March 12, 2021 | 5-minute read (896 words)
Big companies can grow from tiny ideas, and sometimes it may not take decades to do so. One company that’s a shining example of that is Uber Technologies, Inc., universally famous as Uber, an American technology company that changed the face of transportation and commute forever, enabling people to hail a ride through a smartphone.
Uber operates in over 10,000 cities worldwide, offering several services under its umbrella which include ride-hailing, package delivery, freight transportation, couriers, food delivery, and (thanks to a partnership with Lime), electric bicycle and motorized scooter rental. Much of this can be attributed to the aggressive growth strategy inspired by Travis Kalanick, who was widely attributed as the growth machine behind Uber’s explosive popularity.
Travis Kalanick’s Journey with Uber
Uber was co-founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, a Canadian entrepreneur who originally conceived of the idea of Uber.
The journey started with an idea to cut the costs of black car services—cabs that are called directly via dispatch rather than being hailed on the road. The burgeoning popularity of smartphones was considered to be the perfect a medium to hail cabs in a very user-friendly manner. Kalanick started at the company in 2009 alongside Camp, Oscar Salazar and Conrad Whelan.
In mid-2010, the ride-hailing service, Uber, officially launched in San Francisco, cutting the cost by about 1.5 times as compared to traditional cab services. People could hire a cab by merely sending a text message or pressing a button on the app. The idea of hailing cab so quickly became a hit, and during that same year, the company closed a $1.25 million seed funding and Kalanick became the CEO of the firm, then called UberCab. After he took charge, the company got into an issue with San Francisco authorities due to the business’s name arguing that as a cab company, it would fall under the authorities’ oversight. Therefore, Kalanick changed the name to Uber to resolve the matter.
The ride-hailing business exploded, and the value of Uber touched a benchmark of $60 million in 2011. Uber started expanding its services worldwide starting with Paris, France and acquired $32 million in additional funding that the same year.
Uber revealed its low-cost cab project, Uber X around the globe in 2012, debuting a service that was 35 percent cheaper than the original cars. Kalanick announced that Uber is ultimately a cross between lifestyle and logistics. A year later, Uber marketed itself in third-world regions like India and Africa, closing a huge investment with Google Ventures of $258 million, pushing Uber’s value higher at $3.76 billion in 2013.
Later, to deliver a more eco-friendly approach, Uber introduced its UberRush service that provided bicycles in Manhattan, which started with a base fare of $3. Apart from this, Uber also entered the Chinese market after raising $1.2 billion funding and taking Uber’s valuation to $17 billion in 2014. After entering the Chinese market, Uber also raised around $600 million from Chinese firm Baidu, integrating Uber and Baidu’s maps and mobile search platforms.
During that same year, Uber kick-started its carpooling version as the UberPool service, which lets the client split the cost and share the ride with other people, who are riding on the same route. By the end of 2014, Kalanick's business success was providing him with widespread respect in the tech industry. In just a few years, he turned Uber into a tech powerhouse, taking the company valuation over $18 billion.
In 2015, Uber expanded its services by rolling out UberCargo in Hong Kong, which included delivering all moveable items and goods from one place to another. The company described UberCargo as a special venture in which clients’ goods will travel like VIPs. During the same year, Uber acquired a mapping startup, deCarta, to minimize its reliance on Google Maps. Uber largely covered logistics, which led the firm to step into the food delivery business as well with the launch of UberEats, an on-demand food delivery service that delivers food from eating points to users' locations in minutes. UberEats was started as a pilot drive in selected cities in the U.S., which later expanded across the world.
Logging Billions of Rides
In 2016, Kalanick announced that Uber has been successful in hundreds of cities worldwide, but to stay in the Chinese market, it had been reinvesting the money, incurring a loss of around $1 billion every year. By the middle of 2016, Uber declared that it had completed its benchmark of two billionth rides. Another achievement that Uber had in 2016 was a merger with Didi, a Chinese competitor in the cab-hailing business, and the deal was sealed with $35 billion. In the same year, Kalanick along with CEOs of major American companies, served as an economic advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump. Though, he stepped down from the Council due to the difference in opinions with President Trump.
In 2017, Kalanick resigned as the CEO of Uber but continued to be a part of the company. Later, in 2019, Kalanick resigned from Uber’s board of directors on 31 December. After the resignation, he also sold off over $2.5 billion of Uber stock holdings that included around 90 percent of his shares in the company.