Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation

Interviews: Ask Travis Kalanick About Startups and Uber 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
samzenpus (5) writes "Travis Kalanick founded Scour, where he had the distinction of being sued for $250 billion by more than 30 media companies, and peer-to-peer file-sharing company Red Swoosh, but he is probably best known for co-founding transportation network company Uber. Seeking to be 'Everyone's Private Driver', Uber operates in a number of cities world-wide but has met with some regulation issues, and controversy. Travis has agreed to take a break from arranging rides and answer your questions. Normal Slashdot interview rules apply."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Interviews: Ask Travis Kalanick About Startups and Uber

Comments Filter:
  • hows the lawsuits going?
    • by ganjadude (952775)
      this was not a flamebait post guys, im genuinely interested on whats going on with the lawsuits he is currently involved in, is there any headway? with them? what about the states going after uber do we have any legal insight on that level?
  • by Mark P Neyer (3659539) on Monday May 19, 2014 @11:57AM (#47038765)
    I can only assume delivering packages is the next step. Where do you go from there? Will Uber one day have an 'API for motion' where users can move anything, from anywhere to anywhere, specifying priority in exchange for cost? What about an API for quantum teleportation?
    • by robbyb20 (651479)

      While this a joke(most likely....), a decent messenger service thats not a whole lot of cash for same day deliveries wouldnt be so bad. I would pay to have someone come pick up a package and deliver to the other person. Even go as far as to make it so that delivery is coordinated and the other person is wiating outside for the truck/car to come or receive notification that package is arriving via text so they know when to go downstairs/to the door.

      Please note, messenger services are local only.

    • They're already offering this in NYC.

      http://blog.uber.com/RUSH [uber.com]

      • by robbyb20 (651479)

        Ill have to wait for it to come to Chicago. Good to know its there.

        Thanks for the link!

  • Wow, Uber really transformed my life. 6 mo ago I got in a bad car accident and now I rely on ride services to get around (I use UberX in the Los Angeles area). Without Uber and others I would be calling cab companies.

    However, I've noticed that Uber used to be much more fun, but has been backsliding a bit. It used to be that half the fun of Uber was meeting the drivers, who were driving Uber but also were actors or grad students or other interesting people with flex time. But in the past couple months it's
    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Monday May 19, 2014 @12:23PM (#47039019)

      So the question: how can Uber continue to grow while maintaining the quality of their driver pool, specifically drivers that are fun and engaging?

      Perhaps they could charge a small premium for conversationally engaging drivers. They could even have a web interface where you could select the topics you enjoy discussing (sports, politics, current events, art, etc.) to help match you to the appropriate driver. Maybe you could even drill down to the favorite team or political persuasion of the driver, to avoid heated arguments. Another alternative, is that you could learn to speak Armenian.

      • Perhaps they could charge a small premium for conversationally engaging drivers. They could even have a web interface where you could select the topics you enjoy discussing (sports, politics, current events, art, etc.) to help match you to the appropriate driver. Maybe you could even drill down to the favorite team or political persuasion of the driver, to avoid heated arguments. Another alternative, is that you could learn to speak Armenian.

        I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, but...

        One thing that Lyft does and Uber does not do is Lyft requires both drivers and passengers to log in with their facebook account. So presumably if there were an overabundance of lyft drivers available, then Lyft could do some interesting analysis to match people up based on shared characteristics. Sure, sport teams as an example. Or they match you up so your Lyft driver is the cousin of one of the players on your old college roommate's weekend soccer tea

        • One thing that Lyft does and Uber does not do is Lyft requires both drivers and passengers to log in with their facebook account.

          Required Facebook membership? No thanks.

          Lyft could do some interesting analysis to match people up based on shared characteristics.

          These people need to get out of their comfort zone. Expose them to different cultures and ideas. Using FacEbook to ghetto-ize drivers is xenophobic. No sympathy for the OP complaining about immigrant drivers, either.

          • Whatever man. I am the OP and apparently one of just a few people in all the comments who has actually used uber and understands how it works. I really value the service, as I said, and am asking a question about the service and how it is changing. I hope the question is addressed.
  • As far as I can tell, "disruption" means "ignore laws and regulations". So, how do you know which laws and regulations are ok to ignore?
  • As I understand it, during surge pricing, Uber sets the price multipliers, which incentivizes additional drivers while simultaneously reducing demand, ensuring a consistently good experience for those customers who choose to go ahead with their trip.

    How do consumers trust that Uber is acting responsibly with this ability to set prices?

    • The multipliers are a complete load of crap. They're supposedly based on demand, yet...I've noticed I can open the app, see a sea of available uber cars, and yet there will be a 2.5x multiplier in effect.
    • by Rakishi (759894)

      How do consumers trust that Uber is acting responsibly with this ability to set prices?

      Why does that matter? If the price is too high then don't use Uber. If you don't like variability in price then don't use Uber. It's not a monopoly.

      • true. there are three main carshare companies. usually when one has surge pricing the others dont. it's worthwhile to have all three apps on your phone.
    • by Entropius (188861)

      The same way that I trust that any other non-monopoly is acting responsibly with its ability to set prices: not buying things from them if they don't.

      When apples are $3/pound I will eat something else.

  • It seems like most of the new and interesting things being attempted on the net these days are stopped by legislation or lawsuits from vested interests, not by any technical problem. This has bit you twice in two VASTLY different businesses. What is you opinion on this, and what can we do about it?
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday May 19, 2014 @12:22PM (#47039007)

    I talk with almost every driver I ride with and ask them how Uber works for them. Some are clearly filtering, others quite honest and forthright. In general a lot of them seem to be reasonably pleased.

    The near-universal complaint is the star rating system. For those who don't know: Uber requires drivers maintain a FOUR AND A HALF STAR RATING or they're "fired."

    One driver described a guy who he picked up, he was cheerful and polite, the guy barked out the address, glowered in the back seat with his hoodie up, didn't say a word, got out, and gave the driver a 1 star rating.

    Other drivers complained that many of their fares are drunk out of their minds and give them ratings that are, at best, a mistake. People can't dial a telephone when they're drunk, but uber wants them to give a subjective rating? Can't you imagine the drunk chick who's all "WEEEEELELLLLL I THOUGHT HE HAAAAAAD A FUNNNNNNAAAY NOSE. TWO STARS FOR YOU!"

    Most of the drivers said that the star system just simply wasn't understood by passengers - or that passengers had a star-to-happiness scale the drivers thought was reasonable, but Uber's scaling was absurd; they don't fault the passengers at all. I've said to each driver that "One star means you did something horrible, or I felt unsafe, or the car was filthy, etc. Two stars means something was off. Three stars to me meant a fine ride, no complaints. Four stars meant something was above the norm/my expectations. Five stars meant singing angels descended."

    Each nodded and said, basically: exactly, totally reasonable...but Uber expects that even if the ride was nothing special, you're giving drivers 4-5 stars.

    I'm sure you've got some beautiful excuse for how this is just the way you're dealing with having so many people who want to drive for Uber. But really, with a ranking system none of the customers understand how you use, you might as well just be employing Russian Roulette.

    Oh, and by the way: I'm fed up with the fact that I can't leave feedback/a complaint for drivers I have to cancel a ride with because a driver was dicking around for 10 minutes (I call these guys the Uber Couch Drivers - they're sitting on the couch withthe app open...get up, brush their teeth, make a sandwich, kiss the wife goodbye, take the dog for a walk, then get in the car, adjust their hair, punch in my address into the GPS, then make their way over). Fed up with the fact that there's no way to reach a person at Uber if there's a problem, like accidentally leaving something in the car, or having an immediate safety concern about a vehicle or driver. I'm fed up with the form replies to complaints via the app (I don't want $5, or even $10 off my next ride. I want to you to fix the problem I complained about), and I'm fed up with your marketing staff thinking they're just the Bee's Knees. Three times I've tried to get Uber to do a promo for an event that totally fits Uber's potential customer base, and each time, the best that you could offer was your standard $10 off a ride, only for new signups. Which as an event organizer, made me take a big, epic Polite Chuckle and delete the email. You might as well employ robots as your marketing staff, because they've got about as much freedom or creativity as one.

    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      > The near-universal complaint is the star rating system. For those who don't know: Uber requires drivers maintain a FOUR AND A HALF STAR RATING or they're "fired."

      That's not unique to Uber, that's pretty much for any service industry based job.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        The rating itself isn't a problem.

        The problem is that the riders have no idea what an "expected" rating is, and leave 3-4 stars for drivers that need 4-5 stars to not fail the system.

        • here's how I do it:
          five star is because something was awesome: the driver is really nice, or helps me out in some way, or something really sticks out. This is 15% of rides for me.
          baseline is four stars. on time, clean nice car, pleasant driver. This is 80% of rides for me.
          three stars is because something wasn't good. everything was still servicable, I was picked up on time and got to my destination. But maybe the car wasn't the best, or the driver was gruff, or he chose a suboptimal route. Basically at t
    • Maybe they should consider meta moderating ?
  • by poached (1123673) on Monday May 19, 2014 @12:26PM (#47039051)

    How do you respond to allegations that Uber has engaged in price-fixing for profit and anti-competitive tactics for market share? Examples: Uber forced driver shortage to boost surge pricing [gawker.com], Uber staff making bogus reservations at competitor's service. [gawker.com] Is Uber just a big bully? Are you?

    • Uber staff making bogus reservations at competitor's service

      On the internet we call this a "denial of service attack", and it is considered a criminal act.

  • Mr. Kalanick, thanks for taking the time!

    My question: Given that the concept of "disrupting" a current revenue stream is currently an influential contextualization for startup companies today, including Uber, what industries/companies are *out of bounds* for disruption?

    Is any human enterprise fair game for Uber's concept of "disruption"?

    For example, would Uber consider a tech solution that allowed a construction company to save million$ by staffing their entire workforce with legal part-time migrant workers, effectively ending the job for all labor employees except migrant workers...is that disruptive?

    Is anything out of bounds when "disrupting" an economic system?

  • Due diligence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ddtstudio (61065) on Monday May 19, 2014 @12:53PM (#47039281)

    So what factors were and weren't considered in your decision to ignore existing regulations in many of the cities you operated in? Did you assume local governments would change laws retroactively, or would not attempt to enforce? Or did you have legal counsel advise you that your operations did not fall into the regulated category (which Uber now seems to admit it does)?

    Basically, what was the process?

  • I stress over my mortgage and car loan, though they are manageable because I can manage the payments. If someone had a potential liability of even just 0.1% of $250 billion, I could work the rest of my life and never make up 1/100th that kind of liability. How does it not affect your heath?

  • Uber seems to hit a lot of legal challenges. It seems like, in every city, the incumbent taxi market has a different set of legal hurdles for you to pass through. It's kind of a shame, too, because everyone involved with Uber is making an honest living providing a needed service.

    What's tends to be your day-to-day balance of being lawyer versus entrepreneur? Would you say that you have more legal woes than a normal startup? Do you think this is "par for the course" any time someone's starting an interesting

  • There seem to be a lot of people that are questioning the legality of Uber which I understand but I have a question for Travis and also the people on this board.

    What prompted you to conceive this service? Was it lack of offerings available, difficulty finding a reliable ride or something else?

    For those of you questioning this service, what alternative do you suggest that offers the same ease of access to transportation? I am someone who uses Uber 2-10 times a week and I do not have anything as convenient

  • Does Uber verify that drivers actually know the area in which they service? For example in New Zealand (where Uber does operate!) drivers would be legally required to hold a P (passenger) endorsement on their license, and the transport agency requires that drivers demonstrate area knowledge to get a P endorsement (so that they can prove that they aren't going to rip passengers off by going the wrong route).

Never trust a computer you can't repair yourself.

Working...