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Hailo CEO: Inside New York's E-Hail Decision

The co-founder of the taxi-hailing app Hailo has been eyeing the New York City market for years now. Last week, the company got a green light. Here's how that happened.

Last Thursday, the New York State Court of Appeals lifted a restraining order against e-hailing programs in New York City. That couldn't have been a bigger sigh of relief for Jay Bregman, the co-founder and CEO of Hailo, a taxi-hailing app whose launch has been put on pause multiple times in New York City. 

The program has been on hold since last June when State Supreme Court blocked it due to the city seeking the state legislature's approval after the program was rejected by the city council. While the program is not completely in the clear until after the case is debate and the court issues a verdict, it's operating now--and Inc. caught up with Bregman to get a glimpse inside the process.

How does it feel being able to finally operate in New York?  
First of all we've already been operating in New York since late April ... 

In Beta, correct?
In Beta, right. I am just extremely proud to be a New Yorker and was extremely proud last week to have had a year-long partnership with the [Taxi and Limousine Commission, the agency responsible for regulating taxis and other for-hire vehicles in New York City], who we have been meeting with before we have even launched in London [in 2011]. They've been looking at and observing the growth of our operation as well as that of other networks. And then that developed into pilot program rules which we contributed to their development, and testified on their behalf. What I am the most happy about is that I think we have made the right decision to be the only app provider to legally intervene in the case.

Why do you think that Hailo was the only one to join in on the lawsuit? 
We did it because we wanted to protect the rights of New Yorkers, both of the riding public and of the yellow taxis, to experience the technology that was both inevitable and unyieldingly positive to them in terms of their livelihood as drivers and lives as passengers. We felt we had to intervene on behalf of the New Yorkers, we felt we had to stand up for the truth that only we could tell. The TLC could tell their view from the perspective of a New York City driver, but we could put insight into what the future is and the fact that the technology is loved by the drivers and passengers around the world as well as those in New York. And we felt that was worth fighting for.

Even though the injunction was lifted, the court case is still going forward and will debated even as e-hail is to go forward. Is that accurate?
Look, let's take it back a stage. This case was frivolous at best to begin with. It was you know basically trying to argue that technology that was proven to be completely safe, that there were no laws against it and it only benefits elsewhere in the world, somehow should be denied to New Yorkers. That point never made sense to me. It was summarily rejected by the justice Carol Huff of the Supreme Court, who threw out the case, so they already lost.

Actually, we have been doing right by what Mayor Bloomberg has told entrepreneurs like us to do, which is invest in New York, hire people in New York, bring technology to new york, and you will be rewarded. This was great victory ultimately for that vision. You know, it required a little bit more work perhaps than just building a network of drivers and passengers, it required going to court fighting for the rights of drivers and the rights of New Yorkers, but then, ultimately we believe passionately in what we do and so we were happy to do that. 

Now that you will be transitioning from Beta, what do you expect to happen in New York?
You know, this network right now ever since the decision, it's been the fastest growing network we have ever seen. And bear in mind, you know, I am sitting in a cab in London where half of all cabs use the app, as do hundred of thousands of passengers. In Dublin, in seven months, one out of every ten people in that city was a Hailo passenger. But, yeah, New York is growing faster than any of those cities did. 

What could other start-ups learn from Hailo joining this lawsuit and how you handled this situation?
Put your principles on the line and go to court defending what you believe. Making it in New York is hard, but so is running a start up. It takes confidence.

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Last updated: Jun 10, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC | Staff Writer

Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.




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