Founders Meet in Paris
Uber’s story began in Paris in 2008. Two friends, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, were attending the LeWeb, an annual tech conference the Economist describes as “where revolutionaries gather to plot the future”.
In 2007, both men had sold startups they co-founded for large sums. Kalanick sold Red Swoosh to Akamai Technologies for $19 million while Camp sold StumbleUpon to eBay (EBAY) for $75 million.
Rumor has it that the concept for Uber was born one winter night during the conference when the pair was unable to get a cab. Initially, the idea was for a timeshare limo service that could be ordered via an app. After the conference, the entrepreneurs went their separate ways, but when Camp returned to San Francisco, he continued to be fixated on the idea and bought the domain name UberCab.com.
UberCab Takes Shape
In 2009, Camp was still CEO of StumbleUpon, but he began working on a prototype for UberCab as a side project. By summer of that year, Camp had persuaded Kalanick to join as UberCab’s ‘Chief Incubator’. The service was tested in New York in early 2010 using only three cars, and the official launch took place in San Francisco in May.
Ryan Graves, who was Uber’s General Manager and an important figure in the early stages of the company, became CEO of Uber in August 2010. In December 2010, Kalanick took over again as CEO, while Graves assumed the role of COO and board member.
The ease and simplicity of ordering a car fueled the app’s rising popularity. With the tap of a button, a ride could be ordered; GPS identified the location and the cost was automatically charged to the card on the user account.Cease-and-Desist Order
In October 2010, the company received a cease-and-desist order from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. One of the main issues cited was the use of the word “cab” in UberCab’s name. The startup promptly responded by changing the name UberCab to Uber and bought the Uber.com domain name from Universal Music Group.
Uber Takes Off But Soon Faces Losses
2011 was a crucial year for Uber’s growth. Early in the year, the company expanded to New York, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C. as well as abroad in Paris. In 2012, the company broadened their offering by launching UberX, which provided a less expensive hybrid car as an alternative to black car service.
Uber has a merchant delivery program for food called UberEATS. Uber also offers UberPool, which allows drivers to pick up multiple riders on one ride, which makes it a cheaper option compared to UberX and UberBlack. This year, the company in partnership with Barclays has rolled out a co-branded rewards credit card in the U.S. The Uber Visa Card reportedly will be free and come with a $100 starting bonus. It would also offer cash back on spending including dining, airfares and certain online transactions.
On July 9, 2018, it was announced Uber is investing in the electric scooter rental company, Lime, in collaboration with Alphabet Inc.’s Google Ventures (GOOG). These lightweight scooters are available for rent all over cities, as customers leave them on the sidewalk for the next rider, making for a convenience and clean energy-based business model. Uber plans to promote Lime through its app and brand its own logo on the scooters.
The Bottom Line
Like Google, Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Tesla Motors (TSLA), Uber is also gearing up for a future of driverless cars. The company is currently planning to get a permit for its self-driving cars in California. However, the road has been bumpy so far, especially since Alphabet Inc’s (GOOG) Waymo sued Uber for theft of self-driving technology, not to mention the ousting of its own founder and CEO. Uber hit perhaps its worst snag yet in March of 2018, when a self-driving car fatally struck a pedestrian, causing the company to temporarily suspend all testing. In May 2018, Uber announced that it would halt its Arizona testing program but would conduct it elsewhere. In July 2018, Uber’s self driving cars made their return in Pittsburgh.
ounders Meet in Paris