“It’s a really difficult journey and it’s not for everybody”.
EY Entrepreneur of the Year, iCabbi founder Gavan Walsh is no stranger to entrepreneurship. Growing up in Sutton, he worked in the family business, the Irish School of Motoring, and even tried his hand at a number of ventures, including Christmas tree sales in his youth.
Walsh set up iCabbi in 2010, after getting lost while out walking on holidays with his expectant wife, Joanne, and in desperate need of a taxi. He came up with the then novel idea of being able to see and book a taxi in real time based on live location using his smartphone. It may be a foreign concept for the younger generations, but “before anyone had heard of companies like Uber, people used to ring their local taxi to get from A to B”.
iCabbi now develops software for taxi and private hire companies in the UK, US, Canada, Asia and Ireland, with impressive customer retention levels of 99.2%. Based in his hometown, the iCabbi office is based above Supervalu Sutton, Feargal Quinn’s old Head Office, which is something Walsh is very proud of. The company started off in the Irish Market, and now has a strong presence in Britain, the US, Canada and even Finland. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing on the journey.
“We moved to the UK around 2013, and quickly realised we didn’t have a good product market fit. We had to put people on half wages while we built the product required for the UK”. They managed to tweak their product and by targetting the larger UK Companies, now work with 22 of the 30 large companies. iCabbi has recently sold 80% of the company to Renault.
To Walsh, business is about solving problems. Everyday you are going to have a new problem. It’s your ability to not get down too much and to keep getting up.
“As CEO, it’s my job to have the vision and to get people to buy into that vision. ”
Walsh advises budding entrepreneurs to go in with their eyes open.
“For people to choose this path, they are sacrificing a lot, and their families are going to sacrifice a lot. What people don’t see is all the businesses that fail, and the hardship it causes. It’s a really difficult journey and it’s not for everybody”.