Though Hailo is already available in another 11 cities, including London, Tokyo, and New York, it calls itself “the DC taxi app.” The business, which launched on Monday in a Florida Avenue townhouse, promises it will provide a DC taxi to users “wherever you are, whenever you want. All it takes is two taps.” So far, according to founder and CEO Jay Bregman, Hailo represents only DC taxis but hopes soon to include Maryland and Virginia drivers.
The app, first launched in London, is designed to be driver- and passenger-friendly. For drivers who don’t have a smartphone (is there such a thing?) Hailo will provide a Samsung S2 smartphone for a monthly fee of $60. Passengers download the app, which keeps a credit card on file, similar to Uber or Taxi Magic. No cash is exchanged between passenger and driver. For a limited time, the website is offering a $10 “founding passenger” credit.* The app shows nearby taxis, and the meter doesn’t start running until the passenger taps the “passenger on board” icon. After that it’s the regular fare plus $1.50. The app also provides a means for passengers to rate the drivers.
“We’ve always tried to be open and up-front about the way in which we charge,” said Bregman at a small midday opening party at the taxi-cab-yellow Hailo DC office on Monday. He had just arrived from New York, where the company is headquartered and where he lives. “We’re a matchmaking business. We charge a commission either to the driver or the passenger, depending on the local market. In the US we charge the passenger a small fee. Ultimately we’re looking to create the most liquid network.”
Bregman said once a passenger signs up for the app it can be used in any of Hailo’s 11 cities, where 40,000 drivers have been verified. In DC, so far, Hailo has verified 500 drivers, he said. He also said he’s found the city, in particular City Council transportation chair Mary Cheh, to be helpful and accommodating. Bregman said he expected Cheh to drop by the new office at some point today.