How Did Uber Start? The Rise Of Uber

How Did Uber Start?  

We hear this question a lot: How did Uber start?  The stories out there are scattered and confusing.  But in this mini-documentary we tell the story of how two men - Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp - took a lifestyle idea and turned it into a billion dollar company.

​How Did Uber Start  : Video Transcript

Uber - currently valued at around 65 billion dollars is on a mission to change the world.. But controversy has been aplenty.

Uber has been sidestepping laws, challenging outdated regulations and employed blackhat competitive strategies in a relentless effort to grow. Globally, the taxi industry has responded with violent protests, blockaded roads, hooliganism & vandalism in a fight to protect their livelihood. Amidst this torrent of controversy, swirls the antics of the charismatic CEO - Travis Kalanik.

And to think, that this global revolution was inspired by a James Bond movie.


​How Did Uber Start? It Was Inspired By James Bond...

Canadian born, Garreth Camp was a successful entrepreneur living large in San Fransisco. But Garrett was growing increasingly frustrated with the taxi-service. He would call a cab, but they would often not show. He’d watch several empty cabs go by -- hoping that one of them was his.


In 2008, Garreth was watching Casino Royale when he noticed James Bond use his cellphone to track the location of a car. That’s when he thought to himself - “how cool would it be if i could push a button on my phone and watch my cab arrive” The idea of an on-demand cab service - Uber - was born.


As time passed, Garrett got increasingly obsessed with bringing his idea to fruition. In true entrepreneurial spirit, he started brainstorming his notion with all his friends - which included Travis Kalanik - another successful entrepreneur.


Enter... Travis Kalanick

Believe it or not, at the start Travis wasn’t interested in working on Uber. He supported the notion but was preoccupied with his own idea -- an ecosystem much like that of AirBnB. Garrett, however, was adamant on getting Travis involved.


One night, Garrett & Travis were in a cab after a night out drinking in Paris. It was around 2 am when the cabbie yelled at the group for being too boisterous --- and threatened to kick them out. Travis was infuriated by the disrespect and voluntarily got out of the cab. The incident stuck with him. A scorned Travis Kallanik was now eager to work on Uber.


That parisian cabbie had just sparked the initial fire in a man who would go on to torch the entire taxi industry.

Saying "No" To Inventory!

Camp & Kallanik got to work. Camp, inspired by James Bond, was determined to purchase a fleet of top of the line Mercedes cars. Kallanik, however, disagreed with the idea of owning cars and rather the drivers use their own cars in conjunction with the Uber app.


At one point, Camp was so determined to buy the fleet of Mercedes that he called Kalanik and told him that he’s going to lease out an entire parking lot in San Fransisco. Kalanik frantically counseled him against it:

“Dude, dude! You don’t want to do that”


Garrett Camp finally relented. Instead of the buying dozens of flashy cars - they pitched the app to existing drivers of limo rentals and luxury cabs. Years later Kalanik mused with pride:


“Garrett brought the classy, and I bought the efficiency” .


This move would go on to protect Uber from several regulations since they didn’t own the cars and nor did they hire the drivers. Uber - wasn’t a taxi company - they were simply an app that connected people.


How Did Uber Start? With An MVP... A Shitty One!

Camp & Kalanik outsourced the engineering and development the Uber app was underway. Uber’s first version - or Minimum Viable Product - allowed a user to SMS their address to the app. The app would then find the nearest driver and dispatch the driver to the address provided. The app wasn’t perfect - far from actually. But it served it’s purpose to validate the value they wanted to offer.


It was in the next version of the app when things begin to get exciting. The app now used GPS technology, and in true James Bond fashion, it showed the Limo on the map as it moved toward the user.

Uber's First CEO - Ryan Graves


It was now time to get serious. Camp & Kalanik were enthused - but neither of them wanted to run the company. So they decided to hire a CEO by sending out a single tweet:

how did uber start - tweet from travis kalanick to ryan graves

One lone tweet responded with - “here’s a tip email me 🙂 [email protected]”.

how-did-uber-start-ryan-graves-tweet-to-travis kalanick

Little did Ryan Graves know that this single tweet would go on to make him a billionaire.


Ryan Graves was hired, and Uber’s rise was about to begin.


About the author

Shawn Dexter

Shawn Dexter is a Product Manager, Entrepreneur & Software Developer. He is passionate about innovation management & technology.

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