Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thoughts on Flywheel/Desoto

Desoto is changing its name to Flywheel and within two months the old blue & white Desotos will all look like the above pic. The first cabs are already on the street.

Flashier, no?

Brilliant, yes!

The new color scheme acts as an advertisement for the app and the app is advertisement for the company.

However, a bit of confusion and hostility surrounds the change.

First the Confusion

Drivers at other companies who use the Flywheel app are apparently worried about losing rides. They shouldn't be.

Part of the agreement between Flywheel management and Desoto Owner Hansu Kim is that that orders will continue to be dispatched in the same way that they always have – the ride goes to the closest cab regardless of company.

What Desoto is counting on, according to part owner Matt Gonzales, is an "upsurge of advertising" that will cut into the TNC's market share and hopefully spread the wealth to everyone.

There some evidence that this is already happening. According to former Flywheel manager Sachin Kansel, the number of Flywheel orders has gone up six times over the last year. 

Flywheel also has recently picked up several investors and a new CEO Rakesh Mathur who intends to use the money to advertise and expand the Flywheel brand across the country.

In addition, former Uber and Lyft customers are coming back to Flywheel because the TNC drivers are generally inept and don't know where they are going. The refusal of Uber and Lyft to fingerprint their applicants or train their drivers guarantees a continued flow of thugs and incompetents into the future. 

As Flywheel becomes a more widely known brand we'll be getting more and more riders back – plus new riders who can now get cabs because of Flywheel in neighborhoods where they couldn't before.

In addition, Hansu Kim says that Flywheel is working on a new version of the app that will do things that Uber and Lyft apps can't. A current example of that is the ability to make advance airport reservations.

Now the Hostility

Luxor and Yellow Cab companies don't like it. Well ... of course they don't. The idea is bold, innovative and creative. As the leading dinosaurs of the taxi industry, John Lazar of Luxor and Nate Dwiri of Yellow have been doing everything they can to help themselves, and the industry, become extinct.

They are the ones who killed Open Taxi Access over four years ago. As you might recall, the SFMTA had allocated $405,000 to set up a universal app in all the taxis and John Lazar reputedly went backdoor to his former school mate and then buddy, Major Ed Lee, causing the measure to mysteriously disappear from the MTA's agenda.

At the same time, Yellow was feverishly holding back radio orders so that they could petition for more cabs. Let me spell this out: They were deliberately giving bad service so that the City would give them more medallions.

When Uber et al attacked and the dinos finally realized that taxi apps were the future, instead of embracing Flywheel as the de facto universal app, Dwiri had a relative design a Yellow app (that works about as well as the old Yellow dispatching system – that is to say, badly), and Luxor continued to back Taxi Magic – a dinosaur in its own right.

Even to this day, when Yellow can't begin to fill its shifts, they still keep drivers waiting two or three hours to start work so that Yellow can extort more money in tips. That there might be a relationship between their treatment of their drivers and the dwindling numbers of same has apparently never occurred to Yellow management.

Whatever – If it hadn't been been for the geniuses at Luxor and Yellow, Uber and Lyft would never have taken the market-share that they have.

BTW – Uber came out with a "study" that saying they did $500 million in business in San Francisco last year while the taxi industry only took in $140 million. But Flywheel calls this bullshit (don't blame me for the crudeness. I don't use such words – in print.) The actual figure should be $400 million for the taxi business.

A Few Problems

One is that the Flywheel paint job does not make it clear that the taxi also takes flags and credit cards. In addition, the cabs I've looked at don't have the advertising space on top. That space could be used as part of a campaign for Flywheel/Desoto and against Uber – could be much effective than a bus because taxies go more places.

Another is that Flywheel has a website and blog that is slick and up to date but, as an advertising tool,  could be more effective.  The contrived pic in the blog makes it look a little too much like Lyft light.

There are also continuing problems with the driver support system such has holding drivers off the app for various minor reasons. I personally am not sure what all their rules concerning accepting orders and cancellations are.

Sachin Kansal and Steve Humphrey have moved on ("happily" they say – Humphrey upped his investment in Flywheel). Therefore, it seems a good time for the new management to meet with the drivers and take a look at some of the policies that might be changed, clarified or improved.


  1. yellow is so out of touch. i will illustrate the point here:

    jim gillespie allows this new guy "ALI" to mistreat the drivers. to talk down to them. to yell at them. to threaten to "fire" them. jim as the general manager (and the rest of managers) allow this ALI guy to do it.

    you see, yellow is so out of touch, that they don't know that over 20% of their fleet is sitting in the parking lot because they do not have enough drivers. so, for this guy ALI to mistreat the few drivers left is so dumb. on the contrary, i would treat the remaining drivers with a lot of care. incompetent management is the root of these evils.

  2. lawsuits court data. look in the bottom of the link, plenty more data from other lawsuits. pass it around.

  3. Interesting thought here! It does seem like a very shrewd business idea to remake themselves as Flywheel like this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!