Dennis Wang, Co-CEO and Co-founder, Easy Taxi, spends at least 50 per cent of his time on the road travelling from one country to another talking about his company and entrepreneurship, as well as managing operations outside home country Brazil.
It was Wang’s first or second time in Easy Taxi’s new office located in Kallang, Singapore. At 11 AM, he walked in, pulling a suitcase behind him, and asked if there was a fridge in the office. Even though he was running a company that has received more than US$77 million worth of funding, the man put up no airs. He was just another entrepreneur in this spinning world.
Wang meets Easy Taxi
Rocket Internet-backed taxi booking company Easy Taxi was the brainchild of Tallis Gomes, who was planning to create a bus monitoring app at Startup Weekend Rio 2011. However, he changed his mind when he found himself waiting for about half an hour for a taxi on a rainy night, according to O Globo.
Later in August 2011, plans started to materialise. Not only was the app launched as a beta product, the team grew with new hires. In 2012, Wang joined the company as a Co-CEO, after leaving flash sale website for furniture Westwing which shared investors with Easy Taxi.
“First of all, I really believe in the model (of Easy Taxi). … And as every entrepreneur says, you have to love what you do. I do love furniture but I think this (Easy Taxi) is an even bigger cause and it was a bigger role as well,” he said. “The potential was huge here.”
Easy Taxi meets Asia
Globally, Easy Taxi has more than 10 million downloads, as of this September. It is now available in more than 30 countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. There are more than 200,000 registered drivers on its platform.
For the record, Easy Taxi’s presence in this region first started with South Korea, which was managed by a staff member located in capital city Seoul. It was then followed by Malaysia, which Wang launched personally.
He recounted, “One day, we sat down and we thought about where to go. I remember sitting at the table, opening a map and thinking about where to go. … People were saying, “You are Asian, so you go!” and that’s how two days later, I was on a plane flying over to Asia to open a market.”
“Our investors, they have companies in Asia so at least I had a chair to sit down on. Using networks from all over — personal friends, LinkedIn and whatever tools we had at that time to look for the first candidates, we started expansion,” added Wang.
He declined to disclose the number of taxi drivers and the number of staffers with Easy Taxi Singapore.
In Singapore, while there might be a good number of taxis on the road, one common complaint about the industry is that drivers are often nowhere to be found during peak hours or on a rainy day. Wang explained that there are various incentives implemented to encourage drivers to pick up passengers no matter what.
“Of course, we respect all regulations like the taxi price — you cannot change it — but we incentivise drivers to take rides,” he said, not specifying said incentives. “The more taxis we have on the network, the more efficient the system becomes.”
While travelling from one market to another, Wang has met countless taxi drivers as well. He said that most drivers have the same gripe — they don’t want to “drive empty” and want to save as much as possible. Driving empty in this case refers to driving around without a passenger. A taxi app would help them to see if there are potential passengers in the vicinity or in a particular neighbourhood.
He added that Brazil and Singapore are Easy Taxi’s two primary test markets, citing that both locations are home to a large group of early adopters who are often keen on picking up new technologies.
Tech-savvy Singapore also doubles up as a regional hub for Easy Taxi. It is home to various departments such as product development and marketing, which specialise in handling Asia, said Wang. While he did not specify the number of employees based in Asia, a report published by Gulf Daily News noted that the startup has more than 1,300 employees worldwide.