Malta’s ride-hailing company eCabs has shown impressive growth lately and, propelled by this success, its founders are looking to expand into new international markets. Most still think of eCabs as a transportation operator but in reality, at its core, we discover that behind the popular brand we see daily on our streets there is a technology and innovation powerhouse called – Cuorium Technologies. This business is poised to to take its products into the mainstream of one of the most competitive and fast-paced sectors in the world: mobility. To chart this path, the company recently announced that former eCabs Chief Executive Officer Matthew Bezzina has now taken the leadership role at Cuorium Technologies – with a very clear vision of where this will take their business and the Maltese tech scene.
The Malta Business Weekly sat down with Bezzina to talk about the growth potential of Cuorium Technologies, what the challenges and opportunities are, and how the future of mobility is shaping up.
How would you describe the eCabs journey so far?
When we started the business over a decade ago, at the centre of our most rudimentary thoughts was how we could harness the emerging technologies to overhaul an archaic sector which thrived on the typical closed-shop culture that stifles innovation, competition and improved service delivery. Many – up to this very day – think of us as a transportation company but in effect we are an innovation-driven business which was capable of adapting technology to bring about a transformation in the mobility sector in Malta.
This has been a fascinating journey for us, particularly when you consider the uphill struggle any tech start-up faces in this country and this is why I look back with a sense of satisfaction and pride witinessing the way the business has grown over the years despite many challenges. The major game-changer in our trajectory came about when we took a very tough decision and opted to re-build all our technology assets internally in order for us to own the intellectual property of all our platform, which would enable us to leverage what we achieved in Malta and transpose it in other jurisdictions.
After a huge investment and many man years of effort by all our fantastic tech team at Cuorium, we are now thrilled to see Cuorium Technologies embark on this exciting, new journey as we head for the internationalisation of our e-hailing platform.
What awaits you in the global mobility markets?
We have no delusions of grandeur. We are grounded in reality and whilst being firm believers in our product we are cognisant of the daunting challenge ahead of us. Our market intel clearly points at at a rapidly evolving market in practically all the continents, with ever-changing mobility trends and needs dramatically changing the world over. Whilst international market penetration is always a tough proposition for a Maltese company we are striving to differentiate ourselves by leveraging our own IP and provide an e-hailing platform that delivers convenience, trust, and speed to both the driver and the passenger at the most affordable rates internationally. Our success in Malta is a living testament that our platform not only works but can also compete on equal footing with the mobility tech giants, something that makes us extremely proud of what we achieved and the space we’re in at the moment.
What are your expectations of the global mobility market?
As mobility is evolving, people are increasingly more likely to abandon their cars for running short-distance, urban errands. In this context, we expect the demand for services such as our platform to increase significantly across all demographics.
The European ride-hailing market is forecast to reach a value of over €51 billion in 2025, as more than 160 million European residents will have used ride-hailing mobile applications by then. According to a Deloitte study in 2020, customers increasingly favour ride-hailing apps over traditional taxi services. It is important to note, that while the figure of 160 million passengers may seem high, it is only 20% of the entire population of the European Union. So, yes there is definitely potential for further market growth and expansion.
Today the global market is captured by a small number of giant operators with rigid and complex models that are not nimble and flexible enough to enable existing fleet operators to participate in the e-hailing market through a seamless transitionary process, without making any capital outlay. Our model is squarely based on achieving this: a strong dose of fairness for the passenger (offering convenience, exceptional functionality and highly affordable rides), the operator (delivering a fair return for the local champion of the service) and most importantly the driver (ensuring he/she gets the lion’s share of the revenue generated).
What is your take on the Maltese start-up scene?
As much as I would love to say that there is a start-up ecosystem, I have to be frank and say that it does not really exist. We learned this the hard way. Incentives are negligible and procedurally cumbersome. Funding at the beginning of the project was non-existent, and as young entrepreneurs we never really managed to break the glass ceiling of the ‘established business community’.
Having said that we have recently witnessed a sea-change in attitude with the advent of the Malta Development Bank which is moving in the right direction to support viable and bankable businsses with the potential and commitment to make their venture happen. Hopefully other institutions follow in their footsteps so that we gradually start to create the much needed start-up ecosystem in Malta.
What are your strategic plans for supporting your internationalisation?
We have massive developments in the pipeline, which in turn will create further demand for the growth of our in-house technology team. By the end of the year we estimate to be one of the largest software firms in Malta fully dedicated to the development of our mobility technology assets. We will be onboarding more talent on our team as we increase our expertise in areas such as (but not limited to) machine learning, data science, cloud-computing and cloud-based architecture, edge-environment management, IoT application integration and mapping services.
I am also a firm believer that the success of our company’s internationalisation lies in the dedication and strong sense of belonging of our multi-cultural team. Apart from being an exceptional experience for all of us, the multi-culturalism of our team will be also commercially essential as we venture into foreign markets of diverse cultures. Our team, our leaders, my fellow founders and I are now on the starting blocks of a global race to penetrate as much markets as possible through our scalable platform. As we embark on this journey, we remain committed to fly our technology and innovation flag as high as we can across all the cities we shall be penetrating. The real journey starts now.
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