• Ingogo connects taxi drivers with passengers. (SBS)
Hamish Petrie launched his taxi app Ingogo one year before Uber took off. However, that didn't deter him. Instead, it spurred the evolution of his business.
Hannah Sinclair

SBS Small Business Secrets
15 Oct 2017 - 5:35 PM  UPDATED 1 Feb 2018 - 9:36 AM

Six years ago, when taxis ruled the roads in Australia, serial entrepreneur Hamish Petrie decided to shake things up.

After selling his ticketing company Moshtix in 2007, he launched the Ingogo app in 2011.

The idea was to connect passengers directly with taxi drivers. 

“We’re using mobile technology to connect customers directly with drivers and making getting from A to B really easy,” Mr Petrie said.

Sydney startup Ingogo was live for 12 months before the ride-sharing behemoth Uber came along. There are now 54,000 Uber drivers across Australia and around 2.4 million riders using the Uber app.

But Hamish wasn't going to let a little competition set him back, quickly adapting to the changing market conditions.

“It’s been a highly competitive market with changes in government regulation and different players coming in,” Mr Petrie said.

“As a technology company, you've always got to be evolving. One of the biggest things for us in recent times is coming out with fixed fares.”

A move away from the traditional taximeter wasn't the only tactic. Hamish sought out corporate clients and deals, including with Qantas. 

Since 2015, the company has received over $16 million in backing from prominent investors, leading Mr Petrie to believe there are fruitful opportunities for startups to be funded in Sydney.

“If you'd gone back 20 years ago there was a very small pool of people who would invest in these types of things,” he said.

“The world has changed rapidly in 20 years. We've imported a lot of the culture of Silicon Valley into our startup scene, and the investment scene [here]. There are a lot more opportunities to get funding than there ever have been. That combined with government grants… if you've got the right idea, the right people, [and] you're getting traction, then you'll have no shortage of finding money in Australia.”

Taxi driver MD Rashid has been using Ingogo for more than three years and said half of his daily fares come from the app. 

“It's like being your own boss. It's a lot of flexibility and freedom. You can visit new places every day, [meet] new passengers. This is a thing you'll never get bored of,” Mr Rashid said.

Ingogo is valued at $100 million and is considering a stock market listing this year, along with trying to encourage more drivers to use the platform. 

“We've been really concentrating on the corporate market in Australia.”

“We've got new technology coming out for our drivers so it will continue to expand the number of drivers on the platform.”

Hamish likens starting a business to a science experiment, and said if he could do it all again he hopes he'd be less cautious.

“I would just be more ruthless about running those experiments - [you should] keep refining the model. The more experiments you can run, the more chance you have of being successful.”

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