A number of on-demand ride hailing companies are feeling the strain from reduced business, with many consumers still reluctant to travel, and especially to travel in surroundings that might increase the risk of spreading or catching the novel coronavirus. But today, one of the startups in the space is announcing a significant round of funding to continue growing in its target sector of corporate travel, underscoring where there may still be some existing and growing opportunities.
Gett, the London and Israel-based company that competes with the likes of Uber and many others to provide private car rides on-demand, has raised $100 million. Gett's CEO and founder Dave Waiser told TechCrunch that the funding is all primary equity capital, and the company says it plans to use it to continue investing in its B2B business, which has been growing -- not shrinking or staying flat -- in the midst of the global health pandemic.
"The way people move around in cities is changing dramatically as a result of COVID-19 and businesses are seeking to optimise costs and to put in place efficient and safe ground travel solutions for their employees," said Waiser, in a statement. "Our mobility software is helping businesses thrive by empowering people to be their best on the go. Being fully funded and reaching a key milestone in our profitability journey is an important step for the company. The proceeds will help us grow our unique corporate SaaS platform internationally, while we consider an IPO in the future, to further accelerate our expansion.”
The company turned operationally profitable in December 2019 and had said it planned to go public in 2020, but it sounds like that timeline, if it happens, has now been pushed back to 2021. Gett says it has met its "original financial targets that were set pre-COVID-19." It also reached profitability in each of its core markets in June, and is on target now to be cash flow positive in 2021, ahead of a "potential" IPO.
"It's a luxury, enabling flexibility for the company to go public when it's best, rather than from the cash needs reasoning as many (money-losing) companies have to do nowadays," Waiser said in an interview.
Gett is not disclosing the names of any of its investors in this round except to note that it's a mix of new and existing backers, nor is it disclosing its valuation.
Waiser said the reason for that is that the round is still being expanded after getting oversubscribed, so it plans to announce a list of investors (and valuation?) after the expansion closes.
For some context, though, Gett has now raised $750 million, with investors including VW, Access and its founder Len Blavatnik, Kreos, MCI and more, and its last valuation was $1.5 billion, pegged to a $200 million fundraise in May 2019.
Gett started operations years ago serving both consumers and corporate users going head-to-head with the Ubers of the world for app-based, on-demand rides, but it had always differentiated its positioning by working with (in London) the "black cabs" and in NYC "yellow cabs" -- that is, the established infrastructure of ride-hailing.
In recent years, it has honed its focus specifically on business accounts. No surprise, when you think about it, considering the capital intensiveness, competitiveness and subsequent poor unit economics of scaling a consumer-focused ridesharing business (a confluence of factors we've seen played out at Uber, Lyft, Grab and many others).
Gett's turn to B2B has seen it pick up some 15,000 corporate customers, including one-third of the Fortune 500.
What has been interesting too is the approach Gett has taken to scale: Today, it provides rides in some 1,500 cities, but a large part of that footprint is served not directly by Gett. One of its key partners is Lyft -- the result of a deal Gett inked with the company in November 2019 after Gett shut down its Juno operations in New York City. And it's been expanding that list to include other third-party partnerships in the mix.
Partnerships may not yield margins as strong as those Gett has with direct operations. Gett still is the direct link between drivers and riders in its key markets, which include cities like London and Moscow. (It's not disclosing what percentage of its business today is direct versus via third-party businesses.)
But on the other hand, Gett has been building its business by providing a plethora of analytics and invoicing services around the actual ride, and what it makes by securing corporate accounts on the back of that software becomes a revenue stream to offset the decline in margins from partnerships. Gett claims that its services ultimately undercut by about 25% other ground transportation options for corporates.
While a lot of consumers may have curtailed their Uber rides in recent months, the business market has seen a turn to ensuring that the travel that its users are taking is well-controlled when it has to be done, specifically to meet specific safety standards. That has been the sweet spot for Gett, with its very specific B2B approach.
"The completion of the fundraising during the pandemic is a clear expression of confidence by our shareholders and new investors in Gett’s vision to focus on the corporate market and its plan to expand globally, as well as in the Company’s strong operational and financial performance," said Amos Genish, Gett chairman, in a statement.