CNN

September 14th, 2014

Uber CEO: We’ll run your errands

CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS features an interview with Uber CEO and founder, Travis Kalanick. With a presence in 200 cities across 45 different countries, Uber has changed the means of transportation.  Kalanick tells Fareed about Uber’s future aspirations to expand their services and to target emerging markets. 

TEXT EXCERPT

Kalanick on Uber’s growth as a company: when you’re doing billions of dollars a year and you’re growing 4X year-over-year, and that growth is accelerating, it’s pretty unusual.

Kalanick on Uber’s newest ventures: “So in Los Angeles, we’re doing something called Uber Fresh, which is you push a button and you get a lunch in five minutes, right. In DC, we’re doing Uber Corner Store.  So imagine all the things you get at a corner store. In New York, we’re doing Uber Rush, which is messenger service.  And, you know, we like to think of ourselves as being in the business of moving — delivering cars in five minutes.  You push a button, a car comes.  But once you’re delivering cars in five minutes, there’s a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes. You know, FedEx isn’t going to your near — nearest pharmacy and delivering something to you in five minutes.”

A full text of the transcript is available after the jump.

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED

 

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST:  I spent a few days this week in the San Francisco Bay Area and, while there, had the chance to interview two men who are working to change the world in their own very different ways. First up, Travis Kalanick.  You may not know his name, but you probably are well aware of the company he founded and runs, Uber. The company is a tech darling with an astounding valuation of $18 billion. That company has changed the way people get around cities from Raleigh-Durham to Rio to Riyadh, from Stockholm to Sydney to Seoul. In all, Uber is in 200 cities in 45 countries on 6 continents and counting.  It says it employees hundreds of thousands of drivers and adds 50,000 every month. But not everybody loves Uber or the disruption in the transportation market. Germany, for one, just banned Uber from operating anywhere on its soil. We sat down in Uber’s “war room” at its San Francisco headquarters.

ZAKARIA:  Travis, welcome.

TRAVIS KALANICK.  CEO, UBER:  Thank you.

ZAKARIA:  Tell me, what is the goal of Uber? What are you trying to accomplish?

KALANICK:  Well, look, we — you know, our mission is — we like to say, is transportation as reliable as running water.  Everywhere…

ZAKARIA:  Meaning, meaning?

KALANICK:  Well, meaning, you know, when you turn a faucet and water just comes out.  We want — we want you to be able to push a button and a car is there in just minutes. And so you can get a ride wherever you are in the world no matter who you are. So options that are, you know, very lux or high end, all the way down to rickshaws in emerging markets.

ZAKARIA:  So at $18 billion, your investors obviously think you can grow much bigger.

KALANICK:  Yes.

ZAKARIA:  How big can you get?

KALANICK:  Well, look, we launched in San Francisco four years ago.  We’re a little over four years old.  And when we came here, research was telling us that the total taxi and limo spend was $120 million. Four years later, our operations just in San Francisco are a healthy multiple bigger than that.  And so when Uber comes to a city, it’s multiplicative on — in terms of what it does to the transpor — the — the sort of transportation services industry in that city. And we are growing still in San Francisco.  We’re growing 3X year-over-year.  Globally, we’re growing 4X year-over-year. I think that’s the kind of bet that investors are — are seeing.   And they’re looking at that growth.  You know, when you’re doing billions of dollars a year and you’re growing 4X year-over-year, and that growth is accelerating, it’s pretty unusual.

ZAKARIA:  Are you going to put FedEx out of business? Are you going to start moving things, not just people?

KALANICK:  I mean we’re going to move a lot of things, as well as people.  We’re doing a — we’re doing some experiments.  So in Los Angeles, we’re doing something called Uber Fresh, which is you push a button and you get a lunch in five minutes, right. In DC, we’re doing Uber Corner Store.  So imagine all the things you get at a corner store. In New York, we’re doing Uber Rush, which is messenger service.  And, you know, we like to think of ourselves as being in the business of moving — delivering cars in five minutes.  You push a button, a car comes.  But once you’re delivering cars in five minutes, there’s a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes. You know, FedEx isn’t going to your near — nearest pharmacy and delivering something to you in five minutes.  That’s not their thing.  This is just very different.

ZAKARIA:  Now, the big challenge, it seems to me, that you face and that Airbnb face is that your business model bumps up against an old regulated way of doing business. Talk about that.

KALANICK:  So technology is now getting into — it’s starting to weave its way into how the city works.  It’s weaving its way into the physical world.  I like to say our technology sort of sits right in the middle and it’s sort of coordinating or — or connecting bits and atoms. And once you get into the physical world, you are now in the realm of the mayor.  You are now under the jurisdiction of the city council. And, you know, the physical world has been regulated for a really, really long time. And so there’s a lot of regulations that go way back that didn’t contemplate what the future was going to look like. And so I think there’s a lot of situations where there’s either bureaucracy, red tape or regulatory — a regulatory environment or even sometimes legislation that had one thing in mind, but they didn’t expect you to be able to get out an app and get a car in two minutes.

ZAKARIA:  Do you think you can get past the ban in Germany?

KALANICK:  Well, you know, it’s funny, that’s made news recently.  But every city we do well in, something comes up. So in Germany, for instance, we had a — we had a court ruling in Hamburg that said, hey, Uber has got to go.  We appealed it.  And then that — that ruling got suspended.  And then in Frankfurt, there was a ruling and it said, hey, Uber has got to go, they’re charging too much.  It’s less than a taxi, but it’s still too much. And we said, well, just tell us what the price is and we’ll make sure that we get it to the right price, but there’s no price set. And so — and so that’s on appeal. And so quite often we do well, there’s a little friction, like what you might see in Germany, but at the end of the day, we’ve launched in 210 cities. There’s only one city and one service that we’ve rolled out where we’ve actually rolled back, and that was Vancouver.

ZAKARIA:  Why did you hire Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe?

KALANICK:  Well, it’s — that’s a — that’s a good question.  We, you know, I’m a technologist, right? I used to be a computer engineer.  And I can make — I can make really good code.

KALANICK:  And we can make systems that work really well.  And we can make the application a great experience. But when — when you have to translate bits to atoms, you need — you need folks who are used to working with the — with city governments, with state governments. And so I like to say we’re — we’re in a political campaign.  And I didn’t totally realize that at first.  And the candidate is Uber. And our opponent is the taxi cartel.  And we need to — we need to have a — a full-fledged campaign manager to go and make sure that this kind of progress, you know, happens in — in a whole bunch of cities.  And sort of translates those bits to atoms and works with city governments and city officials and city councils in a way that gets that progress adopted more quickly and in a more enduring fashion.

ZAKARIA: Travis, pleasure to have you on.

KALANICK: Good to see you.

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ZAKARIA: Next up, the billionaire investor who is betting big to end America’s oil addiction.

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