Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Jamaican duo launches app-based taxi service

Published:Wednesday | March 8, 2017 | 3:00 AMTameka Gordon
Konrad Hylton, founder of Get There Jamaica, shows off the taxi service app developed by his company.

Partners Konrad Hylton and Christopher Gayle have launched a taxi service that is app-based, which mimics Uber but is a first for Jamaica.

The company, Get There Jamaica Limited, uses a mobile application to connect drivers and passengers and allows payment by credit card, alongside cash.

Hylton is expectant of angel investor backing, telling Gleaner Business that he is already getting some networking support.

Passengers of Get There input their location and destination in the app and immediately get feedback on the cost of the trip along with the expected travel time. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms and is free for download.

"When a driver accepts their trip, we send them pictures of the driver's vehicle as well as a picture of the driver himself," Hylton said.

The service went live on November 22, 2016, starting with a soft launch.

"That was really to check if people were interested in this idea and if (they) would actually use the technology. Now, we are a lot more active," Hylton said.

Get There uses technology GPS tracking, freight scheduling and coupons to improve the service, the company outlines on its social media page. The business was developed by Hylton and long-time friend Gayle, who is the techie behind the mobile app development.

RIDE-SHARING MODEL

Hylton said they invested roughly US$3,000 to US$4,000 in Get There's start-up, which was spent on web tools and administration. The company itself is not invested in a fleet, but utilises the ride-sharing model in which the taxi drivers who sign up own or control their vehicle.

Hylton and Gayle are known for other ventures, such as a Rum Punch brand of events that they piloted during their studies at the University of the West Indies two years ago.

Outside of Get There, the duo also builds websites and apps for other companies. They also have another app for their own business called Jamup that allows customers to stream music online.

Get There is on track for to make a return on the investment by summer, Hylton said. The company earns revenue from a 15 per cent take of the fares earned by its drivers, Hylton said.

SAFER ALTERNATIVE

"The plan is to reinvest as much as possible. We want to grow as quickly as we can and be everywhere in Jamaica," he said.

Hylton is pitching Get There as a safer alternative for vulnerable commuters.

"I have friends who have been victims of persons who pretended to be taxi drivers," he said.

With safety as a prime concern, the developers came up with what he described as a three-pronged approach.

"We have very extensive driver profile. We collect all their documents - their licences, motor vehicle insurance and fitness and their bank account information," he said.

The address of the drivers is also collected, and the company uses GPS to track drivers on the job, including the length of time they spend at any one drop-off point.

"So, if anything goes wrong, we have a recorded history of where they have been. If they go down a weird alley, we have that on the system," Hylton said.

So far, some 54 drivers have been contracted to the company with most operating part-time within Kingston and Portmore. There is no charge for drivers to sign up, but Hylton otherwise declined to specify the terms under which they are contracted, other to say any liability for accidents that arise during the ride is on the driver, and not the company.

Get There uses drivers who are already employed to other taxi companies, which fits the company's business model, and which allows the drivers "multiple streams of income", Hylton said. The company is working with the National Council of Taxi Association to "integrate" its services into the landscape, he added.

Get There, meantime, is taking advantage of an underserved side of the market.

"Right now, the taxi companies are missing out on persons who use credit cards. Get There gives them another pool of customers," Hylton said.

Marketing of the service has mostly been centred around Kingston, but Get There also has a few drivers in St Ann and Montego Bay, St James.

"This is more a beta mode because it is not as reliable in those parishes," Hylton said of the app service, but noted the company plans to focus on those and other areas, eventually.

Kingston remains the strongest segment for now, with an average of 100 trips per week, which Hylton says is more business than they anticipated.

"It has been really good. We did not expect so many people to use the service. We had to try and slow down the growth because it is difficult getting enough drivers to fill the demand," he said.

The company is also getting some guidance from investor network, First Angels Jamaica.

"We recently created this relationship and [it] has been very helpful," Hylton said, while declining to give further details.

Get There is staffed by a small group of university students, with the founders as the only full-time members. Eventually, the company hopes to introduce the service to other Caribbean markets.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com