large, established vehicle base are fertile ground for these new mobility services, and many cities and suburbs of Europe and North America fit this profile."

McKinsey, Disruptive trends that will transform the auto industry, Jan 2016

Demanding Better
But mostly in 2016, we have been learning from our existing customer base as they challenge us to be better, demanding more and innovating in how they operate. As iCabbi’s products are cloud-based, we can react to customer needs or market changes by swiftly developing, testing and deploying new features.

In 2015, we released over 500 new features across 15 releases and over 200 in 2016. Some of our customers in both the UK & Ireland, and the US & Canada are now moving towards networked fleets, like Riide – linked on the surface for the consumer through one powerful and user-friendly app, giving customers the local, professional experience the traditional taxi industry is known for, on a global scale. I believe that a taxi company that can offer a wide geographic service, with pick ups consistently being done within acceptable timelines made possible by networking with like-minded fleets – is a far more attractive prospect for consumers. For a company that also offers rideshare and deliveries, there is surely a bright future?

However, it is not just the adoption of technology which has been required; many of our customers have taken this same opportunity to overhaul their processes, working with us to find efficiencies, adopting different ways of working, all the while working hard to better meet the needs of their two main ‘customers’ - the driver and the passenger. In fact, you could say “Automation” was trending in our industry in 2016 – the holy grail required to save money and free up some much-needed management time to focus on growth and the next move to stay in front. A better understanding of customer behaviour and patterns (contact us to set up a demo!) is following rapidly behind Automation, as companies continue to seek out new ways to retain customers, as well as share of wallet.

We are excited to help our customers continue to compete in 2017, as the environment we all operate in continues to shift at pace.

Farewell 2016; 2017 will reward those who are open-minded and willing to push their organisations to try new things. Get in touch if you like to discuss and have a great new year.

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