The French taxi startup Heetch has revealed it has raised $20m to bring its brand of social ride-sharing across Europe.

The startup launched in France back in 2013 as a peer-to-peer ride-sharing platform but was forced to change its business plans following an intervention by French regulators.

It relaunched in April 2017 as a taxi platform with professional drivers and is now the second-most downloaded taxi app in France, after Uber.

Teddy Pellerin, co-founder of Heetch, says the company wants to provide a more sociable experience of ride-sharing. He believes that it’s this aspect of the company that will help it succeed in new markets, like London.

Pellerin told Verdict:

We would love to come to London. Our service is more used by young people when they’re going out and we’re trying to make something more friendly, more about sharing and a bit different.

We want our passengers to feel as if they are sharing a moment in the ride, not just a professional driver that is driving you home or somewhere else. And we think that would work quite well in London because many people are going out.

London has become somewhat of a difficult marketplace for ride-sharing startups. Uber was banned from operating in London back in September last year and is currently appealing the decision.

As well, the Estonian-based startup Taxify ran into problems early on and was forced to suspend operations after three days.

Pellerin said Heetch has been preparing its operating licence application for Transport for London, the London transport regulator. He said Heetch plans to submit the application in the next few days.

He said:

As soon as we have the licence, we will start operating in London.

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Heetch wants to be the European Lyft

Why should Heetch succeed in London where other taxi startups have failed? The company says it wants to be the European version of Lyft, a US-based taxi startup that maintains it has a more ethical approach than Uber.

Pellerin says it Heetch works hard to provide a better experience for drivers and passengers.

He said:

We have always tried to build a true community with our drivers. We are super available, in discussion with them a lot to try to build the product they want, to try to find what they want and need.

As well, the company takes a 15 percent commission from divers, compared to Uber’s 25 percent.

As well, it wants to offer an improved experience for passengers. For instance, Heetch doesn’t implement surge pricing. If it’s particularly busy and there aren’t many drivers around, passengers can opt to pay more for a car if they want.

But, “if they don’t have the money to pay more, they can wait for five minutes or a little bit more, and they will get a driver,” he said.

So far, Heetch’s offering is small but growing. It has 12,000 drivers in total; 10,000 across France and 2,000 across four more countries: Sweden, Italy, Belgium, and Morocco.

With its latest funding round in mind, it has now raised $32.5m from companies such as Felix Capital in the UK and Allianz’s strategic fund.

It has a long way to go to really compete with Uber, which in London alone has over 40,000 drivers. But with the many problems Uber has faced in the past few years, the ride-sharing scene is ripe for new competition.

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