Profile suggests Uber CEO is looking forward to a fight with Vancouver mayor and council

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      A lengthy profile in the December 2014 edition of Vanity Fair reveals a lot about an ambitious entrepreneur taking a big interest in Vancouver.

      Thirty-eight-year-old Travis Kalanick is the founder and CEO of Uber, a ride-sharing app valued at more than $18 billion that’s presently trying to break through regulatory barriers in the Lower Mainland and B.C.

      On November 4, Vancouver taxi drivers fired a shot across the bow, filing for an injunction in the hope of preventing Uber from launching its Vancouver operation without the licenses it requires to operate legally.

      “The defendants have openly refused to comply with the laws, standards and regulations set out by the province and city,” reads a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

      Uber has already fired back: “This lawsuit is a prime example of the Vancouver taxi industry’s singular goal: protecting its own cartel, even at the expense of consumers and its own drivers,” reads a statement issued by the company.

      While Uber has stressed it does not operate in Vancouver, the screen grab below is proof it does intend on seeing its cars on Vancouver streets in the near future.

      At the time of writing Uber was not offering rides in Vancouver, but it was advertising for would-be Uber drivers.

      While Vancouver taxis have already entered the courts, Mayor Gregor Roberston and the city’s Vision-dominated council are treading more cautiously. In October, they voted to push any decision on Uber off the agenda until after elections scheduled for November 15. City staff were instructed to examine the issue for six months and report back.

      So, who are they dealing with?

      The Vanity Fair article paints Kalanick as an unabashedly ambitious post-Facebook CEO who relishes negotiating in a style described as “principled confrontation”.

      An early Uber investor said this of Kalanick: “It’s hard to be a disrupter and not be an asshole.”

      A venture capitalist quoted in the article described him in similarly colourful terms: “It’s douche as a tactic, not a strategy.”

      In more tempered words, here’s Kalanick on Kalanick: “I’m like fire and brimstone sometimes. And so there are times when I’ll go—I’ll get too into the weeds and too into the debate, because I’m so passionate about it.”

      The article reveals that Uber started in San Francisco in 2010, very aware it would soon be wrestling with regulators.

      “The real attention came in October, when the new company got a cease-and-desist order from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, as well as the California Public Utilities Commission,” it reads. “Both, among other issues, objected to the use of “cab” in UberCab’s name, since it was operating without a taxi license. As it turned out, such a setback was just what Kalanick wanted: an opportunity for a fight.”

      Uber is a ride-sharing app that lets people looking for a ride connect with freelance drivers.

      Uber has since maintained battle-ready footing.

      “Whereas Silicon Valley start-ups tend to give their conference rooms whimsical, sweet names, like Twinkie and Pong, the main conference room in Uber’s swanky new offices on San Francisco’s Market Street is called War Room. It’s an appropriate lair for Kalanick and his ever growing team. He needs the help, because as Uber expands to cities across the U.S. and around the world Kalanick must continue to wage what has already become a very ugly and protracted battle with the taxi industry and the regulators that Uber claims are deep in its pocket. Kalanick doesn’t mask his disdain for his adversaries, either. “Some city-council people are really awesome, but most are uninspired,” he says. “I meet with them as little as possible.”

      The timing of the article’s publication suggests it is possible Kalanick could have been thinking about Robertson and city councillors at 12th and Cambie when he made those remarks.

      As Uber continues to expand across North America and the world, Kalanick isn’t acting alone. He’s got a man named David Plouffe acting as Uber’s head of public policy and communications. Plouffe was one of the masterminds behind Barack Obama’s 2008 run for president of the United States, a campaign that’s still regarded as masterful while Obama’s presidency continues to fall far below expectations.

      The article’s author, Kara Swisher, concludes that Kalanick’s ambition is a force to take seriously.

      “Kalanick’s fighting instinct seems only to have been stoked by success,” she writes. “He says he will not stop until he has won every city across the globe.”



      Tommy Khang

      Nov 5, 2014 at 3:40pm

      The irony of this is that the Taxi industry could easily beat Uber at its own game by coming out with it's own app that allows for car tracking, cashless payments, ordering etc. In fact Yellow Cab already has an app like this minus the tracking and cashless payments.

      Kyle MacDonald

      Nov 5, 2014 at 4:10pm

      Honestly can't wait until this broken corrupt taxi monopoly is broken and we have more choice.

      ursa minor

      Nov 5, 2014 at 4:19pm

      Anyone who thinks Uber is going to be cheaper needs to take a look at their "Surge" pricing. The taxi system in Vancouver may need reforming, but at least it's the same price on Saturday night as it is on Sunday morning.


      Nov 5, 2014 at 7:45pm

      Why they don't wanna go through procedure and follow the laws of bc.they should respect the laws even they are billionaire nothing above the law..


      Nov 6, 2014 at 3:23am

      if one looks at Uber's business model and skirting of local laws where it already operates, the advantages that Uber gives vs taxi, ie. usually faster response, more dependable...come at the expense of safety for all involved, from the customers to other roadusers. Look at the case in San Fran of a 6 yo girl killed by an Uber driver who was not covered by either his personal insurance nor by Uber.


      Nov 6, 2014 at 9:03am

      I'm all for adding options to the transport biz. Cars, bikes, scooters, buses, subways...sure. So why not ride shares? In London, I saw an interesting ad for a "Scooter Man" service - when you are too drunk, you call the Scooter Man who scooters to your location, wraps his scooter in a bag, puts the bag in your car, puts you in your car, drives you home, gets paid, then scooters away. Pretty neat!

      So yeah, Uber away. But if it is a service that operates to the public, of course it falls under some regulatory body or another in this country. The issue is not regulation but transparency. What ARE the rules that people want in their transport industry?


      Nov 6, 2014 at 9:19am

      Uber is not safe for public. Uber is banned in whole Germany. I send my kids to school in the taxi. I know my kids are safe with the professional driver . There is no way I can trust uber. There is a reason for the rules and regulation for public safety.


      Nov 6, 2014 at 11:21am

      They may win in court, but they'll lose in the court of public opinion eventually. Cab licenses have already dropped in value on the grey market (according to a cabbie I polled). If they're hoping the courts will rescue them in the long term, they will be sadly disappointed. Time to move on.


      Nov 6, 2014 at 11:44am

      Yet more misinformed public, Uber in fact has just as strict if not stricter screening processes for drivers. When I was down in SF using Uber, all the drivers were friendly and some of them were even former taxi drivers. Sure, the taxi's may not have 'surge' rates, but it sucks when the taxi's don't even show up when you 'book' them on a busy night. I waited over an hour the other day for a taxi that never showed, after booking twice using the Yellow cab app. The fact of the matter is, there's room for Uber because there's definitely not enough taxi's when it does get busy. At least with Uber, you know exactly when your ride is coming and there's even an internal rating system that we, as the public can directly affect if driver's are not performing well.


      Nov 6, 2014 at 12:03pm

      Even with "surge" the value Uber has brought me is incomparable to taxi experience in this city. Not only my safety was at risk with cab drivers who demand cash payments and inability to find cabs when it is needed, they've taken joy rides to take advantage of the meter.

      with Uber, I know I'll have a ride in 10 minutes and as it is based on rating, and it provides safety to the drivers as they are able to provide rating of the passengers as well. When I was unhappy with Uber's service, all matters were resolved within 24 hours and I was refunded fully.

      Taxi industry is a monopoly and is acting with greed without thinking about the citizens and providing citizens to choose which service they prefer.