With Hold on São Paulo, 99Taxis Preps to Ambush Brazil

Backed by Qualcomm Ventures, will 99Taxis be able to take the cake in Brazil's taxi app contest?

Last week, we posed the question of who will win Latin America’s taxi app war. From SaferTaxi to Tappsi, Yaxi and even Uber, the competition is pretty tough. And this week, we’re taking a look at another player in the mix: 99Taxis. And with over 20,000 registered drivers and 700,000 passengers throughout Brazil, it’s a biggie.

99taxisFounded by Paulo Veras, Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas, 99Taxis is one of Brazil’s top taxi apps. It is available for both iOS and Android and has managed to take the lead in one of Brazil’s principal urban centers, São Paulo.

“We currently have 70% market share for taxi app rides in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city,” Veras,  who now acts as the company’s CEO, told us. “We managed to stand out by building a better product and a better service, and people realize that.”

What specifically sets 99Taxis apart? Veras replied:

We cater to taxi drivers and passengers who are heavy users, so they usually try a couple of apps before settling with 99. Drivers prefer 99 because it’s safer (we validate passengers’ numbers), gives them closer rides, cancels less rides, and generates more revenue for them. It also is a fair system that gives the ride to the closest driver rather than the one that accepts first. Passengers prefer 99 because we provide the quickest pick-up times of any app in Brazil. It’s safe and easy to use, and they can communicate with drivers using an in-app messaging system.

verasThough São Paulo is the company’s main market, it’s also got a hold on the rest of Brazil, with 11,000 drivers outside of the city. And when 99Taxis includes in-app payment options next year, it expects its growth to accelerate even more.

This begs the question, of course, of whether it plans to expand outside of Brazil. “This solution is truly global by nature, although there is some customization for local markets,” Veras explained. “We consider going to different countries, because we believe our competitive advantages in terms of product and service can be transferred. But Brazil is a huge market for taxis, the rides are much more expensive than in the rest of the region. So we are focusing on increasing our gap between 99 and the rest of the pack.”

Also giving 99Taxis a boost is Qualcomm Ventures, which recently announced investments in Zoop, Emprego Ligado and 99. Veras discussed the value of Qualcomm’s support:

Qualcomm is a great global investor focused on mobile opportunities. They offer help and advice in understanding markets and smartphone penetration, in efficient app design, in providing a peek into what technologies and features will be available down the road. Their global presence also helps us to get more intelligence on what’s going on in our market outside of Brazil.

Considered the crowded niche they’re addressing, 99Taxis certainly has its work cut out for it in beating competitors to the punch. But the startup is confident that it’s got what it takes to win: “a great product, superb service, and, most of all, an incredible team.”