A few months ago, we published a Q&A with Rodney Jackson Cole of Taxi Park, a new startup in Lagos that aimed to bring the mobile taxi booking experience made popular globally by the United States’ Uber taxi booking service to Nigeria. We were impressed with the startups’ execution within a short period of time and the learnings they were accumulating from their first set of users. However, Taxi Park’s launch appears to have served as a precursor to what seems to be a wave of tech companies increasingly interested in the taxi booking space in Africa. A few days ago, German incubator, Rocket Internet revealed that it will be launching its taxi booking service, Easy Taxi in Africa, starting with Nigeria. At the same time, Uber appears to be preparing for an Africa launch in Kenya and South Africa. The Silicon Valley based startup is currently hiring for a variety of positions in Nairobi and Johannesburg ranging from General Managers to Community Managers.
Naturally, our interest was piqued when we were recently informed by the Taxi Park team that they had shut down their young company to launch another – Tranzit.ng. What is Tranzit and why did the team shut down their previous startup, Taxi Park so quickly? We caught up once more with Rodney Jackson Cole of the soon to be launched startup, Tranzit.ng.
CPAfrica: Welcome again to CP-Africa. Can you tell us more about your new service, Tranzit.ng?
RJC: Tranzit is a free web and mobile taxi booking service that also recommends interesting places and events around you based on your location.
It’s a new service from the creators of TaxiPark, Rodney Jackson-Cole, Muyiwa Boris and Ugochi Ugbomeh.
CPAfrica:Why the change in direction? Why did you choose to shut down TaxiPark?
RJC: The change in direction was borne out of a desire to better serve our steadily growing database of clients. Part of the learnings we took from our Taxi Park experience was that it was not correctly positioned to grow the way we wanted it to.
Unlike TaxiPark, Tranzit is able to “generate” rides that would otherwise not have happened. It will also be more fun and there’s more to come.
CPAfrica: It appears that in addition to Tranzit’s discovery elements, it still has at its core Taxi Park’s taxi booking elements? Why have you preserved these elements? Also, do you see Tranzit as a competitor to Easy Taxi?
RJC: Tranzit is still a Taxi booking service, its just on steroids.
We’ve preserved the core booking features because this is the primary means of serving our passenger base. We have, however, rebuilt the booking engine from scratch to be able to scale with our growth, and meet current and emerging market requirements. Since Tranzit and Easy Taxi serve similar purposes by providing an e-taxi booking service, we are competitors, but we also see the dynamic playing out as complimentary, as the market will be better informed about a different and better means of booking taxi service.
Tranzit.ng: A Launch Video
CPAfrica: What are your thoughts on Rocket Internet’s recently announced taxi booking service, Easy Taxi? Do you think Taxi Park provided some validation about the business potential in taxi booking in Nigeria? If so, how?
RJC: Yes, over 7 months ago, we were in talks with Rocket Internet about a possible investment in TaxiPark, and may have inadvertently educated them about the taxi market when we shared our challenges and how we planned to solve the “Nigerian” Taxi problem, which is quite frankly different from what you’ll find in other parts of the world. They seemed quite impressed with what we were doing. We therefore see their entry into the market not only as a validation of the size of the taxi market opportunity, but also of our operating model.
More so, being one of the top 14 finalists for the seedstar world competition that took place in Nigeria and winning the MWWA (Mobile Web West Africa) 2013 competition, further validated our approach to the Nigerian market in the eyes of investors and Nigerian consumers.
CPAfrica: Do you plan to raise money to fund Tranzit’s long term growth?
RJC: We recently raised a multi-phased fund round, the first phase of investment is complete, our valuation was generous and exceeded our expectations when we set out, our investor(s) are very committed to Tranzit for the long haul and extremely excited about its prospects.
We are however, contractually obligated to keep the fine details of the transaction confidential until the next phase is concluded.
CPAfrica: What key learning did you gain from the Taxi Park experience?
RJC: The Taxi Park experience was great, but it wasn’t easy, we had to run lean, for the first 6 months, we didn’t have any employees, we did everything ourselves as we couldn’t afford to pay salaries.
We however made some silly mistakes when it came to the legal side of things, we ignored non-disclosure agreements and shared a lot of information with our would be competitors who at the time posed as investors.
CPAfrica: Any final words on your startup experience thus far?
RJC: Like I said above, it is a lot of hard work and making wise decisions. Young startups should sometimes take advice from experienced business people who they usually have around them. Developing a tech solution and running a business are entirely different expeditions.