Few new entrants to a market can attest to having a more disruptive nature than Uber. To its credit, the ride-share network has succeeded in realizing potential that most startups can only dream of. It’s added new flavor to what was for decades a stagnant, taxi dominated industry.
Its growth has been staggering. From the company’s inception in 2009, Uber has overseen a major expansion to over 35 cities worldwide, and can boast a total value of nearly $4 billion.
Needless to say, this wouldn’t go over well with everyone.
In general, there’s two ways to fight a newcomer in any market, you can either lobby to have them banned, or simply out-innovate them.
With regards to the first option, it seems to have been the route of choice in much of Europe so far. Taxi syndicates, who see Uber as a threat to their monopoly over most of the continent’s major cities have been quick to fight the startup, culminating in Uber being declared illegal in Germany earlier this year. Similar suits have also been pushed through in Spain, and are generally gaining traction across the EU.
As if that weren’t bad enough for the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick, the firm has been hit with a slew of bad press, stemming from accusations of sexism, related to its advertising in France, and some distasteful words, including Kalanick referring to the company as ‘Boober‘. To add to recent troubles, Uber was also recently banned in India after an alleged rape by one of its drivers.
On all fronts things aren’t exactly looking rosy for the San Francisco transport giant.
When it comes to traditional market battles though, several startups have taken the opportunity to pounce.
Mobile apps catering to traditional taxi services have been making a mark across the European market in recent months.
In the UK, the prime competitor for some time has been Hailo. Although it recently announced it was leaving New York City, its main North American hub, there could be plans for the London based company to look towards development potential in Asia, with Japan being touted as a prime target.
In addition, two startups from surprising places are mounting a fight against Uber’s takeover.
Estonian startup darling Taxify is the first. Having recently secured $1.4 million in investment to fund a further push into the core European market, the app follows the typical business model of allowing its users to hail a cab from their phone, even affording them the option of selecting their car based on price, at least in markets where that’s possible.
Innovation is also brewing in Greece, where Athenian venture Taxibeat is already battling Uber across the city. The platform is unique in that it allows its users to select from a list of drivers based on proximity, and user feedback among other sorting mechanisms. With a cash injection of $4 million last year, the firm has been successful in expanding to major commercial centers across Europe, and is even active in a few South American cities.
Lyft Is Coming
While the taxi apps, still minuscule in both market reach, and funding compared to Uber are a long ways away from catching up to the company any time soon, there’s competition stemming from a natural rival as well.
It was recently announced that Lyft could be on the brink of a major expansion across 100 cities in the coming months. The San Francisco firm has been able to capitalize on its competitor’s misfortunes, and at this point looks like the prominent market force able to challenge it in the near future.
Whatever the case, Uber has more reasons than ever to continue looking over its shoulder.