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How Curb Mobility Brought Taxi Rides Into the 21st Century

Once upon a time, taxis only took cash. This company changed that.

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No two innovator stories are the same. The founding of companies can come as a bolt of lightning that completely subverts an entire industry. Or, like in the case of an innovator like Amos Tamam and Curb Mobility, innovation can present itself as an adaptation and a triumph of the partnership between logistics and technological advancement.

What makes Curb's story of product innovation so unique is that it occurred within the framework of an established system: licensed taxi cabs. When Amos began his career, the New York taxi industry desperately needed to adapt to a changing payment environment. Early on, cabs were a cash-only endeavor. As credit cards became more prevalent throughout the decade, however, there was a demand to innovate the systems within taxis to accept new forms of payment.

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Amos saw this need to innovate, and developed the first in-cab taximeter that accepted credit cards. Sometimes innovation within established systems is an uphill battle. It took nearly a decade for wireless technology to catch up to in-cab credit card payments. But Amos was persistent. By 2000, Amos' company, then known as TaxiTronic, had outfitted credit card payment systems throughout fleets in Philadelphia and more than 3,000 cabs in New York City. I'm still astounded when I think about the reality of that feat. This is a pre-smartphone world! Getting that many taxis on one unified payment system is nothing short of miraculous.

TaxiTronic partnered with point-of-sale giants Verifone in 2007 to form Verifone Transportation Systems (VTS) and continued expanding in-cab payments throughout markets around the US and beyond. It's also around this time that VTS introduced another innovation into taxis, Taxi TV, which provided an enhanced taxi experience and created an additional revenue source for taxis through ad placement.

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Amos has always been on a mission to keep licensed cabs at the forefront of emerging technologies. But as I said earlier, some innovation can come like a bolt of lightning and completely upend an industry. By the next decade, licensed taxis faced increased competition from the emerging rideshare industry made possible by the smartphone revolution. With apps like Uber and Lyft gaining market share, institutions like taxi fleets needed to adapt, and adapt quickly.

By 2013, VTS had already incorporated Way2Ride, which enabled mobile payments in taxis across fleets in Philadelphia and New York, but where they still struggled was in the ride-hailing feature that defined competitor rideshare apps. Recognizing this need, Amos acquired a taxi-hailing app in 2015, and relaunched this combined mobile taxi app as Curb in 2016. There was now one universal app that could be used to call a licensed taxi or livery vehicle. From where Amos and Curb started, this may as well have been landing on the moon.

But to me, this is where the story really gets interesting. In 2018, Amos acquired VTS from Verifone and launched as an independent company known as Curb Mobility. As a story of innovation, Curb Mobility separating itself from a crowded field is the true success. Curb Mobility operates in a completely regulated industry that abides by local transit regulator guidelines. That means it does what all of the other rideshare apps do with its hands tied behind its back. They also don't charge surge pricing, which is a major point of contention with many of their competitors.

Amos' story of product innovation also doesn't stop at what he's been able to accomplish with Curb Mobility. Their range of products and solutions includes payment hardware, in-car entertainment, fleet management systems, ride scheduling logistics management, and much more.

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The story of Curb isn't just a story of technological innovation but also a story of what can be accomplished when partnerships are forged. It was and continues to be a triumph to bring entire fleets of licensed taxis onto a unified hailing and payment system. But that wasn't the only strategic partnership Curb has accomplished: this year, Curb is partnered with Uber to enable licensed, Curb-enabled taxis to accept ride requests from Uber users, which I view as a fascinating development that will provide wider transportation options for riders and more trips for drivers.

Amos and Curb's journey of innovation began small, with the simple goal of moving a cash-only business onto more modern payment systems. That small goal has ended with the ambitious vision of bringing taxis into the 21st Century. And it looks to be a successful one.


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