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Microsoft crowns taxi finder app goGatch as top Asia Pacific start-up

Wednesday, 11 July 2012 | By Oliver Milman

Taxi location app goCatch has been named winner of Microsoft’s APAC Startup 2012 Award, after pitching its ambitious international plans to a panel of judges.


The Sydney-based business beat eight other finalists from the Asia Pacific region to secure the title, with each venture pitching their concept for five minutes.


In its presentation, goCatch outlined its business model before foreshadowing aggressive expansion into overseas markets, despite there being an array of well-established competitors outside Australia.


The app works by connecting passengers with taxis. Using GPS signals, passengers can book and track nearby taxis using their smartphones. The app also has a rewards system for taxi drivers to pick up drivers rather than leave bookings unfulfilled.


So far, 7,000 taxi drivers have signed up to the app. GoCatch’s founders Andrew Campbell and Ned Moorfield initially had to overcome what Campbell describes as an industry that “came out swinging” against it, with the NSW Taxi Council claiming that the device would imperil passenger safety.


However, the business healed the rift in May this year, shortly after signing a major deal GM Cabs, which processes the largest volume of taxi fares in Australia, effectively locking overseas rivals out of the lucrative Melbourne and Sydney airport taxi market.


At yesterday’s pitch in the Sydney CBD, Campbell admitted it would be “tricky” to break into overseas markets, but said that goCatch had an edge over rivals such as Ingogo, which requires drivers to install hardware within their cabs.


GoCatch beat an impressive field of rivals to land the $5,000 prize, including customised jewellery maker StyleRocks, New Zealand-based HR tool Avancert and Melbourne start-up Sound Gecko, which converts online articles into audio files.


All of the finalists are part of Microsoft’s BizSpark program, which aims to foster start-ups.


Speakers at the event included Commercialisation Australia CEO Doron Ben-Meir and Blue Chilli founder Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin.


“Start-ups are essential to the continued growth and vitality of the IT industry. Our mission is to help start-ups when they need it the most with the products, resources and connections they need the most,” says Dan'l Lewin, corporate vice president for strategic and emerging business development at Microsoft.


"“The BizSpark ecosystem provides connections for crucial assets such as top talent, funding, seasoned mentors and the wisdom of entrepreneurial peers. This is the combined value of the BizSpark programme that can help start-ups fast-track their success.”