Uber: The Trials And Tribulations Of One Of Silicon Valley's Most Successful Startups

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Ever since it was launched in 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, Uber has been the toast of Silicon Valley, with venture capital flowing in from Jeff Bezos, Chris Sacca and Goldman Sachs. It currently operates in over fifty countries and is valued at over $40 billion, with expected revenues of around $10 billion by the end of 2015. But with this rags to riches saga and all the ensuing limelight, comes unwanted attention as well and Uber has not been an exception either. They’ve had more than their share of negative publicity over the years, some of which has been good old fashioned mud-slinging by their well-entrenched and politically connected competitors, while some of it has been of their own creation.

In India, most notably, Uber has been plagued by sexual assault allegations and are teaming up with SafetiPin, a location-based safety app, in an attempt to increase the safety of their paasengers. They are also being forced by regulators and women’s safety advocacy groups to roll out a new feature ostensibly, to improve safety: an “SOS” button. As if that wasn’t bad enough, their founder and CEO Travis Kalanick has been told off by sections of the media for making some ill-advised comments about women. To add to that, UN Women ended a recently announced partnership with the company last month, after criticism from the International Transport Federation.

For the uninitiated, Uber develops, markets and operates the eponymous mobile app-based transportation service. The Uber app, available on Android, iOS and Windows Mobile, allows consumers to submit a trip request, which is routed to crowd-sourced independent, freelance taxi drivers. Being a cross between a transportation service and a tech company and existing in a legal twilight zone has its obvious downsides. It doesn’t always abide by strict licensing regulations in a lot of regions, resulting in bans because of national or local laws clashing with their modus-operandi. Even countries like France and Germany where they’re legal, still ban their discounted services like UberPOP and UberX.

Uber’s status in South Korea is still up in the air. The authorities there are as yet undecided about passing specific legislation pertaining to services like Uber and Lyft. In the US itself, Uber, having run into trouble with local pressure groups in Miami, has suspended operations in Panama City Beach, FL. Elsewhere, in Cape Town, South Africa, it’s continued to operate despite the mounting opposition. Even in places, where Uber hasn’t gotten into legal wrangling, there are enough disgruntled local cabbies making life hard for Uber. In Brussels, a cabbie was reported to have threatened multiple Uber drivers and even allegedly threw eggs and flour at an employee. Also, there are continued protests held periodically in cities around the world against the company. Free flowing venture capital or not, it won’t be a smooth ride all the way for Uber going forward.



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