Hailo Goes Guerilla to Take On Uber and Lyft as Ride-Sharing War Heats Up

Debuts campaign in NYC, Chicago and Toronto

Hailo, which helps consumers flag taxis, is embarking on a guerilla marketing campaign today in New York, Chicago and Toronto. For each city, the mobile app has hired a team of bicyclists to maneuver foot-traffic-friendly streets and randomly slap phone-shaped promos into the hands of people attempting to get a cab.

"We'll even be distributing a few phones, preloaded with the Hailo app, and all you can hail credits for a month," said Evan Slater, partner and ecd at Night Agency, the shop recently hired by the three-year-old tech company to introduce it to North America. Slater added that "a slew of digital marketing" was in the offing, including a one-minute video that appears below. 

For months, Hailo has been in soft launch in New York (the service operates in London, Barcelona and other foreign cities) while readying to compete with Uber, Lyft and GetTaxi for ride-sharing dollars on this side of the pond in multiple markets. Its Hailo Exec program, which features a fleet of Mercedes and BMW cars, offers a fixed-price fare system, with no surcharges. The company believes it can distinguish itself by ensuring all drivers on its platform are commercially licensed and insured within the regulations of each city it operates in.

Investors Fuel Competition

Three-year-old Hailo, which has raised roughly $29 million from investors this year and $100 million to date, is jumping into a mobile-based ride-sharing space that's heated up.

GetTaxi yesterday picked up additional $150 million in funding, bringing the total raised to-date to $207 million. The company partners with local fleets to provide taxi service to consumers.

Lyft secured $250 million in financing in April of this year, and at the time said it plans to use the funds to aggressively expand its ride-sharing service both domestically and internationally. The company also used the funds to test a price drop in select locations, offering as much as 20 percent off its rates.

The funding is a backdrop for fights with cities and established cab companies over whether or not the ride-sharing services are commercial taxi operations, which should be licensed and vetted, whether they should carry the same types of insurance that traditional taxi companies are required to have. "The taxi industry [is] trying to protect a monopoly that has been granted them by local officials, so they're trying to slow down competition," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told CNNMoney.

Ride-Share Infighting

The fight for dominance is also between the ride-share companies themselves, with Lyft accusing Uber employees of making and cancelling thousands of appointments—decreasing the overall ride availability of the service for legitimate passengers. Uber denied the claims, saying in a statement that, "Lyft's claims against Uber are baseless and simply untrue. Furthermore, Lyft's own drivers and employees, including one of Lyft's founders, have canceled 12,900 trips on Uber. But instead of providing the long list of questionable tactics that Lyft has used over the years, we are focusing on building and maintaining the best platform for both consumers and drivers."

Lyft, meanwhile, is ramping up its efforts to attract further investment. "Lyft has more than 100 investors, all of whom are extremely excited that Lyft is approaching IPO-level revenue," read a Lyft statement. "Our 'nuclear' strategy is continuing to take market share with 30 percent month-over-month growth, while building the strongest community of drivers and passengers."