The investors and founders of Yellow, 99 Taxis and Didi will talk about the new mobility race at Startup Battlefield Latin America

In the nine months since Didi acquired the Brazilian ride-hailing startup 99 in a deal that valued the company at a reported $1 billion, the market for mobility and logistics startups in the Latin American region has changed dramatically. The Didi deal was perhaps the first big acquisition for a Latin American startup in recent […]

In the nine months since Didi acquired the Brazilian ride-hailing startup 99 in a deal that valued the company at a reported $1 billion, the market for mobility and logistics startups in the Latin American region has changed dramatically.

The Didi deal was perhaps the first big acquisition for a Latin American startup in recent years, and a starting gun for what’s been an extremely competitive race among startup companies to win the hearts and minds of consumers across the region.

The past year has seen the on-demand delivery service Rappi raise $200 million at valuation north of $1 billion from investors including the Russian firm DST Global. And just weeks ago, the Sino-U.S. investment firm GGV led a $63 million investment into Yellow, a company launched by 99 co-founders Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas.

That deal was the largest Series A investment in Latin America to date, and a potential harbinger of things to come, given that the early-stage Mexico City-based scooter on-demand service, Grin, raised $21 million from the Asian and U.S.-focused investment firm DCM. 

These deals also underscore the intensifying global competition between U.S. and Chinese technology companies and investors for larger shares of the worldwide market for technology-enabled goods and services.

Given all of the jockeying for position, we’re lucky to welcome to our inaugural Latin American event a group of investors and entrepreneurs to help us make sense of all these market moves.

Hans Tung, managing director, GGV Capital

Hans Tung, a managing partner at GGV Capital, has been on the Forbes Midas List six times (from 2013 to 2018) and is one of the top investors in Chinese startups (including Xiaomi and Musical.ly, acquired by Bytedance). Tung is also now investing in Latin America, having shepherded his firm’s investment in Yellow.

Yellow co-founders Ariel Lambrecht (who was one of the masterminds behind 99) and Eduardo Musa, who previously served as chief executive of the Brazilian bike brand Caloi, will also be on hand to give us their sense of the mobility market and the role foreign and domestic companies are playing.

Finally, Tony Qiu, the general manager of Didi in Latin America, will be on hand to give us his perspective on this increasingly strategic market for the company.

With the capital flowing and competition growing, this is certainly one panel that’s not to be missed at our Startup Battlefield Latin America event. Get your tickets here.

China’s Didi Chuxing launches taxi-hailing service in Japan

China’s Didi Chuxing is fighting fires at home around passenger safety, but overseas the ride-hailing giant has moved into another new market after its taxi-booking service began operations in Japan. The service has gone live in Osaka, the city of nearly nine million people, and parts of the surrounding area including Kansai International Airport. The Didi […]

China’s Didi Chuxing is fighting fires at home around passenger safety, but overseas the ride-hailing giant has moved into another new market after its taxi-booking service began operations in Japan.

The service has gone live in Osaka, the city of nearly nine million people, and parts of the surrounding area including Kansai International Airport. The Didi Japan app links passengers up with drivers from 10 local taxi companies, and Didi said it will use an AI-based dispatch and fleet management system for efficiency.

Didi, which is valued at $56 billion, entered Japan in partnership with SoftBank, which is of course one of its investors. The company said it plans to expand the service to major cities including “Kyoto, Fukuoka and Tokyo” in the near future.

The company is going to stick to license taxis and not private cars because the latter is banned in Japan. Still, the traditional taxi industry is big business in Japan . The country is the world’s third largest taxi market based on revenue ($13 billion GMV), and it has some 240,000 licensed vehicles.

Uber, meanwhile, is piloting a similar taxi-based approach across Japan, but there are some far bigger players in the space.

JapanTaxi is a ride-hailing startup operated by Ichiro Kawanabe, who runs Japan’s largest taxi operator Nihon Kotsu and heads up the country’s taxi federation. JapanTaxi also has big-name backers, with Toyota the lead investor of a recent $69 million funding round. Beyond that, popular messaging app Line operates a ride-hailing service while Lyft, Uber’s rival in the U.S. market, is considering entering Japan, too.

Didi is hoping to stick out from the competition by appealing to both travelers and locals. To help snag interest from tourists visiting the country, it has created a ‘roaming passport’ that will allow users of other Didi apps — including China, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan — to use their regular Didi app in Japan.

This Japan launch has been in the offing for some time — SoftBank and Didi announced the joint venture back in February — and this is the fifth expansion that Didi has completed so far this year. The company raised $4 billion at the tail-end of last year and it earmarked that capital for developing AI, core tech and international markets.

Didi hasn’t held back in broadening its business globally. The company has expanded into Mexico and Australia organically, while it acquired Uber rival 99 in Brazil in a $1 billion deal and launched a franchise-based expansion in Taiwan. It global reach also includes investments, and it owns stakes in Uber in the U.S, Ola in India, Grab in Southeast Asia, Careem in the Middle East and Taxify in Europe and Africa.

Brazilian startup Yellow raises $63M — the largest Series A ever for a Latin American startup

After selling their ridesharing startup, 99, to Didi Chuxing for $1 billion last year, Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas didn’t waste any time throwing their hats back in the ring. Months after their big exit, the pair joined forces with Eduardo Musa, who spent two decades in the bicycle industry, to start another São Paulo-based mobility startup. […]

After selling their ridesharing startup, 99, to Didi Chuxing for $1 billion last year, Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas didn’t waste any time throwing their hats back in the ring.

Months after their big exit, the pair joined forces with Eduardo Musa, who spent two decades in the bicycle industry, to start another São Paulo-based mobility startup. Yellow, a bike- and scooter-sharing service, quickly captured the attention of venture capitalists, raising a $9 million seed round in April and now, the company is announcing the close of a $63 million Series A.

The round is the largest Series A financing ever for a startup in Latin America, where tech investment, especially from U.S.-based firms, has historically remained low. 2017, however, was a banner year for Latin American startups; 2018, it seems, is following suit. More than $600 million was invested in the first quarter of 2018, partly as a result of increased activity from international investors. And just last month, on-demand delivery startup Rappi brought in $200 million to become the second Latin American company to garner a billion-dollar valuation.

GGV Capital has led the round for Yellow . The Silicon Valley firm is a backer of several other mobility companies, including Grab, Hellobike and Didi Chuxing. Yellow represents the firm’s first foray into the Latin American tech ecosystem. Brazilian VC firm Monashees, Grishin Robotics, Base10 Partners and Class 5 also participated.

“We think there’s a new economy emerging in Latin America,” GGV managing partner Hans Tung told TechCrunch. “A lot of people are more cautious but what we’ve seen with our experience in China, when internet penetration started to happen, a new economy started to emerge that’s more efficient.”

Yellow’s bikes and e-scooters are only available in São Paulo. With the investment, the startup plans to expand to Mexico City, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, as well as add e-bikes to its portfolio of micro-mobility options.

The company also plans to tap into local resources by building a scooter manufacturing facility in the region. Yellow CEO Eduardo Musa told me the company doesn’t want to be reliant on Chinese manufacturers to import scooters and that a local supplier is a whole lot cheaper. The company’s bikes are already sourced locally.

“Since the beginning, we wanted to be vertically integrated,” Musa told TechCrunch. “We definitely believe you need a constant inflow of hardware and you need control and management over the supply chain … not only because of the cost but also because of the quality control.”

Yellow is one of several e-scooter startups to raise VC in 2018. Bird and Lime, for example, both raised large rounds of capital at billion-dollar valuations. A good chunk of that capital has gone into building more scooters, placing a huge demand on the few Chinese manufacturers that’ve tapped into the market.

“There was simply not available capacity or factories prepared to fulfill the demand that arose from the other scooter sharing companies,” Musa said. “This became, very, very quickly, a major bottleneck for this industry.”

 

 

Latin America is the next stage in the race for dominance in the ride-hailing market

Nathan Lustig Contributor Nathan Lustig is an entrepreneur and managing partner at Magma Partners, a seed-stage investment fund in Santiago, Chile. More posts by this contributor Latin America’s Movile is quietly building a mobile empire Latin America’s Groupon Mafia As the number of competitors in the ride-hailing industry dwindles, geographic expansion is emerging as the […]

As the number of competitors in the ride-hailing industry dwindles, geographic expansion is emerging as the next proving ground to determine who will be the victor in the ride-hailing market.

The race for control of the industry, which is estimated by Goldman Sachs to grow eightfold to $285 billion by 2030, is escalating with China’s Didi Chuxing already surpassing Uber as the most valuable startup in the world. With a recent valuation of approximately $56 billion, compared to Uber’s $48 billion, Didi is posing a real threat to Uber’s operations and shows no signs of slowing down. Cementing its position as the top ride-hailing service in China, Didi is now turning its attention to another region of the world that is still filled with vast opportunities and not yet dominated by a single taxi alternative: Latin America.

While many ride-hailing and sharing services have already sprung up and faced regulation in cities across Latin America such as Mexico City, Montevideo, and São Paulo, the region still presents an enormous opportunity for the companies that can adapt and move fast enough.

The current opportunities in Latin America

Unlike many other regions of the world, Latin America is still very much reliant on traditional forms of public transportation such as buses, trains, and subway systems. What’s more, larger cities such as São Paulo, Mexico City, and Bogota simply cannot support any more vehicles on the road without an infrastructure overhaul. Large metro areas are already at or above maximum capacity during peak hours, making owning and commuting with a car more of a hassle than a luxury. As a result, many commuters across Latin America are putting less importance on owning a vehicle and opting to use alternative modes of transportation and on-demand services instead.

Beyond the rising demand for alternative transportation options, it’s also worth noting that Latin America is the world’s second-fastest-growing mobile market. In a region of approximately 640 million people, there are more than 200 million smartphone users. By 2020, predictions say that 63% of Latin America’s population will have access to the mobile Internet. Latin American smartphone users have quickly adopted global apps, such as Uber and Facebook. However, tech companies have yet to fully tap into the region’s potential.

Chilean taxi drivers demonstrate along Alameda Avenue against US on-demand ride service giant Uber, in Santiago, on July 10, 2017.
Uber smartphone app has faced stiff resistance from traditional taxi drivers the world over, as well as bans in some places over safety concerns and questions over legal issues, including taxes. (MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

The key players

Uber

According to a Dalia survey, Latin Americans with smartphones that live in urban areas are the most likely to have used a ride-hailing app or site. Overall, 45% have used an app, with Mexico taking the top position in the region at 58%.

Uber entered Latin America in 2013 and claims to have more than 36 million active users in the region, proving employment for more than a million drivers. The company quickly dominated Mexico, which is now its second-largest market after the U.S. In fact, up until recently Uber claimed a near monopoly on ride-sharing in Mexico with few competitors. Uber also has operations in more than 16 Latin American countries.

99 (formerly 99Taxis)

With an urban population of approximately 180 million, Brazil is the ultimate prize for ride-hailing and taxi companies with several services competing for market share. Most notably, 99 (formerly “99Taxis”) was able to gain momentum early on with exclusive services that extended beyond basic ride-hailing (such as its 99 TOP and 99 POP services) and better tools for its drivers.

With over 200,000 drivers and 14 million users, 99 attracted the attention of investors worldwide, including that of China’s Didi Chuxing. Didi invested $100 million into 99 in January 2018 before acquiring 99 entirely months later for nearly $1 billion to take on Uber in Latin America, shortly after it acquired Uber’s operations in China.

Easy Taxi

Rocket Internet -backed taxi booking service, Easy Taxi, started in Latin America in 2011, two years after Uber first started in San Francisco. The company provides an easy way to book a taxi and track it in real-time. Today, the company is owned by Maxi Mobility, which acquired the company from Rocket Internet in 2017 for an undisclosed amount. Maxi Mobility also owns Cabify, and operates across many Latin American markets, including Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Panama, Brazil, Peru, and Chile, in addition to a handful of markets elsewhere.

To solidify its position in the region, Easy Taxi merged with Colombian taxi-booking app Tappsi in 2015. Tappsi launched in Bogotá in 2012 and was doing quite well in the Colombian market. The merger allowed the companies to pool their resources just as other competitors, such as Uber, began entering the region.

Easy Taxi maintains impressive traction, raising more than $75 million to date. But as the ride-hailing battle in Latin America pushes forward, the company is rumored to be a likely investment or acquisition target for Uber, Didi, or the largest global investor in this space, Softbank.

Cabify

Cabify is a Spanish company that provides private vehicles for hire via its smartphone app. Although founded in Madrid, Cabify has always positioned itself as a Latin American company, investing heavily across the region. The company was able to gain a strong foothold due to some significant funding raised by its parent company, Maxi Mobility. In January 2018, Maxi Mobility raised another $160 million and said the funding would be used to accelerate both of its companies, Cabify and Easy Taxi, in the 130 cities where they operate throughout Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.

Cabify reported it has over 13 million users and grew its installed-base by 500% between 2016 and 2017, tripling its user base and fulfilling six times more trips in 2017.

Cabify competes directly with Uber, 99, and Easy Taxi in Brazil; however, it reportedly has around 40% market share in Sao Pãolo, one of the largest cities in all of Latin America.

Smaller players to watch

Beat (Formerly Taxibeat)

Beat is a profitable ride-hailing service founded in Athens, Greece that also operates in Peru. Beat is slowly expanding its operations across Latin America, though expansion appears to be limited to Chile for now.

As of January 2017, Beat had around 15,000 drivers and 800,000 customers in Peru.

Nekso

Toronto-based Nekso bet on the Latin American taxi-hailing market before its home market with a pilot launch in Venezuela in 2016. Nekso was able to gain acceptance from the taxi industries in Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Panama with its slightly different approach to ride-hailing.

The company connects a network of 550+ licensed taxi companies with thousands of drivers and allows users to flag down a cab off the street and without using in-app requests. Nekso also uses artificial intelligence technology to offer drivers real-time updates on weather, events, and traffic data to predict areas of a city which may need more drivers. The company claims taxi drivers can spend up to two-thirds of their day looking for or waiting for riders and that Nekso technology helps drivers increase their daily rides by more than 25% percent.

At the end of 2017, Nekso boasted around 150,000 users and facilitated approximately 400,000 rides per month. Now, the company plans to make its debut in Canada as well as expand to more countries in South America, including Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Peru.

Didi, 99, and the next phase

99’s new owner, Didi, which dominates the Asian market and was able to defeat Uber in China, has big plans for international expansion. Its acquisition of 99 reveals the potential it sees in Latin America but also adds to the complicated web of global ride-hailing services.

After Didi shut down and acquired Uber’s assets in China, it also bought a stake in Uber for $1 billion. Uber, Didi, and 99 are all backed by Softbank. However, everywhere outside of China, Didi and Uber are competing with each other. Didi’s full plans for 99 are not yet obvious, but the company has already set up an office in Mexico and begun poaching staff from Uber in Mexico.

With an infusion of capital, Latin America’s ride-hailing industry is multiplying. That said, companies that want to compete in the region will need to use an aggressive and strategic approach that can withstand the uniqueness of commuters and transportation options in the region. It’s only a matter of time until we see if these companies continue ramping up their operations for geographic domination, or if we see more and more partner up to advance their technologies and address other looming threats – such as bike sharing, scooter sharing, and even autonomous vehicles.

Two of the founders of 99, who sold their company to Didi, have already launched a dockless bike sharing startup called Yellow in Brazil and raised $9 million to grow its operations. No other scooter company has taken the plunge into Latin America yet besides Grin Scooters in Mexico City, but other larger cities such as Buenos Aires, Bogota, Santiago, and Lima would be ideal markets if the companies can figure out pricing as well as security and safety issues first.

Didi’s activity in Brazil and Mexico is sure to trigger a new wave of competition between existing ride-hailing players and create an even more tangled web of alliances and acquisitions. Whether or not these companies can adapt and move fast enough to rise to the top, and deal with the other looming alternative modes of transportation, remains to be seen.

China’s Didi beefs up its newly-independent car services business with an acquisition

A week after spinning out its driver services business and giving it $1 billion in investment capital, Didi Chuxing has added to it through an acquisition. Xiaoju Automobile Solutions (XAS), which the Didi spinout is called, announced today it has bought Hiservice, a three-year-old company that provides after-service care for car owners using a digital platform. […]

A week after spinning out its driver services business and giving it $1 billion in investment capital, Didi Chuxing has added to it through an acquisition.

Xiaoju Automobile Solutions (XAS), which the Didi spinout is called, announced today it has bought Hiservice, a three-year-old company that provides after-service care for car owners using a digital platform.

The deal was undisclosed, but XAS said that Hiservice will be combined with its maintenance and repair division to form a new unit that’s focused on car-owner services such as maintenance, parts and components. That’ll be called Xiaoju Auto Care (小桔养车) for those of you who are keeping up with the names of these Didi subsidiaries.

That auto care business will be jointly run by Yinbo Yi, who had run Didi’s auto care business, and Hiservice founder Cheng Qian, Didi confirmed. The new business claims 28 physical maintenance centers across seven cities in Asia.

Didi’s move to create XAS, which removes an asset-heavy business from the core Didi books, is seen by many as a sign that the company plans to go public soon. Unsurprisingly, Didi isn’t commenting on that at this point. The company was last valued at $56 billion when it raised a $4 billion round late last year — it has since added a $500 million strategic investment from travel company Booking Holdings.

While it is organizing its China-based business, Didi has also spent this year expanding into new markets. It has launched in Mexico, Australia and Taiwan while it acquired Uber rival 99 in Brazil. It is also edging close to launching a taxi-booking service in Japan via a joint venture with SoftBank.

India’s Uber rival Ola is headed to Europe with ride-hailing launch in the UK

The UK is getting a new alternative to Uber after India-based ride-hailing company Ola announced plans to expand to the country, which will become its first market in Europe. Ola was founded in 2010 and it covers over 110 cities in India where it offers licensed taxis, private hire cars and rickshaws through a network […]

The UK is getting a new alternative to Uber after India-based ride-hailing company Ola announced plans to expand to the country, which will become its first market in Europe.

Ola was founded in 2010 and it covers over 110 cities in India where it offers licensed taxis, private hire cars and rickshaws through a network of over one million drivers. The company has raised around $3 billion from investors that include SoftBank, Chinese duo Tencent and Didi Chuxing and DST Global . It was last valued at $7 billion. Ola ventured overseas for the first time when it launched in Australia earlier this year — it is now in seven cities there — and its move into the UK signals a further expansion into Europe.

Ola’s UK service isn’t live right now, but the company said it will begin offering licensed taxi and private hire bookings initially in South Wales and Greater Manchester “soon.” Ola plans to expand that coverage nationwide before the end of this year. That will eventually mean taking on Uber and potentially Taxify another unicorn startup backed by Didi which is looking to relaunch in the UK — in London and other major cities.

So, why the UK?

Ola CEO and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal called the country “a fantastic place to do business” and added that he “look[s] forward to providing a responsible, compelling, new service that can help the country meet its ever demanding mobility needs.”

It’s no secret that Uber has struggled in London, where its gung-ho attitude to business — ‘launch first, apologize later’ — has seen it run into issues with regulators. Uber (just about) won a provisional 15-month transport license earlier this year following an appeal against the city’s transportation regulator, Transport for London (TfL) earlier rejected its application.

The’ New Uber’ — under CEO Dara Khosrowshahi — is trying to right the wrongs of the past, but compliance with regulators takes time and requires wholesale changes to business, operations and company culture.

Ola isn’t commenting directly on its rivalry with Uber — we did ask, but got a predictable “no comment” — but the tone of its announcement today shows it is focused on being a more collaborative player than Uber.

Indeed, there’s been much groundwork. Aggarwal met with regulators in London last year and he said in a statement released today that he plans “continued engagement with policymakers and regulators” as the Ola service expands across the UK.

International expansion is very much part of Ola’s ambition to go public, which Aggarwal recently said could happen in the next three to four years. But Ola isn’t alone in looking overseas. Didi, the firm that defeated Uber in China and has backed Ola, Taxify and many others, has also been busy moving into new markets.

Last year, the firm raised $4 billion to double down on technology, AI and go overseas and it has come good on that promise by entering MexicoAustralia and Taiwan. It also landed Brazil through the acquisition of local player and Uber rival 99 and it is preparing to go live in Japan, where it will operate a taxi-booking service through a joint venture with SoftBank.

China’s Didi pumps $1B into its rebranded driver services business

Didi Chuxing is going pedal to the metal for its automobile services business after it announced it will invest $1 billion into the division, which is also getting a rebrand. The Chinese ride-hailing firm had been tipped to spin out the business and raise $1.5 billion from investors ahead of an IPO, according to a recent Reuters […]

Didi Chuxing is going pedal to the metal for its automobile services business after it announced it will invest $1 billion into the division, which is also getting a rebrand.

The Chinese ride-hailing firm had been tipped to spin out the business and raise $1.5 billion from investors ahead of an IPO, according to a recent Reuters report. The business itself hasn’t spun out, however, but it has been renamed to Xiaoju Automobile Solutions and given more autonomy with the introduction of its own general manager.

The division handles services for registered Didi drivers, such as leasing and purchase financing, insurance, repairs, refueling, car-sharing and more. Essentially, with its huge army of drivers, Didi can get preferential rates from service providers, which means better deals for its drivers. That, in turn, is helpful for recruiting new drivers and growing the business. (Didi claims to support 30 million drivers, but that covers food delivery as well as more basic point-to-point transportation.)

Rather than outsiders — SoftBank had been linked with an investment at a valuation of up to $3 billion — Xiaoju is getting its capital boost direct from Didi. The company said it injected $1 billion to “support its business in providing Didi drivers and the broader car-owner community with convenient, flexible, economical, and reliable one-stop auto services.”

Of course, these factors don’t preclude Didi from spinning the business out in the future and listing it separately to the parent Didi firm. That’s the reasoning Reuters made in its previous story, and it still stands to reason that if Didi is (as widely expected) planning a public listing of its own then it might be keen to break out this asset-heavy part of its business.

Didi didn’t respond to our request for comment on those future plans.

Didi Chuxing’s rebranded Xiaoju driver services division includes a refueling program for its drivers.

The company is saying more about the Xiaoju business itself. It said the services support drivers in over 257 cities through a network of 7,500 partners and distributors. There are some caveats, though: the auto care service is currently limited to seven cities in China.

Didi also went on the record with some financial data. The company claimed that annualized GMV for Xiaoju has jumped from 37 billion RMB ($5.4 billion) in April 2018 to 60 billion RMB ($8.76 billion) as of today. That’s impressive growth of 62 percent, and the forecast is that it will easily pass its previous goal of 90 billion RMB ($13.15 billion) for 2018 before this year is finished.

GMV, in this case, refers to the total value of goods and services crossing the Xiaoju platform. That help gives an idea of how active it is, but it doesn’t translate to revenue or profit/loss for Didi. The company didn’t provide information for either revenue or profitability for Xiaoju.

This year has been a notable one as the company has expanded its horizons for the first time by venturing outside of China.

Last year, Didi raised $4 billion to double down on technology, AI and move into new markets, and it has come good on that promise by entering MexicoAustralia and Taiwan. It also landed Brazil through the acquisition of local player and Uber rival 99 and it is preparing to go live in Japan, where it will operate a taxi-booking service through a joint venture with SoftBank.

Beyond that massive $4 billion raise, Didi recently landed a $500 million investment from Booking Holdings that’s aimed at providing strategic alliances between the Didi and the travel giant’s range of services. The company has raised over $17 billion from investors to date and it was last valued at $56 billion.