Two legendary boxers – Filipino Manny Pacquiao and American Floyd Mayweather Jr. – faced each other in Las Vegas back in 2015, in what was billed as ‘The Fight of the Century’.
But it turned out to be a huge disappointment for Filipinos as their idol Pacquiao suffered a defeat as a result of the judges’ decision.
Pacquiao – who currently serves as a senator in the Philippine congress – has become increasingly active on the venture investment scene.
He recently fully funded the seed round of Philippine-based car rental platform Graventure for an undisclosed amount.
He has also made his first tech investment in the Philippines, barely a month after investing in Singaporean blockchain startup Global Crypto Offering Exchange (GCOX).
Now, the man is even looking at launching his own cryptocurrency.
Mayweather Has Been Eyeing u-Hop For 3 Years
According to Entrepreneur PH, Mayweather first learnt about the startup from his Filipino personal assistant, and he had been eyeing to invest in the company for the last three years.
“I did my homework. I’ve been looking at this company. And I said, you know what me and my TMT family should join forces with U-hop instantly before this company become a multi-billion dollar company,” he said, according to a ABS-CBN report.
u-Hop was one of the first companies to be granted a license to operate as a transport network company (TNC) in the country by the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) along with Grab and Uber in 2016.
It prided itself as a TNC for the masses as it allowed several passengers to share a ride at a time, lowering the cost of a commute.
But months after its accreditation was granted, u-Hop’s operation was suspended following several complaints by its partner drivers/.
Then in 2017, u-Hop continued its operations with the introduction of a business-to-business car rental service.
And just last month, u-Hop reactivated its ride-hailing app for transport network vehicle service (TNVS) on its Facebook page.
u-Hop To Expand In Asia And North America
The startup did not disclose further details about the investment, and only revealed TMT as one of its investors.
It also said that this partnership will make the boxing champion a key partner of the startup, rather than just serving as an external investor.
According to Tech in Asia, the funding will be used for expansion in Asia and North America.
The firm is eyeing a Southeast Asia expansion with potential launches in Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore.
Additionally, u-Hop is looking at launching its services in the United States in June; and will tentatively start services in Los Angeles and San Francisco, with a launch in Dallas on the horizon.
“He will help us bring the brand particularly in the US. As you know, Floyd has many resources and connections in other countries. We will utilize those resources to help us expand,” Uhop Chairman Marvin de la Cruz told local reporters.
“He will be part of the company. It’s a big opportunity for us,” he added.
However, this move comes across as rather counterintuitive since it will bring u-Hop in direct competition with Uber and Lyft, and it is pretty unlikely for u-Hop to match the scale or resources of its giant competitors.
Currently, u-Hop has 10,000 vehicles operating globally; and in contrast, Uber has over 750,000 drivers in the US.
On the flip side, Uber has just exited the Southeast Asian market, leaving a big gap for local firms to fill.
With Uber out of the picture following Grab’s takeover of its regional business, a number of Philippine ride-hailing competitors have emerged to challenge Grab’s share of the market.
Currently, Grab controls 93 percent of the domestic market, according to the Philippine Competition Commission.
Despite these challenges, not all hope is lost for u-Hop.
The startup can still work on targeting more specialised market segments in the US.
Corrine Png, CEO of transport research firm Crucial Perspective told Tech in Asia that “one possible market segment might be shuttle services for company employees or college students, where u-Hop’s emphasis on safety and 24-7 vehicle monitoring may prove advantageous.”
De la Cruz also told Manila Times that u-Hop is working on a different marketing strategy that would make its fares more affordable.
Featured Image Credit: u-Hop