I was very excited when No Taxi (@NoTaxiApp), a Swedish ridesharing startup, reached out to us after reading one of my articles. Yesterday I chatted with their CEO Irina Frodin about who she is, her vision and her philosophy regarding the sharing economy. Here are some highlights.
Hi Irina, I’m so excited to speak to you. First off, could you share a little about yourself and what brought you to where you are now?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years before this project. I have an engineering background and studied marketing. From idea to launching, this app took about a year. Our first version is for iPhone and on March 1st we created a version for Android. The iOS version is already working all over the world. This app is not commercial as my goal is to make transportation affordable and easy. Taxi shouldn't be a luxury. I believe we can help people save money and improve the environment at the same time. Parking spaces is a problem in a big city. Won’t it help if we leave the car sometimes and get a lift from the neighbor? By getting to know each other in real life, we improve the community and security of our neighborhoods.
My motivation behind the app is I don’t think taxis, and transportation in general, should be expensive. I want to make it accessible to more people because right now it isn’t with fares being very high. And public transportation is expensive too in my opinion. The main criteria is that the App should be useful.
Most people today are familiar with on-demand car services such as Lyft or Uber. What is No Taxi and how is it different from the rest?
The NO TAXI App is not commercial. I want to create a virtual space for people to meet each other, developing a society by using technology to connect people who need something to those who can provide them with the service. For instance, the public transportation here in France is very unreliable, sometimes leaving a person stranded. With No Taxi, this person could communicate with a driver and the other who is on his way to her home and work out a price.
It could be that a person is in a rut and can’t afford to pay the driver anything, but surprisingly, most drivers would be happy to help that person. With our system, it’s free for both parties so it’s up to them to negotiate a price.
Sort of the opposite of surge pricing? We hear of ridesharing drivers gathering at pizza parlors during peak hours to drive up the prices, but No Taxi aims to help the consumer?
A driver can directly contact a passenger and vice versa. They can negotiate a price and be on their way. We want to use the technology to facilitate exchanges that would happen in real life, but that were difficult to have before this technology came along. It will facilitate not only traveling and lodging, but allow people to meet each other.
You’re testing out your product now, so what has been the reaction and have you come across any obstacles?
So far, everyone who has tried it is very positive about it. I envision it as a social app, free for everyone to use. I want more people to be able to get around and travel. It’s like Facebook as a social network. With time we will give more possibilities to make direct deals, by cutting out intermediaries.
People do not like owning today, they want to borrow and share expenses. Sharing is a good thing. We don't need to own everything we use. I believe it can improve safety if neighbors start to know each other. You leave your car today and get a lift from your neighbor. Tomorrow he will trust you to drive his child because you know each other. Maybe you become friends after all.
You mention Facebook which creates a virtual space for people to connect with, and it sounds like No Taxi could be a social network but for travelers?
It all depends on the people who use it. You don’t expect what people will want out of it or what kind of version it will turn out to be, so what’s important is to listen to what people are communicating with me about how this will evolve. I’m getting a lot of feedback and questions, for instance, about security. People are asking if it’s safe, and I say yes it’s safer than the traditional taxi where you don’t know the driver. With this app, you can see who your driver is and their profile. You can communicate direct and make your choice. Taxi drivers complain they cannot refuse improper passenger, but here it’s possible to choose.
You launched in Sweden, although your app is available around the world. What other countries do you plan on expanding into and how do you plan on doing that?
The app is being developed to work best in big cities and to benefit the consumer. It will be a way for people to communicate with each other, travel and turn the tables around to benefit them. This is the most important thing and gets forgotten most of the time.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to start a marketplace?
- The priority needs to be the consumer
- Ask yourself if your service or product is really needed and why?
- Create something that is simple to use. We are working on our app so that it’s simple and cost effective
- Be dedicated -- you need to devote yourself to your vision 24 hours a day every day
- Be a dreamer
- You must have intense focus
That is great advice. I’m sure our budding entrepreneurs appreciate it. I want to thank you for joining me today and sharing your vision. I really enjoyed speaking with you and wish you all the best with your projects.
I enjoyed speaking to you. I would also like to add how I love helping young women. I think we as women have come a long way in the last two hundred years, with more freedom and opportunities to find our way in life. I’m always inspired when I meet other women and seeing what they’re doing and how they approach running a business.
Thank you. I’m sure our female audience will learn a lot from your experience. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. Let’s keep in touch.
Yes, let’s keep in touch.