Gabrielle Lurie/specIal to the s.f. examinerRakesh Mathur brings engineering and financial expertise to his new role as CEO of Flywheel.

Flywheel names new CEO as company plans heavier promotion of cab industry

Flywheel, which allows users to hail taxis with their smartphones, officially announced today that a new CEO came on board in September.

Rakesh Mathur, 57, a consumer technology entrepreneur, is also bringing new capital to the San Francisco company, which works with more than 80 percent of the taxis on San Francisco streets. Mathur secured some $12 million in venture capital for Flywheel as it works to expand its e-hailing app nationwide and possibly globally.

The traditional taxi industry, especially in San Francisco, has taken a beating in the past few years from the likes of Uber and other app-based ride services.

Those companies have been dubbed transportation network companies by their regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, which has been criticized for not creating regulations as stringent as those the traditional taxi industry must adhere to.

Mathur said one of his goals is to help taxi companies show consumers that the industry is customer-driven. To achieve that, Flywheel plans to play up the features that separate cabs from transportation network companies, such as professional, thoroughly background-checked drivers who have a vast knowledge of city streets.

“I think taxis are cool,” Mathur told The San Francisco Examiner with a laugh. “Stay alive, right? Get where you want to go. You can sit in the back [of a taxi] and relax as opposed to sit in the back and become an extension to a GPS.”

The head of DeSoto Cab Co., an early adopter of Flywheel's technology and the third-largest taxi fleet in The City, praised Flywheel's move to appoint Mathur as CEO.

Mathur “brings an engineering expertise that can bring the app quality and technology to a level that will not only be competitive, but surpass the competition out there,” said Hansu Kim, DeSoto's president.

Flywheel's CEO of three years, Steve Humphreys, 52, who also has a technical background in engineering, said he left the position “after a mutual conversation around the board and investors” and continues to serve as a nonemployee adviser. It was the best move for the company, he said.

“You'll see more of the same with an emphasis on more because it will be scaled up,” Humphreys said. “Growth is what the company needs and Rakesh will do a great job.”

Mathur was a Flywheel board member before becoming CEO.

The $12 million in venture capital came from TCW|Craton, Rockport Capital and Shasta Ventures.

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