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SoftBank backs Uber-rival GrabTaxi to the tune of $250m

Telecom giant SoftBank evidently sees taxi app service GrabTaxi as a good bet, recently investing $250 million in the startup.

The app has been growing in popularity in south-east Asia and is currently one of Uber’s biggest rivals in the region. SoftBank’s backing is likely to see the service developed and expanded, putting more pressure on ride-sharing service Uber as it attempts to further establish itself beyond its U.S home base.

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The two services do, however, slightly differ. Whereas Uber has its own drivers that connect with passengers via its app, GrabTaxi’s cross-platform app does what it says on the tin – put passengers in touch with registered taxis. However, with Uber gaining traction in the market, the Singapore-based startup has launched a similar private-hire service called GrabCar.

GrabTaxi launched in 2012 and currently offers its service in 17 cities across 6 countries. It has around half a million monthly users of its service – up from 250k six months ago – with 60,000 taxi drivers available to pick up passengers.

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Despite SoftBank’s sizable investment, which follows another recent funding round that scored it $65 million from other backers, the company looks unlikely to be taking its business outside of south-east Asia anytime soon.

GrabTaxi CEO Anthony Tan told TechCrunch recently his company plans to “grow very fast and focus on expanding in this region.”

As for SoftBank, its cash injection makes it GrabTaxi‘s largest backer, and brings the number of firms its invested in globally to around 1,300. The Japanese company said its GrabTaxi funding would help it to build its presence in south-east Asia and “maximize synergies” with its global network of Internet companies.

[Source: SoftBank [pdf] via TechCrunch]