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French taxi app raises US$38-million for Francophone Africa expansion

French taxi app raises US-million for Francophone Africa expansion

Paris-based Uber competitor Heetch has raised a US$38-million Series B funding round to expand its operations across Francophone Africa.

Founded in 2013 by Teddy Pellerin and Jacob Matthieu, Heetch initially differentiated itself from Uber by focusing on helping young people move around at night, using non-professional drivers.

It was forced to adapt this model in 2017 due to regulatory pressure, but still continues to serve young users and take smaller fees from drivers.

Heetch has seen strong growth in France, and become the second biggest taxi app after Uber in Belgium, and has already expanded to Morocco and Ivory Coast. It has now secured a US$38-million Series B round to expand into other French-speaking African markets.

Heetch will launch in Cameroon, Algeria and Senegal in 2019, and double the size of its engineering team.

The round is led by Cathay Innovation and Total Ventures, with participation from existing shareholders Idinvest Partners, Innov'Allianz, Alven, Felix Capital, and Via-ID, and brings the total raised by the company to around US$70-million.

Pellerin said competition in French-speaking markets was less intense than elsewhere, though Uber and Bolt are its main competitors.

"We want to create a safe, simple, friendly and still affordable mobility solution, usually a bit more expensive than solutions available in the streets but safer and easier to access," he added.

Heetch charges users and drivers less than its competitors, and is not yet profitable as it is focused on growing its operations and team.

Pellerin said finding the right people and dealing with regulators were the most difficult things associated with running the business.

"Regulation is tricky. We are always trying to find the best model with the authorities to create something positive for both the existing drivers and our future passengers but it's sometimes a bit complicated to make it happen fast enough," he said.

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