Rides-hailing app Karhoo ends before it starts after failing to find a backer

British entrepreneur Daniel Ishag, the founder of Karhoo. The company has informed employees worldwide that it will close down after starting up a year ago.
British entrepreneur Daniel Ishag, the founder of Karhoo. The company has informed employees worldwide that it will close down after starting up a year ago.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Karhoo, the start-up which had set its sights on overtaking ride-hailing apps giant Uber, has crashed and burned.

The company has informed employees worldwide that it will close down after starting up a year ago.

"It is with much regret that we have to announce that Karhoo has had to close its service and is now looking at the next steps for the business," a company statement obtained by The Straits Times read.

"Karhoo staff around the world in London, New York, Singapore and Tel Aviv have, over the past 18 months, worked tirelessly to make Karhoo a success. Many of them have worked unpaid for the last six weeks in an effort to get the business to a better place," it added.

"Unfortunately, by the time the new management team took control last week, it was clear that the financial situation was pretty dire, and Karhoo was not able to find a backer."

The Straits Times understands investors who had reportedly poured more than US$250 million (S$347.55 million) into the venture will be suing to get their money back - a wake-up call to the other apps providers which are still in the red.

Karhoo was founded by British entrepreneur Daniel Ishag, 42, last year. It targeted to launch in Singapore by the first quarter of this year, but has yet to do so.

No one in its Singapore office in Club Street would comment on the sudden closure but The Straits Times has verified that Mr Ishag apologised to staff in an e-mail to staff worldwide on Tuesday (Nov 8).

He wrote: "As I’m sure you are aware, the Karhoo journey may come to an end. It has been a profound privilege to work and learn from you all. I’m not embarrassed to say that I'm devastated that you all joined me on this journey, and that it has ended so abruptly. 

"I’m also aware that over the course of the last few weeks, many have not been paid, but despite that and the uncertainty of the future, many of you have continued to come into the offices. Thank you for that.

"I deeply regret the impact and inconvenience recent events have caused you all. I feel responsible, not only to you but also to your dependents as well, and wanted to extend my apologies to you all. I truly wish things had turned out very differently.

"I’d like to thank all of you who have mailed, texted and called me over the last few weeks offering your support, and reiterating your belief in our mission. You have all been amazing and I’m humbled by your solidarity.

"Over the last 24 months, Karhoo has made an indelible mark on the world of transportation. We have helped fleet owners and drivers around the world prepare and make the necessary changes to stay relevant and successful in today’s e-hailing and on-demand economy. We have also given a voice to an industry that has always been fragmented and very local in nature. Our mere existence has changed the face of that industry across the world. 

"Even though we only launched in London, and prepared ourselves to open 40+ cities by the end of the year, dozens of cities and hundreds of fleets around the worlds have benefited from our existence and are better off as a result.

"Thank you all one last time for all the energy, passion and commitment you have all shown."