Getting to know you: Casper Woolley

What do you currently do?
I’m the co-founder of Hailo and currently serve as Chief Operating Officer. Hailo is a free smartphone app which brings getting a taxi into the 21st century by letting people e-hail a taxi or licensed car in just two taps, track their ride, and then pay simply and seamlessly at the end of their journey. It launched three years ago back in 2011 and since then Hailo has carried over 20 million passengers in more than 20 cities across 3 continents, while simultaneously improving the lives of tens of thousands of taxi drivers.

What is your inspiration in the business?
My inspiration has always been about identifying real world day to day problems and using technology to solve them simply and elegantly to help change the world for the better, even if just a little bit. That’s what we’re trying to do with Hailo. When you discover that taxi drivers spent 30-50 percent of their time with no-one on their backseat while simultaneously passengers still had to stand on a street corner playing taxi roulette you know there is a problem crying out for a solution. The ubiquitous arrival of powerful, location aware mini-computers in the form of Smartphones provided the perfect launchpad for that solution. The challenge we face is making sure that we always keep our finger on the pulse, both of the technology and the shifting market.

Who do you admire?
I admire people who just make stuff happen, whatever it takes. Back in the early 90’s I worked with a guy called Jack Kennedy. He was one of my very first bosses and was a former merchant seaman with a very chequered past, working incredibly successfully in a traditionally buttoned up American corporation, Pepsico. He taught me that with the right attitude anyone, whatever their former history, could succeed anywhere. That was incredibly important to me.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
At Hailo I think we could have been more focused as we grew. When we launched we excelled at maintaining an almost brutal simplicity in all we did. We knew what was crucial, we focused on delivering that with excellence and elegance, and ignored the rest. As you grow its hard to maintain that focus but you have to. Outside Hailo, there’s now a successful energy comparison site called uSwitch and in the early 90s I did all the research around exactly that concept. It allows customers to compare the best telecoms provider based on their own usage, and switch to a better deal where relevant. A great idea, but I never got that idea off the ground and if you don’t actually do it, it doesn’t really count. I always kick myself about that.

What defines your way of doing business?
I think the people I work with define my way of doing business. They are so committed and make me excited about Hailo every day, however tired, stressed or busy I might be. The kind of people we have working in this business give so much of themselves so much of the time. Flexible working is the way to get the most out of this kind of team. I believe in a relaxed approach to the process, but with a focused approach to the outcome.