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GO: Who are Japan’s $1billion taxi app entering unicorn status

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Japan is known for its efficient public transportation system, but sometimes taking a taxi is more convenient or necessary. However, hailing a cab on the street can sometimes be challenging, especially in busy areas or during peak hours. That's where Go comes in.

Go is a taxi app that connects users with a network of 100,000 cabs aggregated from multiple local taxi companies. Thanks to regulation that effectively bans Uber and Didi from operating private car-sharing services, Go commands 70% of the mobility market in Japan. In May 2023, the company drew funding from Goldman Sachs that pushed it above the $1 billion valuation mark, making it the latest in Japan's small group of unicorns.

The app has advantages over regular street-hailing. It remembers riders' preferred taxi companies, allows them to book a ride straight to Tokyo's Narita or Haneda airports at a fixed fee, and can reserve taxis anywhere from 15 minutes to seven days ahead of time, thanks to AI-informed demand forecasting. Riders can also earn air miles with airlines ANA or JAL.

Go's operating company offers more than just taxi rides. It also runs an AI-powered camera business called Drive Chart that aims to reduce traffic accidents, and operates a large video-advertising network within taxis. Go Food, a food delivery service specialising in high-class restaurants, was shuttered earlier this year. In April 2023, the company underwent a brand refresh. Its mission statement aims to help solve a raft of problems from labour shortage to decarbonisation, and "move society as a whole in a better direction".

Go is not the only taxi app in Japan, but it is the most popular one. Other competitors include JapanTaxi, which is available in all 47 prefectures and has a partnership with Uber for international travellers, and DiDi Mobility Japan, which is backed by SoftBank and operates in 21 cities. However, Go has an edge over them with its large network of cabs, its user-friendly features, and its diversified business model.

As Japan prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, Go is expected to play a key role in providing mobility services to visitors and locals alike.


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