Karhoo: Daniel Ishag
Having rolled out in London in May, the serial entrepreneur talks about his new cab comparison app and bringing taxis into the "e-hailing revolution"
Tell us what your business does:
Karhoo is a global cab comparison and booking app, giving passengers more choice every time they book a cab ride.
Karhoo works by connecting directly to the fleet dispatch system of established licensed taxis, minicabs and executive car operators, allowing passengers to choose and book their preferred ride based on the features that matter most; price, proximity, vehicle style and cab company. We also allow passengers to pre-book and make multiple bookings in advance, while offering transparent pricing, with no surge.
Karhoo is vendor-natural, so not only are we providing users access to all of the cab available to book in one convenient app, we’re supporting the local industry and helping to level the playing field, by bringing local and national cab companies online and into the e-hailing revolution.
We’ve just started our global roll-out, with London being the first city to come online in May. We already have global network of 400,000 local taxis, minicabs and executive cars including more than 80,000 cabs in the UK, of which 30,000 of which are in London.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was in California and booked a cab from the Hills back to my hotel. The first car cancelled, as did the second and third. The next day I was online looking for the best price for a flight and it suddenly struck me, why hasn't ground transportation got a comparison app like other travel services that would let me find not only a local supplier, but choose a service best suited for me.
Within 24 hours I was on a plane to India and starting a prototype.
How did you know there was a market for it?
The e-hailing industry has seen substantial growth in a very short period of time. It feels like every week you hear of a new service or app which is great for industry, but it means the market is becoming increasingly fragmented and difficult for consumers to navigate.
Over the last 15 years, millions have been spent by industries educating consumers about comparison services. Hotels, airlines and insurance companies all use comparison sites but ground transportation was lagging behind, until now.
Karhoo is changing the game, we’re giving the ‘booking.com generation' the smartest way to choose and book a cab ride. Likewise, Karhoo is opening cab companies’ doors to a larger network of customers that otherwise might not have the technological capacity or resource to compete on a level playing field.
What were you doing before starting up?
I am an entrepreneur. I left school at 17, and went to Asia for my first business. I learnt a lot about life there: I learnt about what to do, what not to do, and what I couldn’t do. And I think that’s a really good place to start building your career from. Then in the year 2000 I set up Espotting, an online media start-up.
This was a time when everyone was saying that the dotcom boom was over and tech companies were dead: but actually Espotting was a runaway success.
After that I was with my previous business, Bluewater Bio, for eight years. In mid-2014 I’d done it, turned it into a big business, and I thought that it was time to exit. I went off on a holiday for six weeks: but before I knew it, I’d come up with the idea for Karhoo and the next thing I knew I was on an aeroplane on my way to start the prototyping. It just shows you how fast things happen in life.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I became an entrepreneur and have started my own businesses for just one reason… no one would give me a job!
How did you raise the money?
We have been lucky to receive the support of many influential backers from around the world who have seen the potential in Karhoo.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
By partnering with established operators, Karhoo integrates hundreds or even thousands of vehicles in one go through proprietary technology, allowing much quicker network growth than any other app-based services using a driver-by-driver model. Karhoo takes 10% of the fare charged by fleet operators.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Because I don’t have a lot of academic background, I’ve never had any choice but to simply go ahead and do things.
A lot of people – including people I am proud to work with, and other people who I respect enormously and indeed in many cases look up to – they have more choices because they are so well educated. Sometimes that can mean that they never actually start anything themselves: and that’s half the problem – or half the blessing – of being them, or being me.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The success of Espotting was really important because it showed me that no matter what other people say, if you have a vision and work hard, you really can achieve anything.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Don't over think things. If you have an idea just go for it. There will be hurdles along the way but that is the fun part. Having great people around you is a must.
There are many types of entrepreneur and there are many ways of being entrepreneurial. From my experience the most successful entrepreneurs don’t see it as a job. It’s a way of life. You’re mixing in your work culture and your social life, everything. It’s a mind-set or an attitude – or a lifestyle – more than it is a job.
The key thing is focus. If someone is building their business, if someone wants to do something special or difficult, that person has really got to focus all their efforts. And it takes a toll; it takes a toll on the people around you. It takes a toll on your partner if you’ve got one, or on your wife. That’s why I’m saying, as an entrepreneur, it is a way of life because it does affect everything you do.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I’m very focussed on building Karhoo to be a truly global app that gives passengers more choice, no matter what city they're in.