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Carroll School of Management


Travis Kalanick

Co-Founder and CEO, Uber Technologies

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives Club  

December 1, 2015

TAKEAWAY: Uber's Growth

Moderator von Tobel:
So we’ll get to UberPOOL and UberCOMMUTE in a second, but when you think about Uber’s growth it’s been astronomical. At this point, you guys are in about 300 cities, 58 countries, and as a fellow entrepreneur, I think about the fact that you did all of that in about five years. So your foot’s been on the gas.

Talk to us about, How on Earth did you scale so quickly? What were the challenges that you guys had to deal with every day? Because that’s pretty crazy.

Yeah. Well, what happened is, Boston was, I think, let’s see, we did San Francisco, New York, then Seattle. Chicago, Boston. So Boston, I think, was our fifth city. But what happened was, we really started to tighten up that launch playbook. How do we go into a city and roll out, and how do we find the people that run and roll out this transportation system in a city? Getting the best people in a city is critical in order to make it run well, and empowering them to run it.

But making it so, well, we had a few launchers going, and they would almost compete with each other, how quickly they could launch a city, and then that launcher, once they hired the team that stayed, would go on to the next city. And so that got a little competitive, and they tightened that playbook, and now we can really get something rolling in a few weeks.

And so there’s a girl, Austin Geidt, who started actually as a marketing intern who became marketing manager, then a driver ops person, then our launcher, then the manager of launch, then the manager of global launch, and now runs all launch in what we call process management in the company. And she really was the architect of that international expansion, and she turned it into a playbook.

Moderator von Tobel:
As part of that international expansion, What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to deal with outside of the United States?

Aw, man. Outside of the United States, we’re everywhere. So it’s like, we’re in Saudi Arabia. We’re in Jeddah and, what’s the other city, Riyadh. We’re in Bogota, Colombia. We’re in 20 cities in China, across India. And so we’re in a lot of really interesting places where they need transportation, in many cases far more than even us here in the U.S.

And so the challenges can be really interesting when there is some kind of protectionism in a city, trying to prevent this kind of progress from happening.

And it’s a mix of trying to make friends and trying to work with regulators in cities, but also sometimes we’re in a position where we need to fight for a city, because often the incumbents will persuade the powers that be that this kind of progress shouldn’t happen.

And so we believe what we—one of our cultural values is, celebrate the city. And we believe in that. And we believe in making cities better. And I think the situations that we find are often situations where we have to fight for a city and seeing this kind of progress happen.

And look, there are places where we don’t go or we can’t be. Like, we’re not in Spain right now. Right now, Germany is—we don’t have a lot of activity going on there. The same in Japan. So there’s a number of places where we can’t go, and we really are working our butts off to try to make it work.