From left: Nana Abekah, Haris Barki and Frank Nie are the co-founders of Kabby, a St. John's based riding-hailing operation that could become the first of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Submitted by Haris Barki)
A St. John's based ride-hailing company is poised to become the first of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador, with the goal of offering more accessible and affordable transportation to the metro region.
Haris Barki, Nana Abekah and Frank Nie, who met as students at Memorial University, launched ride-hailing app Kabby this week on Apple and Android devices, and the trio plan to begin operation — if their application for ride-hailing service is approved by the provincial government — within the next month.
Nie said there's a need for more transportation options in most of Newfoundland — something the group, two of whom come from Mount Pearl, have first-hand experience with.
"We've personally experienced, you know, difficulty getting cabs back home from the city of St. John's or even just requesting a cab in Mount Pearl," Nie said Monday.
"It was super surreal that the government introduced new legislation.… Right now we're in the process of gearing up for the final stage."
Barki said the app already has more than 1,000 registered users in the St. John's area, and they've gotten inquiries from as far away as Corner Brook about expanding it.
Ride-hailing app Kabby was released on Apple and Android devices this week. (Kabby.io)
"The more we got into it, the more we think, 'Oh, this is going to be a huge opportunity.' And the chance of helping all the people here … it's very exciting," Nie added.
Recent amendments to the Highway Traffic Act scrapped written and road tests for anyone getting a Class 4 licence, which is required to drive a taxi or for a ride-hailing service. Drivers will still be required to have held a Class 5 licence for at least two years, undergo a medical test and pass a vehicle inspection.
Digital Government and Service N.L. Minister Sarah Stoodley said in October that would ease the administrative process and make it easier for ride-hailing services to operate. Scrapping the tests was also a recommendation made by Uber to encourage ride-hailing services to set up shop in the province.
While Stoodley told reporters on Monday that no applications for ride-hailing operations have been approved, she's excited there's interest.
"We're so excited that companies are interested in coming here to offer ride-share services," she said. "Interested companies can apply, and then our team will review the applications."
Nie said there's still lots of work to be done, however, like vetting interested drivers and sorting out insurance. Two types of insurance are needed for drivers: personal insurance for the driver and commercial insurance for the company.
"I've been trying to call all the brokers in town," Nie said. "The service is fairly new in Newfoundland, so a lot of insurance providers are also new to providing service in Newfoundland. So they're also looking too."
Proof of insurance is required as part of the application process, according to the Department of Digital Government and Service N.L.'s website, along with criminal record checks for all affiliated drivers. The trio said they have two dozen drivers interested in working with them but estimate they would need about 100 drivers to cover the metro region.
Kabby's co-founders hope to expand, saying they see a future where ride-hailing and taxi companies co-exist on their app.
"We strongly believe that there's a place in Newfoundland for both of us to operate. And we are very sure that it will be for the benefit of all of Newfoundland," Abekah said.