17 September 2019 - Article
The revolution has already happened; we are living in a post revolutionary age' said Remo Gerber of Get Taxi at the launch of Momentum at the Charlotte Street Hotel last week. With London taxi drivers planning to blockade central London in protest against Uber drivers using their smart phones as meters (something reserved to licensed taxi drivers), the time was ripe to hear from the man with an app trying to revolutionise how we hail licensed taxis in London, New York, Moscow, St Petersburg and Tel Aviv. The revolution to which Gerber referred was the smart phone revolution, with the proportion of 16- to 64-year-old consumers carrying smart phones up, from 58% 18 months ago, to 82% today and heading in only one direction. With 42% of internet page views in the UK from smart phones, the question for businesses, he said, was ‘to app or not to app'. My mind immediately went round those entrepreneurs in the room whom I knew, wondering who would now be launching apps. I also recalled the advice of Phil Lewis, then of London Strategy Unit now of Albion, at another Withers seminar earlier this year, telling us that businesses need not feel the pressure to be on every social media platform, indeed to do so would be a mistake, but that they should, of course, select a few platforms and do them well. The same must apply to apps: don't have an app for the sake of having an app but, if it will enhance your customers' experience, don't miss the boat. Gerber was mindful of his lawyer hosts but not too deferential. He urged the audience to get out there and launch and not to spend all their money on legal fees, although he did counsel that spending a bit on IP protection was prudent. Some audience members expressed concern that the advantage lay with those companies with the biggest private equity backing but Gerber pointed out that, in the mobile age, it is cheaper than ever to get started. There will be disappointment for those who saw the headline that we live in a post-revolutionary age and hoped this article was going to predict that the rate of change will slow. The mobile revolution may have happened but, as the Uber-taxi wars show, what we do with this new technology remains to be seen.