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'Everyone is looking the other way:' TaxiTapp targets an unloved industry

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One in a series of stories introducing the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 cohort – check back all week for more and find the series here.

Is there still room for taxis in an Uber-ized world?

For TaxiTapp, an Iowa Startup Accelerator 2015 team from Indiana and the country of Georgia, the answer is a definite yes.

“Taxis aren’t going to ever go away,” said Chris Trujillo, TaxiTapp’s co-founder and director of sales. “Maybe the market is getting smaller, but it’s still a very large market.”

The company started in late 2012, when the ridesharing giant Uber was starting to become widely known.

They saw three main problems with Uber that taxis don’t have: unreliable availability of drivers, potential sticker shock when the price is unknown, and poor customer service, including a lack of handicap accessibility and safety concerns.

“There’s still a huge value in taxis,” said David Lomiashvili, co-founder and CEO. “It’s that stable supply, if you want a ride at 6 a.m. on Monday, you can do that with taxis.”

TaxiTapp’s first app, which was developed by an outsourced, overseas team, was a simple fare estimator. Since then, they have found additional co-founders in Georgia and developed a full-featured version.

Users can request and book a ride, entering their pickup and drop off location using their phone’s built-in GPS, compare prices, track the ride and pay all using the app.

Cab companies can use TaxiTapp’s built in dispatch system to service these requests and see analytics on their business. And while many taxi companies have developed their own mobile apps today, TaxiTapp would provide them with a global platform – so the end user only has to download one app.

To get cab companies to sign on, the startup decided to make the dispatch system free for them to use. TaxiTapp will charge users a $1 fee per ride.

“Pleasing both sides is really hard – we’re trying to find the balance between saving the taxi industry and making customers really happy,” Lomiashvili said.

With cab companies in 10 states signed on to test the platform, the co-founders hope that taxi drivers will spread the word to their local riders.

“The more you think about it, it’s still such a large industry – taxis are still in every single city in the U.S.,” Trujillo said.

Perhaps ironically, Trujillo himself previously launched a ridesharing company. When that folded, he met Lomiashvili and took another look at taxis.

Lomiashvili started working at TaxiTapp at a Startup Weekend event. He has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Purdue University, but has been dedicated to his startup full time since graduation.

He had attended several Startup Weekends before finding an idea that stuck. Although, being a full-time CEO turned out to be different than a weekend warrior.

“90 percent of the time you don’t get to do what you like – you have to what you need to do. So it was an adjustment,” he said.

Although the app is developed and ready to launch in test markets, the company’s biggest challenge is still proving that people even want to use taxis.

“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it would be successful,” Lomiashvili said. “There’s a solution, it’s just a very tough solution right now to see. Everyone is looking the other way.”

One in a series of stories introducing the Iowa Startup Accelerator’s 2015 cohort - find the rest here.

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