As Uber continues to work through its many layers of turmoil as a business, its smaller rivals are seizing the moment and consolidating to double down on their own ambitions in transportation-on-demand. Multiple sources tell TechCrunch that Gett — the taxi-hailing service backed by $300 million from Volkswagen — is acquiring Juno — one of the latest upstarts on the streets — at a valuation of around $250 million, our sources say.
Neither company responded to multiple requests for comment, but one of our sources says that the deal is at an advanced stage at this point.
This means that there is still a chance it could be delayed or fall apart, although this is not the intention from either side at this point.
There are a few likely reasons behind this M&A move.
Putting together the two companies, from what we understand, would not be to go head-to-head with Uber — which is currently in 579 cities and valued at over $60 billion (although some dispute that number). Rather, it would be to put the combined company into a more solid number-two position above other rivals like Lyft.
Specifically, it would give the two a strong foothold in New York, where both Gett and Juno are already very active. From what we understand the combined company would like to use that stronger base to gradually expand to other markets nationally.
The companies are also fighting to swim in a crowded funding pool, where a lot of capital is needed to acquire customers with promotions; to build up a base of drivers; and to compete against other existing companies, including both older taxi firms as well as newer entities like Uber.
Juno was co-founded in New York by the founders of Viber, who sold the messaging app to Rakuten in 2014 for $900 million. It first emerged in 2016 with a specific mission to take on Uber — which was already facing a lot of criticism over how it treated its drivers — as well as other services with a model that put the driver first.
The company would give drivers a shareholding in the company, with the understanding that even if one day their roles as drivers might potentially get supplanted by more autonomous systems, they would nevertheless retain a stake in the fortunes of the company that was doing the supplanting, and thus be less financially at risk. The employee-owned model is also often used as a way to help motivate workers to give better customer service.
The company has never disclosed its total funding although Talmon Marco, the co-founder and CEO, has said that it is “sufficiently funded“. We reported it was raising $30 million at one point last year, although from what I understand it has been backed by more.
Gett, long a trailing player in the on-demand ride space, had early roots in Israel, but more recently has been trying to carve out a position for itself in the market in both the U.S. and Europe, not so much as a direct Uber competitor, but as a service and app for established taxi drivers to use to complement whatever services they might already offer for on-street hailing.
In its own way, it was also built as a service that served drivers’ needs, in this case to fill spare time in their driving day.
Of course, this is not necessarily uncrowded territory — there are a number of other firms (MyTaxi/Hailo being one) that are building virtual fleets of established taxi drivers (rather than private individuals using their own cars) to find passengers and take their payments.
Gett specifically has had a very interesting boost in the form of Volkswagen, the world’s largest car maker, taking a stake in the company and using it to further its own interests in the area of transportation services in partnership with the startup. The company, led by founder Dave Waiser, has raised $513 million to date.
The deal comes at an interesting time in the market for transportation services. While Uber has been knocked hard by a series of bad stories concerning its internal work culture, alleged IP theft, and questionable uses of technology in the name of making its service more effective and efficient; rivals are looking for opportunities to move ahead.
Just earlier this month, Lyft announced that it had closed a $600 million round of funding at a $7.5 billion valuation. Yes, that financing may have been in play for months before Uber’s egg began to crack, but closing and announcing the round right now certainly points to an interesting show of strength at a key moment. It may be that Gett and Juno sense the moment, too.