GrabTaxi Expands in Singapore with New R&D Center, More Staff

GrabTaxi staff at work in Singapore.

Southeast Asia-focused Taxi booking app GrabTaxi says it’s about to splash the cash, mostly on new hires.

The Singapore-based company said Wednesday it will spend $100 million over the next five years on a new research and development center in the city-state, with a “significant portion” of that sum going to lure talent.

GrabTaxi, which launched in 2012 and operates in 20 cities across six countries, said in December it secured a $250 million investment from Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant SoftBank.

That brought its total funding nearly $340 million, with its valuation as of December reaching $1 billion, according to data from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource.

Among the new hires GrabTaxi says it has recently made are Kevin Lee, who was head of Asia for U.S. data mining software company Palantir Technologies. Another is Arul Kumaravel, previously held a senior engineering role

GrabTaxi’s new facility will ultimately house 200 engineers and other workers, but the company declined to say how many staff it currently employs.

The company said Wednesday the app has been downloaded more than 3.8 million times, though it did not provide an updated figure for its monthly active users, which stood at 620,000 in early 2015. GrabTaxi says it has more than 75,000 vehicles in its network.

GrabTaxi, which says it is region’s biggest taxi booking app, allows passengers to secure nearby taxis from various taxi companies. It is competing with rivals like Uber to win new users in populous Southeast Asia, which is home to about 600 million people.