weather icon Clear

Kaptyn hopes to steer Las Vegas taxi industry toward the future

Kaptyn Inc.’s pending deal to acquire a pair of Las Vegas transportation groups is about evolving the longstanding cab companies to better compete with emerging technologies.

The mobility technology company filed Monday to acquire Desert Cab Co. and ODS Chauffeured Transportation, owned by the Balaban family, and Whittlesea-Bell Transportation, owned by the Bell family and comprised of Whittlesea Blue Cab, Henderson Taxi, Bell Limousine, Bell Trans and Presidential Limousine. The two groups also jointly own Virgin Valley Cab, which they purchased from Frias Transportation earlier this year.

The groups Kaptyn seeks to acquire account for 872 of the 3,250 cabs in Las Vegas, along with private vehicles and limousines.

The Bell family has been involved in the taxi industry in Nevada since the 1940s, while the Balabans have been involved since the 1970s. That legacy is a key aspect to the deal, according to Kaptyn CEO Andrew Meyers.

Kaptyn began working with Bell and Balaban five years ago, and as their relationship evolved, Kaptyn’s interest in the market grew, Meyers said.

He said Kaptyn wants “to help efficiencies and (bring) innovation to the taxi class, which we thought was very antiquated at the time.”

The state Taxicab and Transportation authorities still need to approve the acquisition. If the deal is approved, Whittlesea-Bell President Brent Bell and Desert Cab President George Balaban will stay on in senior level roles.

Bell will serve as senior vice president of luxury operations under the Kaptyn name, while Balaban will serve as senior vice president of taxicab operations. The Bell and Balaban families will retain minority ownership in the deal.

“I will oversee the luxury operations along with government affairs,” Bell said. “My management team for the most part will stay intact. If you take our management experience, along with Kaptyn and the technology they’re going to bring to the table, I’m really excited about the things we’re going to do in the future.”

Bell said high rollers in Las Vegas still value limousines and luxury car service, and he believes Kaptyn will help bring those services to new heights.

“There’s no question that the limo and black car service has been affected by rideshare as well,” Bell said. “We believe with Kaptyn’s resources and their technology, that we’re going to ramp that service back where it was and it’s going to be successful for us.”

Kaptyn’s move into a larger role in the Las Vegas taxi scene infuses new capital and new ideas into the space that’s seen yearly ridership drops ever since Uber and Lyft began operating in 2015.

Kaptyn officials studied the market in the Las Vegas Valley, including what the ride hailing companies are doing with their mobile apps, their customer relations and various staging lots they utilize, to conjure up ideas of how to improve the taxi product.

“What strategies, resources or partnerships could be implemented to turn that (ridership dip) around?” Meyers said. “That’s the evolution of Kaptyn Inc. the software company and… then the entire Bell and Balaban organizations and assets.”

The new plans for the company will be rolled out over the next year and will be based on four key pillars.

Ridership experience: The driver/rider experience is key as creating a consistent level of service is important to landing new customers and creating return customers. The cost of the trip plays into this, Meyers said.

The company also plans to invest in the drivers and will make upgrades to Bell’s existing headquarters, including cosmetic improvements, technology improvements, adding employee lounge/gym and more.

Bridging the gap with ride hailing companies: Over the next two years Kaptyn plans to roll out an approach “where you can start to marrying the positives on both sides from ride sharing and traditional fleet structure,” Meyers said. He believes that could catch on as the model other cities look to when trying to close the gap between taxi and ride sharing services.

Brand: Kaptyn is moving away from the taxicab or limousine specific fleet names to just a mobility fleet. That would create a large brand that consumers would know and lead them to think of hailing a taxi or limo as no different from getting an Uber or Lyft ride.

Reducing carbon footprint: Kaptyn will look to increase the use of eco-friendly vehicles in its fleet and utilize emerging vehicle technology. The strategic goals will be phased into the market over time, as different approvals and regulatory hurdles are cleared, Meyers said.

“The overall mobility market is evolving, with ride sharing, electrification, autonomy, as we’re seeing here in Vegas,” he said. “We’re going to continue to invest in the move from internal combustion vehicles to eco-friendly vehicles and ultimately fully electric vehicles. We believe that movement not only creates lower emissions for the community, but it also creates a value in that driver/rider experience.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Binion's debuts a spinning bar overlooking Fremont Street Experience
Binion's debuted its spinning bar inside the Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. The Rotating bar only goes at one full rotation per 15 minutes overlooking the Fremont Street Experience. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Southern Nevada could set a new resale-price record in coming months.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes – the bulk of the market – was $310,000 in September. Before the economy crashed last decade, prices peaked in June 2006 at $315,000, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.(Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Walmart container park in Henderson - VIDEO
Henderson could be home to a container park associated with a Walmart Inc. initiative. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recession lessons could help Las Vegas face next slump - VIDEO
While the last economic downturn had a dramatic impact on local casinos, most experts expect the industry will be better able to weather the storm during the next recession. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM and victims of Oct. 1 reach settlement agreement - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International and lawyers representing potentially thousands of victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have reached a tentative settlement of between $735 million and $800 million. (Mat Luschek /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Live music and EDM dominate the night on day 2 of A’Le’Innstock
After sunset bands rocked the crowds at A’Le’Innstock in Rachel, Nevada on the second night of the event.
iPhone 11 Release
Local Las Vegas long time Apple product consumer shares her excitement for the new iPhone 11 release Downtown Summerlin. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lihi Levin talks about a mobil app Dropit - VIDEO
Lihi Levin, regional manager at Dropit Shopping, talks about a mobil app Dropit. The app lets customers leave their shopping bags at a store then have them delivered the same day to their home or hotel so they can shop without carrying multiple bags all day. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas developer talks about a new apartment complex called “the yoU”
Frank Marretti lll, founder of G2 Capital Development, talks about his new apartment complex called “the yoU” near UNLV. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Steel cables will hoist roof at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Stainless steel cables are being put into place at Allegiant Stadium to begin the process of putting the roof on the 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. Stadium Chief Operating Officer Don Webb explains how the cables will be used to get the roof put on the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The last remaining Sigma Derby game in Las Vegas
Derek Stevens, owner of the D Las Vegas, talks about the last remaining Sigma Derby horse racing game in Las Vegas inside his casino floor. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich Review
Janine Blake of Las Vegas gives her review of the new Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich at the restaurant’s location on west Bonanza Road on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019,
SuperZoo 2019 takes over Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
SuperZoo 2019 show for pet retailers brought pet products of all description to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Favorite products from SuperZoo 2019
Some of the fun and interesting pet products on display at the SuperZoo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Convention Day 3
The fashion trade show MAGIC, held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Las Vegas - Day One
The biannual MAGIC convention show opened Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant celebrates naming deal with tailgate party
Allegiant Air employees celebrate with a tailgate party after the company’s naming deal with the Raiders for the new Las Vegas stadium.
Nevada's sportsbook operators welcome competition
Sportsbook operators from near and far are looking to get into in the established Nevada market, experts say. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
China’s growth hits 26-year low, slowing global economy

The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 6 percent in the three months ending in September, down from the previous quarter’s 6.2 percent, data showed Friday.