GrabTaxi starts US$100m R&D centre, goes on hiring spree

GrabTaxi, Southeast Asia’s largest mobile phone transport app, opens its first Research and Development (R&D) Centre in Singapore today. This will become GrabTaxi’s technology hub and it will house the majority of its technical staff and engineers from around the world.

The 4500 sq. ft. centre is located in the heart of Singapore’s bustling Central Business District and will eventually house 200 engineers and data scientists, which is a specialised role focused on analyzing data and spotting trends from multiple data sources.

GrabTaxi founder and group CEO Anthony Tan said: “Though we remain focused on Southeast Asia, we know that talent is global. This new R&D Centre has put on us a level playing field with the largest technology companies in the world. In fact, we’ve recently hired great senior talent from companies like Facebook, Amazon and Palantir Technologies, as their experience and expertise with these global powerhouses will help GrabTaxi reach our true potential.”

Tan also shared that Singapore provided an ideal location for the new technology hub.

“Singapore was the logical choice for us when we first started planning this R&D Centre. The strong existing infrastructure and conducive business environment are ideal for us to build and develop this global pool of talent.”

"Data analytics is an important capability that will boost the growth for companies in Singapore. We are pleased that GrabTaxi has decided to base its R&D Centre here to develop analytics-related applications for its business. With the rise of the digital economy, EDB is confident that the Centre will further contribute to the host of exciting new jobs that are being created in Singapore,” said Thien Kwee Eng, assistant managing director, Economic Development Board.

GrabTaxi has now reached the scale and size that separates them from the majority of start-ups in the region. The R&D Centre reinforces their commitment to the region and an acknowledgment that Southeast Asia has the infrastructure and capacity to become a global technology hub.

A significant portion of GrabTaxi’s US$100 million investment in technology will be used to hire talent from across the world to join the GrabTaxi team. The R&D Centre will be headed by Wei Zhu, GrabTaxi’s chief technology officer (CTO), who was formerly head of the Facebook engineering team that developed Facebook Connect.

Wei said: “GrabTaxi offers a unique opportunity for engineers to work on meaningful problems that has a huge impact on the world outside of the more traditional places like Silicon Valley in the US. The challenges of the Asian market and the exciting nature of the business provide a chance for passionate people to be part of the fastest growing startup in Southeast Asia.”

Other senior hires in GrabTaxi include Kevin Lee as vice president, Data and Growth at GrabTaxi. Formerly head of Asia for Palantir Technologies, an American software and services company focused on data analysis, Lee started and grew Palantir’s Asia business in Singapore. Also coming on board will be co-founder of GrabTaxi, Tan Hooi Ling, who rejoins the company to handle expansion and new services after a two year stint at Salesforce in the US.

Also joining the senior management team as the vice president of engineering is Arul Kumaravel. Formerly from Amazon, Kumaravel led the product vision, strategy and development of Amazon Mobile Platform and Shopping application. Under his leadership, the customer base grew significantly to hundreds of million customers and generated a significant percentage of Amazon’s retail business revenue. The company continues its hunt for engineers.

GrabTaxi is currently in 20 cities across 6 countries and more than 75,000 vehicles under its network across the region.