Karhoo, an Uber rival people have barely heard of, has closed down

 
Lynsey Barber
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Karhoo let people book rides... just like Uber (Source: Getty)

Kar-Who?

An ambitious startup hoping to challenge Uber in the hotly contested world of ride-hailing has closed down just months after it launched in London.

Karhoo, founded by British entrepreneur Danial Ishag but based in New York and backed with $250m (£201.8m) from investors, has been consigned to the scrap heap, it said today, after burning through that cash.

"The Karhoo staff around the world in London, New York, Singapore and Tel Aviv have, over the past 18-months, worked tirelessly to make Karhoo a success. Many of them have worked unpaid for the last six weeks in an effort to get the business to a better place.

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"Unfortunately, by the time the new management team took control last week, it was clear that the financial situation was pretty dire, and Karhoo was not able to find a backer."

It said it was now "looking at the next steps for the business".

Karhoo acted as a price comparison app for various taxi services, including Uber and Addison Lee, and backers include Jonathan Feuer, the managing partner of private equity firm CVC Capital, and the former chairman and chief executive of Sony Entertainment, Nick Gatfield.

As late as August the company was claiming weekly turnover of $500,000 with growth of between 30 and 50 per cent per week. It also said it had nearly 10,000 bookings per day and wanted to be in 100 cities by the end of the year.

In September it was still full throttle on plans to expand, engaging a PR company in the US to launch in New York and other cities across the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas.

And even in late October, the company appeared confident of its footing, announcing that Bank of America would be behind the app's payment processing in the US.

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While the app is available on both iOS and Google Android, numbers on Google Play indicate only between 50,000 and 100,000 people had downloaded it. Its average rating was 2.7 out of five from less than 500 reviews, with complaints about customer service, overcharging and the app being buggy.

And in the latter announcement it had dialled back the bookings per day figure to 7,000, but around the same time it claimed that it was bigger than Uber in London with 33,000 cars on the platform, compared to Uber's 30,000 drivers in the capital.

According to figures from LinkedIn, the number of people currently working at the firm stands at 179, down seven per cent on last month and from a high of 198 in August and September, while the last time a new hire was made was in July.

The figures would include anyone who has chosen to say they are employed by the firm in any capacity on their LinkedIn profile.

The increasingly costly battle for users in the world of cars on-demad has led to consolidation. Uber's withdrew from China, conceding defeat in a multi-billion dollar deal with homegrown Didi, while Hailo merged with MyTaxi under Daimler. Car makers have provided huge backing to several apps – Volkswagen for Gett and General Motors for Lyft – however, despite their popularity among users and Uber's monster valuation, none have yet proven a sustainable business model that brings in profits.

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