Noticia completa publicada por Financial Times el 12 de octubre de 2015

Spanish taxi-booking app Cabify secures funding from Rakuten

Tobias Buck in Madrid and Leslie Hook in San Francisco

The market for Uber-style taxi-booking services is hotting up, with Cabify, a Madrid-based application with a rapidly growing presence in Latin America and Spain, securing fresh funding led by Rakuten, the largest e-commerce company in Japan by sales.

The deal announced on Monday will provide Cabify with $12m to further fund its push into Latin America. It also provides the company with the stamp of approval from one of the most high-profile investors in internet services.

Cabify’s latest financing round underscores growing investor interest in the rivals to Uber in specific markets, that often have a leg up on their US rival due to language and regulatory context. In Madrid, for example, Uber has been banned, leaving the market largely to its Spanish rival.

For taxi-booking companies, winning market share is increasingly about who can raise the most cash, as steep discounting and bonuses are used to attract riders and drivers. The global fundraising leaders Uber, China’s Didi Kuaidi and Lyft have collectively raised more than $6bn this year alone.

Cabify’s latest investment, while smaller than its rivals, will help fund expansion into 20 new cities in Latin America and Spain in the next eight months. The deal also deepens Rakuten’s ties with the taxi-booking upstarts, after the company led a $530m investment round in Lyft, Uber’s chief US rival, earlier this year.

“Cabify has established leadership positions in markets across Spain and Latin America. We are really excited about their future and want to be instrumental in helping Cabify expand to other markets,” said Oskar Miel, managing partner at Rakuten’s FinTech Fund. He will join the company’s board of directors.

Cabify declined to reveal the size of the stake acquired in the latest financing round, but it is understood that the deal values the company at about €100m.

Cabify was launched in Spain in 2011, and has expanded into Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia. Its revenues have been rising rapidly, from $1m in 2013 to $10m in 2014 and an estimated $40m this year. According to Juan de Antonio, founder and chief executive, revenues are forecast to reach close to $200m next year, on the back of an ambitious launch programme in the next two years.

“We have been growing in our markets for a while but with this new round of funding we can increase the density of our networks and enter new markets,” he said. “There are still virgin markets in Latin America.”

Cabify’s basic business model is the same as Uber’s but with several twists. Unlike its US-based rival, Cabify only operates in cities where it can obtain a regular taxi licence — sidestepping the legal troubles that have beset Uber in several key European markets.

The Spanish company also relies to a much greater extent than its rivals on corporate clients rather than individual passengers. It places heavy emphasis on repeat customers, for example by steering its cars in peak hours towards habitual users rather than those that offer the most lucrative one-off fare. The Spanish start-up says its approach means that — unlike many of its rivals — it has no need to subsidise drivers or offer steep discounts to users.

The biggest shareholder in Cabify is Seaya Ventures, a Madrid-based fund that invested both in the current and in an earlier funding round. “Competing with Uber is not easy — but they have done a very good job. Despite limited funding Cabify has beaten the competition in markets such as Peru and Chile,” said Beatriz González, managing partner at Seaya Ventures.