Easy Taxi counts 50 million rides & 17 million of downloads
By: Claudia Repsold
Dennis Wang, the CEO of Easy Taxi, spends most of his time traveling from one country to another to implement his company’s management philosophy. In each country, he learns about the local culture so he can adapt the Easy Taxi app to match.
Although he is in charge of the first Brazilian startup to manage half a billion dollars in transactions, Wang does not own a car. He rides in taxis every day to maintain a close relationship with the main users of the app: taxi drivers and passengers.
Under Wang’s watch, in 2013 Easy Taxi grew 1,100%; received more than 77 million dollars U.S. in funding; expanded to over 30 countries; hired 1,300 employees worldwide; and managed 50 million taxi-ride transactions.
Wang has always been an overachiever. He speaks three languages fluently, has traveled to 47 countries, and he worked for the most prestigious financial institutions in Brazil before become the CEO of Easy Taxi. He has an extremely busy schedule; however, he found time to share some of the secrets of Easy Taxi’s success with Brazil & U.S. Biz.
This interview has been translated from Portuguese and edited for clarity.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: Easy Taxi is the first Brazilian tech company to manage half a billion dollars in transactions. How was the transition from a startup to a global company?
Dennis Wang: It did not happen overnight. I always say this is a process that we have executed in phases. In 2011, Tallis Gomes [the founder of Easy Taxi] and three other entrepreneurs put the pilot project for Easy Taxi’s app together. The next step, in 2012, was to find investment [so we could] expand in Brazil. It was at that time that I came into the picture and started to co-CEO the company with Gomes. In 2013, our challenge was to improve our company’s operational system to make Easy Taxi more efficient for users. Last year, our focus was on expanding internationally. This year, our goal is improving the internal processes of the company. It is always one step at a time.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: What is your advice for a Brazilian tech company that aims to become an international brand?
Wang: There are no secrets. Working hard is the best advice. In the beginning of the business, everybody struggles and needs to stay focused. The founder of Easy Taxi sold his car to start the business; when the app was almost ready and [the team] needed to test the GPS, they did not have a car to do so. They used “shared bikes” to test the accuracy of Easy Taxi’s GPS. After the app was built came the true challenge. We needed to promote a paradigm shift. It was required to convince taxi drivers and passengers to change their everyday habits.
In order to promote the app, we went to the gas stations where the taxi drivers get services. In the beginning, we were at gas stations throughout the day, for 10 hours straight, talking with the taxi drivers, explaining how the app works to them. At that time, most Brazilian cab drivers did not have a smartphone. To prove our concept, we even lent smartphones to them.
After a lot of effort, passengers started to realize that they could really call a cab by just pressing a button, and the taxi would pick them up faster. On the other hand, taxi drivers perceived that by using the app, they would be safer and more profitable. Both sides started to spread the word: “Easy Taxi really works!”
The bottom line is: Work very hard, keep in mind the core value of what you are doing, and dream big.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: What was the biggest challenge Easy Taxi faced in becoming a global company?
Dennis Wang: We always keep our eye on the ball, and [we’ve] never lost track of the core of our existence. Easy Taxi exists to help solve a problem that affects many countries: urban mobility. Our main goal is to make it easier for people to move around. The biggest challenge is not to become a global company, but to maintain a healthy, growing company without losing focus on our core values.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: Easy Taxi operates in many different markets. What kind of cultural adjustments have you had to make to adapt the app to different communities?
Dennis Wang: You can use Easy Taxi in 30 different countries. Our philosophy is, “Think globally, but act locally.” We have to adapt ourselves to operate in each country. In Venezuela, the taxis do not have meters; Easy Taxi was extremely helpful to the passengers in providing a preset price for the rides. In South Korea, the streets sometimes have neither names nor numbers; we created algorithms and codes to help map locations within cities. In Thailand, most of the taxi drivers are illiterate; we had to create a color code to replace the written words on the app. Taxi users in Brazil are usually from the upper class, and it is the opposite in Bolivia or Ecuador. Each country has its own reality and different needs. You have to learn about the local culture and adapt your company to serve the community in which it operates.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: It’s the Darwinian nature of business — those who survive are not necessarily the strongest, but the ones who can adapt faster and better.
Dennis Wang: I guess so. It’s all about the ability to better adapt to the environment. However, it is also about keeping your core values. Like Ambev*, when we expand to another country, we send someone from our headquarters to implement the company philosophy at the new branch. Moreover, we hire the best local people, and learn about their culture from them.
*AB InBev: The world’s largest beer brewer with 25 percent global market share.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: How do you differentiate Easy Taxi from its competitors, like Curb and GrabTaxi? How is the user experience different, or better?
Dennis Wang: Our primary focus is on emerging markets. We are restless and extremely proactive. We are constantly innovating to better assist our customers. Not long ago, a person would have to call a cab company and wait for half an hour to be picked up. Today, by using the Easy Taxi app, you can press a button and get a cab in just four minutes. It’s easier and safer.
You can use the same app in 30 different countries. We made riding in cabs safer for drivers and passengers, since everyone’s information is in the system and can be traced if necessary.
We are always searching to create means to better aid our users’ needs. Paying for the cab ride can be an issue; sometimes people do not have cash, and the cab driver does not accept credit cards. Easy Taxi solved this problem. Now the passengers have the convenience of paying for the ride using the app. Furthermore, the drivers feel more secure, since they are carrying less cash with them.
Innovating is not creating thousands of functions and buttons that nobody uses. Innovating is improving the usability of a product and solving new problems as they arise. Our latest improvement was to get rid of the use of paper vouchers for the payment of the taxi rides of corporate accounts. Every company that signed up to that service with Easy Taxi got a reduction of 40% to 80% in its transportation expenses, while erasing all the fraud associated with paper vouchers.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: Who inspires you?
Dennis Wang: Ambev is our main source of inspiration [when choosing] between Brazilian companies. They proved that with good people working hard toward the same goal, it’s possible to build a global brand. Dream big.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. Easy Taxi is extremely successful; is there anything you would do differently?
Dennis Wang: I learned that people are the main asset of a company — the core value of the business. When an entrepreneur starts a business, they usually are on a very tight budget, and a very common error is hiring inexpensive professionals. Do not do that. It’s essential to the business’ health to surround yourself with talented professionals, and this is not cheap. You always need to find ways to attract the right people. Ambev is very good at attracting and retaining talent.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: You said there are no secrets to success; it’s just keeping up the hard work. However, what do you think an investor values in a company?
Dennis Wang: Three things are decisive: First is if the people who are involved in the project know what they are doing. Second, if the product can solve a real problem; and finally, if that solution [or product] can be scaled.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: What apps do you have on your cell?
Dennis Wang: Do you know that there are one million apps available for downloading, and people have 30 apps on their cell, but end up using just five or six? As I said, I do not own a car, so I take cabs every day. Easy Taxi is my main app and primary means of transportation. Besides Easy Taxi, I also use WhatsApp. I also check my emails and use Instagram.
Brazil & U.S. Biz: What is your motto?
Dennis Wang: I wake up every morning thinking how I can make people’s lives better by improving their mobility.
Claudia Repsold is the Editor-in-Chief of Brazil & USA Biz. She is a Brazilian international award- winning journalist with twenty years of experience in editing, research, coordination, production and reporting news on Brazil and U.S.