"He can present a high-level pitch and do so in an entertaining fashion," says Alfred Lin, a partner at Sequoia Capital, who as an individual contributed to two of Uber's venture-funding rounds. "He can drill down to the crux of the problem and be very detail oriented, whether it's on the service side or on the math side." 5
Kalanick has hired in his image. He looks for general managers who can think both analytically and creatively--creative pragmatists. A city's GM oversees two branches of employees in that city, the driver-operations side (very adept at math, technical, left-brained; Uber is full of former investment bankers) and the community-management side (creative, social-media savvy, right-brained). When hiring--or just in meeting new people--Kalanick automatically sizes up an individual's skills and temperament. If he likes the person, he starts placing him or her in one of two buckets: d-ops or CM. I stopped by a dinner the Uber team held at Prime One Twelve, an expensive South Beach restaurant, and the waiter had the charisma and smile of a talk-show host. He was eloquent and game for jokes. Kalanick whispered, "Definite community-manager material" before introducing himself to the waiter, who said his name was Kevin Baynes. "Kevin," Kalanick said, "have you ever worked at a technology company?" The playbook has worked all over the country, but in Miami, most of the plays have yet to be called, and the fact that Uber Miami has been a year in the making is a significant frustration. Radford, the GM for Atlanta, flew in to investigate Miami laws last summer, and when he reported back, Kalanick found them too tough to work around. A year later, Kalanick has met with Miami officials a couple of times, including in January, when Uber threw that more-secret-than-usual prelaunch recruitment party. He is hopeful a bill will be introduced soon that allows Uber to operate. "Everything I've gotten from any political leader there is very positive," he says. Meanwhile, the company is venturing beyond cars. It launched a motorcycle-pickup service in Paris, a mariachi-band delivery service in San Francisco, and an ice-cream-truck-delivery service in seven cities. Yes, dessert trucks are cute, if complicated, publicity stunts. They can also be considered grand experiments in the future of Uber. The idea: Uber doesn't just set passengers up with drivers. It's a company starting to dream of becoming a logistical nervous system for cities. If you ask Kalanick about competitors--of which there are many, especially in the taxi-hailing space-- he is dismissive: They're just clones; they aren't worth talking about. But once, I asked about Square and whether Uber might function most profitably as something of a payments company. He lit up. He said he could see applying the Uber model--taking a 10 percent to 20 percent cut of a customer's payment while providing superior service--to anything.
- Spring '15
- Statistics, Miami Uber drivers