Coverage: Uber CEO looks to Europe
After coming under fire for its U.S. business practices, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the company was looking to expand in Europe. He also vowed the company would be good for European cities.
The Wall Street Journal by Amir Mizroch and Ellen Emmerentze Jervell had these details about Kalanick’s speech:
The chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc. struck a conciliatory tone when he took the stage at a tech conference here Sunday to say his company could have a positive effect on European cities, where Uber’s ride-hailing app has run into serious regulatory and competitive headwinds.
Speaking at the Digital Life Design conference, Travis Kalanick said Uber would make 2015 the year where a strong push would be made for European expansion. He said he wanted to “establish a new partnership with EU cities,” adding that he was looking forward to spending more time in Europe this year. Mr. Kalanick also said he hoped to take 400,000 cars off European roads this year while at the same time creating 50,000 new jobs.
Mr. Kalanick said Uber had worked with 22 different jurisdictions in 2014 to pass legal frameworks for ride-sharing, mostly in the U.S. “Our international efforts aren’t that far behind.”
Mark Scott’s story for The New York Times said that despite the opposition, the company could potentially create 50,000 new jobs:
The renewed effort by Uber, which allows drivers to connect with potential passengers through a smartphone application, comes after many European cities have banned some of the company’s services after taxi associations and politicians said that Uber did not comply with local laws.
The company, which was founded in 2009 and is based in San Francisco, has also faced growing regulatory scrutiny across the United States, while its fast-expanding global operations, particularly in emerging markets, have been called into question over potential safety and legal problems.
Yet despite the resistance, Mr. Kalanick said that his company, which is now valued by investors at roughly $40 billion and operates in almost 270 cities worldwide, could help create jobs across the European Union and allow authorities to collect more tax revenue from existing taxi industries.
“We want to make 2015 the year when we create new partnerships with European cities,” said Mr. Kalanick, who added that he expected to spend more time in Europe this year. “If we can make those partnerships happen, we could create 50,000 new jobs.”
The Reuters story by Jorn Poltz and Eric Auchard said the company also faced challenges about how it conducts business:
It has also come under fire for its aggressive response to rivals and critics as well as questions over whether the company has enough safeguards in place to ensure the physical safety and privacy of passengers using its services.
A woman who was allegedly raped by an Uber taxi driver in India’s capital has hired a prominent lawyer to sue the online-hailing taxi service in U.S. courts. Uber faces mounting complaints about its use of “surge pricing” to attract drivers at peak demand periods. Some critics go further, arguing that Uber’s system may drive down the prices drivers can charge for their services in the long-run.
Kalanick has previously been an outspoken opponent of local government regulation. He frequently decries what he says is red-tape and regulation that protects entrenched taxi industry interests and which is designed to block transport alternatives.
The Financial Times story by Richard Waters and Sarah Mishkin said that Uber is trying to make amends for its dismissal of many European laws:
This is not the first time the company has said it wants to hit reset on its relationship with Europe, but prior efforts have so far yielded few results. Mr Kalanick’s remarks in Munich echo comments he made to the Financial Times last October when he said the company was working on improving its image among its critics.
The taxi-hailing group’s challenges in Europe and elsewhere have grown as it has continued its confrontational approach of launching new services without regulators’ approval. Uber succeeded in overturning a ban put in place by Germany last September while its service was banned in Spain last month. France said it would bar the UberPop service, which lets drivers use their private cars to pick up riders. Uber is also appealing against a ban on UberPop in the Netherlands.
Mr Kalanick blamed his company’s problems in Europe on agitation by traditional taxi operators. “We can go to any mayor in any city and say, if we can find a way to partner up, we can promise you 10,000 jobs in four years,” he said. “Many young and unemployed people can find a way to come on to this platform to make a living.”
Winning over European cities this year is an important part of Uber’s effort to continue its headlong growth and justify the $40bn valuation it received in a recent round of private fundraising. Uber carried 1m passengers and created 7,800 jobs in London last year and is growing at a rate of “five or six times”, with 500,000 cab journeys and 3,500 jobs in Paris, Mr Kalanick said.
It’s a lot of jobs, but after criticism of the company’s vetting of drivers as well as new regulations against ride share services, the battle could be a long one. Of course the company needs to expand in order to continue its outsized growth, and Europe offers an attractive market. But Kalanick needs to continue to be apologetic and follow up with real changes to the way the company does business before he’s likely to win over European regulators.