Online taxi service Uber comes to SA

Uber, the US$3 billion mobile-app taxi service startup, has launched its service in South Africa, in Johannesburg.

Based in San Francisco, California, Uber makes a mobile application that connects passengers with drivers of luxury vehicles for hire.

The company announced in a blog on its website on Wednesday (7 August) that it had launched its service in Johannesburg.

“Earlier this morning, secret Ubers were spotted across Johannesburg, marking Uber’s entry to our first African city and our fifth continent,” it said.

Last month, it was reported that Uber was close to raising between $150 million and $200 million in a fresh round of funding, led by private equity firm Texas Pacific Group, and at a valuation of around $3.5 billion.

The aim of the funding would help the group expand into new territories, various reports noted.

Since inception in 2009, Uber has raised $57 million with the most recent activity valued at $37 million and closed in late 2011. Investors have included Menlo Ventures, Jeff Bezos, Goldman Sachs, Benchmark, CrunchFund, and Troy Carter.

The company also has the backing of South African David Frankel, founder and managing partner of the Founder Collective, a seed-stage venture capital fund headquartered in New York City and Cambridge. Founder Collective was an early seed investor in Uber.

Frankel was co-founder and CEO of Internet Solutions (IS), and was also formerly director of Dimension Data.

In its blog post, Uber stressed that initially, availability may be limited during its “secret testing phase”. “We’re working hard to make additional Ubers available every day.”

“Johannesburg has long been known as Africa’s capital city – it’s economic heartbeat, cultural soul and a draw to dreamers from across the continent. And no matter what you call the city – Jozi, Jo’burg, eGoli – it’s no secret that getting around is not always pleasant; traffic on the M1 can be crushing and drivers are notoriously loose with speed limits.

As part of its entry and future growth plans in the city, Uber had advertised for a Community Manager – “someone to lead marketing and be the face of Uber in Jozi”.

Mark Fish Uber
Mark Fish and his Uber chauffeur

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Online taxi service Uber comes to SA