We have a chat with Tony Lynch, CEO and founder of Faxi, about Tesco, Airbnb and Morris dancing.
How did the idea for Faxi first come about?
In 2013, I’d just sold a business to Tesco [the software behind its Blinkbox Books platform] and was thinking about what I wanted to do next.
I was especially inspired by Airbnb and Uber. With Airbnb, I thought that the concept of making money out of an asset you already have was genius, and with Uber, the use of location-based services in revolutionising the taxi industry was incredible.
So I decided to do something that was half sharing and half location-based – and so Faxi was born.
What does Faxi do?
Faxi provides ride-sharing opportunities to employees of large companies. 40% of UK commuters work at just 3,000 companies, which is a huge figure.
Most companies have a private transport network they’re not harnessing, and that incurs a cost to individuals and to companies. Airbnb has proved that selling space works, so we do the same by focusing on big companies with parking capacity problems. According to AA data, at least one in three large organisations have a commuter parking issue. This is a problem we think we can solve.
What are the headline figures?
From our analysis of 100,000 commutes, we know that over 80% of people who work in certain organisations could share with somebody in the same company. In fact, on average, there are 20 such people who live within half a mile of them.
What’s the benefit to users?
What we’re doing is turning a commute – traveling from A to B at the same time every day – into a digital object. And we’re allowing commuters to buy, sell or give it away, and be rewarded too.
They can be rewarded by their employers – who might give them priority parking slots, by their companions in the car – with a social exchange, or by additional services provided by the app – fastest route planning or identifying the cheapest places to buy petrol. The opportunities are huge.
And it’s a friendly experience – the name came from the idea of the app being ‘your friends the taxi.’
How long did it take you to get to the concept of Faxi as it is today?
We went down a lot of dead ends, and still go down dead ends. It’s one of the advantages of being a startup. We started with finding groups – yoga classes, school groups, wedding parties, even Morris dancing groups – and introduced Faxi to them.
But even though it was successful in terms of attracting users, we couldn’t monetise it. It was only after working with companies, we found where the real business opportunity was.
What makes Faxi stand out from its competitors?
We know that 1 in 3 commuters are stressed about driving and 1 in 7 get to work earlier to find a parking space.
We’re the only company in the world that is currently proving people are ride-sharing. And we’ve just been granted a patent in the United States for a technology that can prove proximity based on sensors in smartphones which is a first.
What values does Faxi stand for?
I cycle every day because, in London, you have to. The only space in congestion times is in cars – they’re the only mode of transport that’s not maxed out.
As a cyclist you can see this, cycling past so many single-occupancy cars every day, all sitting in London traffic. I know that drivers wish that there was a more efficient way to travel, and that empty seats present a real opportunity.
In America, billions of dollars have been invested in high-occupancy vehicle prioritisation and for me, it only makes sense that we do the same here. The only difference is that we can do this without infrastructure investment; it’s more about using data.
And we’re unique in that everyone can get behind prioritising multi-occupancy vehicles; from discounting parking costs or keeping top parking spaces reserved for these.
Ultimately, we want large organisations to use us to connect its commuters, to benefit everyone. It’s a win-win situation.
Who’s in your team?
We’re a growing team and alongside my co-founder who is the CTO, a data scientist and a head of engineering, we’re also building our own great development team in Serbia.
Tell us about your customers.
At the moment, our focus is 100% on getting the model right for our three biggest clients – Vodafone, Northampton County Council and Gatwick Airport.
For example, with Northampton County Council, we’ve created a unique park and ride scheme. We’ve got an exciting opportunity to turn the whole commuter experience – from confirming a ride-share, through to payment for a park and ride ticket, and the delivery of an m-ticket – into a seamless one all within the Faxi app.
And this is going to be the case for the next three to four months, before expanding globally.
Do you use Faxi?
I use it for my rugby teams. It’s quicker for me to cycle there but I really like the social element of the app.
What does the future look like for Faxi?
Once we have driverless cars – and it does seem to be coming – that’s four seats available to fill. Organisations that engage with Faxi will already have a percentage of their community clustered, making them perfect networks for driverless car organisations.
What attracted you to the Nitrous programme?
Working with Transport for London (TfL) to tackle congestion issues is something that we’ve been very keen to do, so that’s one reason.
And secondly, in terms of the programme itself, you provide skills for other people in my organisation that they don’t have – and it’s good for me to revisit and refine these skills too. It’s very much a team perspective at Faxi. After all, we do have big ambitions and getting the foundations right is key to our success.
Faxi is in the April 2017 cohort of the Nitrous programme.