Gett inks deal with Curb Mobility to bring yellow cabs to its enterprise-focused on-demand ride-hailing app

Gett, the ride-hailing startup that has been carving out a niche for itself in a crowded and competitive market for on-demand transportation by focusing on enterprise accounts and connecting people with rides in some 1,500 cities leveraging a number of third-party fleets, is adding another partner today as it continues to double down on its business model in the wake of corporate travel slowly coming back online.

Gett has inked a deal to integrate Curb Mobility to integrate yellow taxis into Gett’s app, which will now cover some 65 cities across the US. The news is coming at a time when Gett is looking to expand its service to meet more demand: it notes that rides currently at around 80% of the levels they were in Q1 2020, just ahead of Covid-19 really descending on the western world.

From what we understand, the deal does not involve any investment between Gett — which has raised around $865 million to date (including most recently closing a $115 million round) and was last valued at $1.5 billion in 2019 — and Curb — which is a part of Verifone, after the payments hardware company acquired it in 2015.

(If you think it sounds odd for a payments hardware company to own a taxi fleet app, this is only part of Curb’s business and is in fact also a hardware player: in addition to Curb providing a way to hail yellow taxis — it app covers some 50,000 cabs and 100,000 drivers — the company also builds hardware for cabs and fleet operations, including metering apps, payment terminals, and those interactive screens for passengers that let them pay for rides, watch news and advertisements and more.)

To differentiate its service from the very highly capitalized Ubers and Lyfts of the world, Gett has been building out a two-pronged strategy that covers both how it scales, and the services that it provides to its users.

On the scaling front, Gett has been moving away from managing fleets of contractor drivers in the US for some years now: back in 2019, after slogging it out for years against Lyft and Uber in its primary New York metro market, Gett effectively shut down its main fleet operation in the region and instead inked a deal with Lyft. That has become a template of sorts that the company has been repeating in other cities outside of the U.S. where it doesn’t have substantial market share. (For example, Ola is another Gett partner.) In some cities where it has a larger footprint, like London and Moscow, Gett works with drivers directly.

Partner fleets made up one-third of Gett’s business in the first quarter of this year, but as Gett brings on more to its network, it expects partner fleets to cover the majority of its rides by the end of this year, the company said.

On the service front, Gett has made a big bet on building a platform that integrates with businesses at the back end to make it easier to order rides and for them to reconcile more easily with a businesses expense management and accounting software. Gett’s big pitch to would-be customers is that this software makes it less expensive and significantly more efficient to hail a cab using Gett compared to the alternatives — for starters users can compare different prices from different providers — and it gives users significantly more choice.

“Today’s partnership cements Gett’s position as a technology platform focused on corporate Ground Transportation Management (GTM), where spend is worth $79.6 billion globally,” said Dave Waiser, CEO and co-founder of Gett, in a statement. “In recent years, we have become the GTM category leader, serving over a quarter of Fortune 500 companies.”

On the part of Curb, it gives drivers using its software another link through to an app that might bring in more business at a time when riders have more choice than ever before, covering not just other on-demand car apps, but eco-friendly, exercise-ready, and traffic-busting options like e-bikes, scooters and shared rides. As the profile of the average corporate user changes and gets younger, that too will change the expectations many of them will have for what constitutes a preferred set of ground transportation options, depending on the situation.

“As cities across the U.S. prepare for the return of international travel, our partnership with Gett will create new income opportunities for local drivers and ensure Gett’s business users have access to the same safe, reliable transportation options trusted by locals,” said Amos Tamam, CEO at Curb. “By integrating with platforms like Gett, we’re aiming to make taxis more ubiquitous online by opening up new digital avenues for today’s consumers and businesses to find and book taxis.”

India’s Razorpay raises funds at $3 billion valuation ahead of Southeast Asia launch

Six-year-old Bangalore-based fintech Razorpay topped a $1 billion valuation late last year, becoming the first Y Combinator-backed Indian startup to reach the much sought after unicorn status. In less than six months since, the Indian startup has tripled its valuation and is preparing to launch in the Southeast Asian markets.

Razorpay said on Monday it has raised $160 million in its Series E financing round that valued the startup at $3 billion, up from “a little over” $1 billion valuation in the $100 million Series D in October last year.

The new round has been co-led by existing investors Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund — GIC — and Sequoia Capital India. Some other existing investors including Ribbit Capital also participated in the new round, which takes Razorpay’s to-date raise to $366.5 million.

Razorpay accepts, processes and disburses money online for small businesses and enterprises — essentially everything Stripe does in the U.S. and several other developed markets. But the Indian startup’s offering goes much further than that: In recent years, Razorpay has launched a neobanking platform to issue corporate credit cards (more at the bottom of the article), and it also offers businesses working capital.

With the global giant Stripe still nowhere in the Indian picture, Razorpay has grown to become the market leader. And now, the startup plans to replicate its success from the home country in Southeast Asian markets, Harshil Mathur, co-founder and chief executive of Razorpay, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“We are one of the largest payments providers in the Indian ecosystem. We want to take the learnings we have in India to the Southeast Asian market. Before the end of the financial year, we want to launch in one or two Southeast Asian markets,” said Mathur, adding that the new round gives it the valuation to more confidently explore some M&A opportunities to accelerate growth.

More than 5 million businesses in India rely on Razorpay’s technology to process payments. Some of these clients include Facebook, telecom operator Airtel, ride-hailing firm Ola, food-delivery startup Swiggy, and fintech CRED.

Mathur and Shashank Kumar — pictured above — met at IIT Roorkee college. The duo realized early on that small businesses faced immense difficulties in accepting money digitally and the existing payments processing firms weren’t designed to tackle the needs of small businesses and startups.

Solving this issue became Razorypay’s goal, and in the early days about 11 individuals shared a single apartment as the co-founders scrambled to convince bankers to work with them. The conversations were slow and remained in a deadlock for so long that the co-founders felt helpless explaining the same challenge to investors numerous times, they recalled in an interview two years ago.

The stories one hears about Razorpay today have changed dramatically. In a Clubhouse room, known for sharp criticism of products, dozens of developers and startup founders recently recalled their early interactions with Razorpay, and how the startup’s officials helped their businesses start with — or move to — the Razorpay’s system within hours after reaching it out.

Deepak Abbot, co-founder of Indiagold, recently recalled an incident where his startup had missed an alert, and that coupled with a snafu at the bank, resulted in the startup running out of funds to pay customers.

I expected Harshil to pause and think but he said let us add 10 lakhs just to be on a safer side. And while we were chatting @shashankmehta05 sent me a whatsapp that money has been added to our account 4/5

— Deepak Abbot (@deepakabbot) February 8, 2021

Last year, Mathur said Razorpay’s core business — processing payments — was fast-growing and the startup would focus more on building the two new offerings.

Offering an update, Mathur said Razorpay X now serves about 15,000 businesses, up from fewer than 5,000 in October last year. Razorpay Capital is now annually bandying out about $80 million to clients, up from less than $40 million a year ago. The duration of the loan Razorpay provides ranges from three to six months, and the ticket size is typically between 0.8 million to 1 million Indian rupees ($10,730 to $13,400).

Mathur said the startup will focus on further growing this business in the next three years and then look at taking the startup public. “If it was just the payments processing business, we could go public right now. But our ambitions are beyond — to become the full ecosystem for businesses. And on those new sides (neobanking and lending), we are early,” he said.

The startup’s marquee offering has grown 40-50% month-on-month in the past six months. It now plans to process over $50 billion in total payment volume by the end of 2021. The startup also plans to hire a number of people. It currently has over 600 open positions, several in Southeast Asian markets.

Monday’s announcement comes at a time when a slice of Indian startups are raising large amounts of capital at a much frequent pace and increased valuations as investors double down on promising bets in the world’s second largest internet market.

Indian startups social commerce Meesho, fintech firm CRED, e-pharmacy firm PharmEasy, millennials-focused Groww, business messaging platform Gupshup and social network ShareChat attained the unicorn status earlier this month. TechCrunch reported last week that SoftBank is in talks to invest in Zeta and Swiggy.

*Razorpay offers a number of value-added services such as automating vendor payments, real-time reconciliation and analytics, managing subscriptions, GST invoicing, designing and creating websites. The startup has also developed an app-based substitute for payments terminals (also known as POS) as well as pay-by-link for enabling offline commerce.

Once VMware is free from Dell, who might fancy buying it?

TechCrunch has spilled much digital ink tracking the fate of VMware since it was brought to Dell’s orbit thanks to the latter company’s epic purchase of EMC in 2016 for $58 billion. That transaction saddled the well-known Texas tech company with heavy debts. Because the deal left VMware a public company, albeit one controlled by Dell, how it might be used to pay down some of its parent company’s arrears was a constant question.

Dell made its move earlier this week, agreeing to spin out VMware in exchange for a huge one-time dividend, a five-year commercial partnership agreement, lots of stock for existing Dell shareholders and Michael Dell retaining his role as chairman of its board.

So, where does the deal leave VMware in terms of independence, and in terms of Dell influence? Dell no longer will hold formal control over VMware as part of the deal, though its shareholders will retain a large stake in the virtualization giant. And with Michael Dell staying on VMware’s board, it will retain influence.

Here’s how VMware described it to shareholders in a presentation this week. The graphic shows that under the new agreement, VMware is no longer a subsidiary of Dell and will now be an independent company.

Chart showing before and after structure of Dell spinning out VMware. In the after scenario, VMware is an independent company.

Image Credits: VMware

But with VMware tipped to become independent once again, it could become something of a takeover target. When Dell controlled VMware thanks to majority ownership, a hostile takeover felt out of the question. Now, VMware is a more possible target to the right company with the right offer — provided that the Dell spinout works as planned.

Buying VMware would be an expensive effort, however. It’s worth around $67 billion today. Presuming a large premium would be needed to take this particular technology chess piece off the competitive board, it could cost $100 billion or more to snag VMware from the public markets.

So VMware will soon be more free to pursue a transaction that might be favorable to its shareholders — which will still include every Dell shareholder, because they are receiving stock in VMware as part of its spinout — without worrying about its parent company simply saying no.