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Taxis have been taking a beating over the past few years, thanks to the popularity of on-demand ride services like Uber and Lyft. Sensing an opportunity, Flywheel, which was at one point called Cabulous, set out to modernize this legacy transit option. After seven years, the company has been acquired by competitor Cabconnect to craft a more robust taxi-centric software platform.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“We are excited for Cabconnect to continue the expansion of Flywheel’s Taxi app,” said Flywheel president Oneal Bhambani in a statement. “Leveraging our long history in the taxi industry and extensive customer base, coupled with Cabconnect’s existing driver solutions, will continue to innovate the taxi industry.”
While ride-hailing technology makes it possible for anyone to pick up passengers through a smartphone, the taxi industry has long derided the practice, claiming that it risks people’s lives and that drivers aren’t licensed or properly insured. But there are reasons cabs have largely lost their appeal, and Flywheel was one of the first to try to use technology to help this industry adapt to people’s changing behaviors and compete on the same level as Uber and Lyft.
In 2015, Flywheel introduced TaxiOS, a platform to replace cab meters, using a smartphone. When utilized, it provides GPS-based rates, processes mobile-based payments, and works as a new dispatch system. The company has since amassed an army of 1,800 active drivers with footholds in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, Sacramento, Portland, and New York City.
By comparison, Cabconnect has more than 60,000 drivers using its technology, which offers similar functionality, including mobile payment processing, GPS services, personalized card-swipe programs, and more. The inclusion of Flywheel’s offering may encourage the taxi industry to update its experiences across the United States and help it fend off Uber and Lyft.
While this could be viewed as consolidation in the space, the acquisition of Flywheel should give Cabconnect technology it’s been missing for some time: A native mobile app and dispatch system. Cabconnect offers a bevy of services including providing tools around business, driver, and vehicle management, and private label card or gift card programs. But it doesn’t have a mobile app geared towards the drivers or riders, or a manner to have taxi cabs sent to pick up points.
It appears Cabconnect is betting that the TaxiOS platform will allow the company to further its market share in the cab industry.
Flywheel had previously raised nearly $39 million in venture capital from investors Craton Equity Partners, RockPort Capital, and Shasta Ventures.
Updated as of 11:12 a.m. Pacific on Friday: Amended Bhambani’s quote to specify that Cabconnect acquired Flywheel and its taxi app, not the cab company formerly known as De Soto. Also removed sentence saying Flywheel sued Uber — that was De Soto/Flywheel Taxi. Yes, it’s confusing, we know.
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