Tuesday 23 January 2018

'Business is like tennis - you don't win every game' - Lynk CEO enjoys taxi industry's ebb and flow

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Irish taxi firm Lynk has undergone a challenging period of reinvention in the last few years, forced to re-evaluate their place in the market in order to move forward in an increasingly competitive industry.

Yet, under the watchful eye of CEO Noel Ebbs, the brand has managed to etch out a very strong market share for itself - both here and internationally - by staying true to its 'local' mission statement.

"It took us about a year to find our segment and to develop the segments that we now excel in. We specialise in these things: our local service, our corporate service, our hotel service...It's very difficult to compete with us in those segments because this is all we do," Ebbs told independent.ie.

Lynk doesn't do "the big global thing" but the firm's expansion internationally under the 'Riide' brand - owned with other investors - has already shown huge potential in the UK.

A beta test of the forthcoming app was launched in Newcastle and distributed to 100 known customers; within a month there were 3,000 downloads of the app and within two months, 'Lynk driven by Riide' has completed 30,000 bookings.

"Our aim was to create software to allow all of the drivers in the UK to come under this software and allow it to deal directly with drivers or through dispatch systems," said Ebbs.

"Our challenge was that the end product wouldn't simply be an app but would provide the all encompassing service that people are used to for the last number of years. We didn't want to take away a service by bringing in a service."

At present, there are currently 30,000 drivers on the firm's books in the UK, Ireland and the US, where a soft launch is planned in Washington next year.

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With 2,500 drivers in Dublin alone, strategic partners for Lynk are also based in Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford, and the new system - due to launch later this year - will centralise all of the users' accounts while allowing them to work independently.

Noel Ebbs Lynk Taxi
Noel Ebbs Lynk Taxi

Like the popular MyTaxi (formerly Hailo) app, customers can choose their drivers based on ratings - but Ebbs doesn't see MyTaxi or global giant Uber as direct competitors as their business model is so different.

"We build up communities of drivers in neighbourhoods servicing communities of people. This builds up relationships and that works for us and our software is particularly designed for that," he said.

"We're expecting growth this year to be somewhere around 10pc which is not bad considering our size. We're very happy with that; we don't need to own the world, we don't need to own all of Dublin. We have a very strong market share and we're very happy with that." 

Ebbs started his business life out as a bookmaker but decided to take a different approach when he saw the industry was becoming internationalised. While working as a cab driver part-time to support his family when he went back to college, he realised there was a glaring tech gap in the taxi business.

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After buying City Cabs in the early 90s, which had around 30 drivers at the time, Ebbs learned the trade and put his mind to developing apps which became more and more complex as the years went on. At present, Lynk is pulling in new drivers and new customers on a weekly basis - but Ebbs is realistic about how cyclical business is, and he enjoys it.

"This year you might be on top, next year you're not; we've been experiencing these cycles of dominance of subservience to the market," he said.

"We live with that and we work with it. It's fun; business is a bit like a tennis match, you don't win every game but you aim to win the set or the match.

"You can't take this seriously, if you do you won't sleep. It's a game, it's all a game."

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