Financier Nathaniel Rothschild is to go up against controversial travel app Uber, launching a new ride-share application called Maaxi, which will facilitate cheaper black cab rides by grouping customers travelling to the same destination.
He has teamed up with Argentine technology heavyweight Gabriel Campos, the former CEO of gaming website Pokerstars, to bring the app to market and last night saw the pair address a crowd of upwards of 100 black cab drivers at Millwall FC, in a bid to sign the cabbies up.
“Hackney carriage drivers’ are critical to resolving London’s transport problems and I am betting with Maaxi on the increasingly important role they must play in TfL’s plans to address the future of transport in London,” says Rothschild.
The new business partners won’t reveal how much Rothschild has invested in the start-up or how big a stake the banking scion now owns in the app but he has been instrumental in its marketing drive, prolifically tweeting about it and appearing in a number of promotional videos.
The pair are hoping to cash in on the current trend for applications which make taxis and minicabs more convenient and cheaper for users. They see their unique selling point as offering drivers better compensation than rivals like Uber and Halio.
“We operate in the same market as Uber but we are going about things in a different way by bringing value without commoditising the market,” Campos told City A.M.
“The aim is to use the existing infrastructure of black cabs with their spacious vehicles to increase capacity in London’s public transport network.”
By all accounts the cabbies have been welcoming to Maaxi. Following mass protests about Uber, London’s black cab drivers seem keen to have an app which claims to look after their interests. “After weeks of scrutinising Maaxi we decided to get on board and use Maaxi as our weapon to fight Uber and other threats to the trade,” wrote a spokesperson for Failo, a lobby group which has encouraged taxi action against Uber and Hailo.
PROFILE: THE MEN TAKING ON UBER
Banking scion Nathaniel “Nat” Rothschild is the heir apparent to the Rothschild’s financial dynasty. Having played out his wild days in the UK’s headlines, he now lives in Switzerland, where he acts as chairman of investment advisory JNR, which he set up with his father Lord Jacob Rothschild. Rothschild has interests in the mining and resources sector but these haven’t always been successful. In 2010 he raised and invested £700m to create coal company Bumi with Malaysian billionaires the Bakries, but the deal ended in disaster as Rothschild fell out with the Bakries amid accusations of corruption at the firm.
Argentine Gabriel Campos is the chief executive of Maaxi, having retired as chief executive of online gaming giant Pokerstars in 2012 to start his own business. As a teenager, Campos moved from Argentina to Israel where he worked in military intelligence for three years. He went on to manage telecoms company Avaya but was headhunted by UK-based online gambling company 888 where he acted as senior vice president. Having split his time between London and Tel Aviv for many years he moved to the UK permanently in 2010, when he joined Pokerstars, becoming CEO.