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Taxi booking app gets at least S$12.5m from Temasek unit

SINGAPORE — In a nod to the huge market potential of third-party taxi booking apps, a venture capitalist firm owned by Temasek Holdings has pumped at least US$10 million (S$12.5 million) into two-year-old start-up GrabTaxi, a smartphone app that lets commuters book any of the taxis nearest to their location, regardless of which company operates it.

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SINGAPORE — In a nod to the huge market potential of third-party taxi booking apps, a venture capitalist firm owned by Temasek Holdings has pumped at least US$10 million (S$12.5 million) into two-year-old start-up GrabTaxi, a smartphone app that lets commuters book any of the taxis nearest to their location, regardless of which company operates it.

Officially launched across the Causeway as MyTeksi in June 2012, GrabTaxi was founded by two Malaysian Harvard Business School graduates. The Malaysia-based start-up has a holding company here and its taxi booking apps are available in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Yesterday, GrabTaxi announced it has received additional funding from Vertex Venture Holdings, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings. The start-up declined to reveal the amount of the investment and would only say it was an “over-eight-figure sum in US dollars”.

Vertex Venture had first invested in GrabTaxi in September last year. Its Group President and CEO Chua Kee Lock said the firm was buoyed by the fruits of its initial investment. He added: “We invest in potential champions that have developed new technology platforms or business models that disrupt the incumbents and old inefficient ways of doing things.”

GrabTaxi founder and Group CEO Anthony Tan said the start-up will use the “very decent sum” to invest further in manpower, including in its product team of engineers and programmers. It will also expand its presence in the five countries. Currently, its apps are available in 12 cities.

GrabTaxi said its apps have been downloaded more than one million times in South-east Asia and more than 250,000 people in the region use them at least once a month.

It has declined to reveal the number of taxi drivers using its app to get bookings in Singapore. Nevertheless, Mr Tan said the total number would make its pool of taxi drivers second only to the biggest taxi operator here, ComfortDelGro, which has a fleet of more than 16,000 taxis.

Smaller cab operators have welcomed third-party booking apps, while ComfortDelGro has said it will consider working with the apps if they bring in more bookings for its drivers.

Mr Tan downplayed competition from rival third-party booking apps, saying GrabTaxi’s biggest challenge is to change commuters’ habit of hailing taxis on the streets. “We need to really focus on how (to) deliver so much value as to change human behaviour — that’s the tough part,” he said.

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