News & Analysis

The latest goCatch funding round may mean “gloves off” when it comes to UBER

- July 9, 2014 3 MIN READ

If you have not read the book Killing Fairfax by Pamela Williams, then you are missing out on a very detailed account, around some of the formative years in Australia’s startup space. The book focuses on the disruption of newspaper classifieds by new up and coming companies like Seek.com.au and RealEstate.com.au – the book reads as a modern day war between old thinking and new ideas.

If you have made the observation that the same thing is happening again in the transport space – you would be right. It’s not just an Australian war though, it’s a world war – against UBER or more specifically their UBER X services. It is also somewhat a phenomenon, it’s not often you see private industries stage massive protests where they grid lock the traffic in major cities around the world.

That has not happened in Australia yet, but some cities in the United States have experienced it and more recently (and much closer to home) Taiwanese cabbies wreaked havoc when they caused major traffic congestion in protest to the new technology this week. Ironically the national media coverage saw UBER Taipei experience a 400% user increase in less than 24 hours.

In may I wrote a post about the Australian Taxi Industry obsession with obliterating UBER from the face of the earth. In that article I talked about the entry of goCatch into the Australian market in June 2011. Here is a little recap:

Before we dissect the war NSW Taxi Council are waging on UBER and ride-sharing in general, let’s cast our mind back to June 2011 when GoCatch first entered the market.

To say the NSW Taxi Council threw a tantrum would be somewhat of an understatement. If the media spin was to be believed, GoCatch was possibly one of the most evil creations of all time that threatened the safety of passengers.

In fact, the only thing the GoCatch application has ever threatened is traditional booking systems of the taxi industry. In other areas such as passenger safety, they were adding further layers of protection that never existed at the time, such as customers getting names and phone numbers of the cab driver prior to being collected and real-time tracking of your cab as it approached you.

The Taxi Council even went as far as running a counter campaign against using ‘booking apps’ to get a taxi. I mean who could forget the Crime Stoppers debacle that was uncovered by Asher Moses where hundreds of cabs in Sydney had signage up telling passengers to only use ‘Crime Stoppers Approved’ apps to book their ride home.

Last month, Peer Lindholt, Editor of OzCabbie.com an independant online magazine for Australian cab drivers, penned an article titled The ideological rape of 50,000 taxi drivers. In this post, Lindholt does a great job of clarifying the views of cabbies in Australia – it’s not the booking apps they are against, it’s the ride sharing services.

It seems as well that possibly, booking services, such as Taxi Combined Services who up until now have had their grass cut by booking apps like goCatch, may be starting to look at their growth strategies in a completely new light.

Startup Daily have heard from multiple sources (whilst researching for an article that was going to be a broader look at the UBER situation globally) that Taxi Combined Services may be considering an investment in goCatch.

We reached out to both Taxi’s Combined and goCatch for comment around this last week. At the time of publication Taxi Combined Services had not gotten back to us, and goCatch said they were unable to comment on the questions we were asking them at this point in time.

It is pretty well known across the Sydney startup ecosystem that goCatch is in the middle of a funding round, so the fact they chose to keep tight lipped at this point in time about anything that may or may not be happening is perfectly understandable.

If what we have heard is true though, it puts goCatch in a very unique position. They will be the first disruptive startup to the local market with the full backing and force of one of Australia’s most powerful industries.

At the moment the Taxi Industry rhetoric does not resonate with the general public. We see it as a resistance to change.

With goCatch as part of their portfolio though, we may begin to see a little more innovation vs innovation instead of what we are seeing now. That is pretty exciting stuff for customers to look forward to.

One thing seems certain though, training time is over and goCatch and UBER are hopping into the ring, and there is only room for one winner.