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Southeast Asia’s Grab is a key investor in a new $8 million funding round for Splyt Technologies, a London-based startup that aggregates ground transportation supply and demand globally so you don’t have to download a new regional app.
The round is considered the largest Series A funding in transportation connectivity and brings the total raise for Splyt to just over $14 million, according to a statement. The startup was founded in 2015 and now has a 50-member team.
Grab Chief Technology Officer Mark Porter told Skift: “The vision for this investment is that any user in any geography can go to any other geography and use their preferred app, in their language and currency, with their loyalty program.
“This removes a large amount of friction travelers feel right now, which is landing in another country and not having the right app, or that it might not be in a language they are familiar with or a currency they are comfortable with.”
Beginning 2020, a Grab user from, say, Singapore or Vietnam, can use his Grab app in New York or London, for example, instead of being greeted by a “Sorry, Grab’s not available in this region” upon arrival. Booking Holdings, which invested $200 million in Grab last year, is also working with Splyt to integrate ridebooking into its own app. By the third quarter of this year, Booking.com customers will be able to book Grab rides through the Booking app. Booking’s Asia unit Agoda will come later.
Currently, Grab and Splyt already enable Grab customers to book rides in Southeast Asian countries. Splyt also enables Ctrip and Alipay customers visiting Southeast Asia to book Grab rides through their own apps.
How Does it Work?
Take Alipay, which struck a deal with Splyt that kicked off early this month. Alipay is a “demand partner” of Splyt. It wants to give its users access to global ridehailing via its in-app mobility marketplace program, allowing them to search, book, and pay for taxi rides in their currency, with 24/7 customer support and an in-app chat function in case drivers don’t speak their language.
Splyt creates a custom-built user interface, and when a booking is made, the ride is handled by one of Splyt’s “supply partners.” In Southeast Asia, that would be Grab. In the Middle East, Careem.
Philipp Mintchin, CEO of Splyt, told Skift in a phone interview that its current network of supply partners cover ridehailing in more than 1,000 cities. Aside from Grab and Careem, they include Gett, Taxis Verts, Cabify, Lyft, Liftago, iTaxi, LeCab, Bolt and it Taxi. “We’re announcing a couple more,” said Mintchin. He did not specify whether U.S. ridehailing giants Uber was one of them.
Splyt appears to be gaining demand traction with the Alipay deal, and now Grab and Booking.com. Other partners are Ctrip and “a couple of TMCs [travel management companies] and GDSs [global distribution systems],” said Mintchin.
The latest funding will be used to strengthen Splyt’s network of demand and supply partners, and improve its proprietary technology. The company is opening an Asian office in Singapore. Grab’s Porter also joins Splyt’s board of directors and will lend his leadership in shaping Grab’s technology and strategy to Splyt.
Mintchin believes the momentum is rising for his business. On the supply side, it’s easier to explain to supply partners that Splyt would bring them international demand using their app, travelers who would otherwise streethail a cab or be forced to download local mobility apps, he said.
“Compared to two-and-a-half years ago, each region of the world is now well defined by local players in ridehailing, he said. “Grab for instance focuses on eight markets in southeast Asia [Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar]. It’s similar across the globe.”
On the demand side, the rise of superapps is good news for Splyt, said Mintchin.
“There is a big trend of superapps across the globe; it’s not anymore an Asian thing. Everyone wants to be that number one superapp on the first screen of your phone. We believe you can’t really be a superapp without offering a mobility solution. Therefore, we bring the key component, i.e., the daily commute, to your user when he is abroad, making your app a global superapp,” he said.
That is a key reason why Grab invested in Splyt, according to Porter.
“We’re not just going to be doing ridehailing,” said Porter. “Our vision is to move the concept of a superapp which incorporates tickets, hotel bookings, restaurant bookings, et cetera, across oceans, letting users keep the Grab app and loyalty points, and have a seamless experience worldwide.
“The value of a superapp has been proven across Asia and we want to extend the value worldwide. This investment in Splyt is a massive technology gain for us to go global much quicker and easier,” he said.
That remains to be seen. Currently, even the simplest need to download a Grab app in the U.S. for use in Singapore can be complicated, as experienced by Skift staff based in New York and San Francisco attending Skift Forum Asia in Singapore in May. Credit card payment, for example, couldn’t be set up on mobile, only on desktop. Some couldn’t do it on both.
It certainly seems that the challenge then is enabling a single ridehailing app of choice anywhere in the world without so much of a hiccup — let alone a native superapp?
Seems a long way away from home still.