Uber's CEO: Innovators Shouldn't Have To Ask For Permission Or Forgiveness

from the just-innovate dept

We've written a bunch about the disruptively innovative transportation company Uber, which has been running into regulatory issues with multiple local regulators. Andy Kessler recently had a fantastic interview with Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO, concerning the regulatory battles he keeps running into. If you've followed Uber over time, very little in the interview will be surprising. It tells of Kalanick's past -- he was sued for $250 billion at one point for running Scour.com, an early file sharing site -- but also of his belief that these regulations are protectionism for legacy industries.

One bit that struck me however, was his response to Kessler posing an expected question concerning Uber's penchant for launching first and dealing with the regulatory fallout later (well, and reaping the publicity rewards of complaining about being stifled by regulations):
When I suggest to Mr. Kalanick that Uber, in the fine startup tradition, was using the "don't ask for permission, beg for forgiveness" approach, he interrupts the question halfway through. "We don't have to beg for forgiveness because we are legal," he says. "But there's been so much corruption and so much cronyism in the taxi industry and so much regulatory capture that if you ask for permission upfront for something that's already legal, you'll never get it. There's no upside to them."
I think this is actually pretty important. There's been plenty of talk about the importance of permissionless innovation and permissionless creativity. That is very important. But, somehow, we rarely talk about the flipside, which is that those engaged in creating wonderful and innovative things also should be proud of what they're doing, rather than feeling like they need to ask forgiveness for upsetting the apple cart. Disruption is a messy business, but in the end it creates tremendous benefits for nearly everyone (except those who relied on the old way, and refused to change). It's great to see a company like Uber leading the way.

Filed Under: forgiveness, innovation, permission, travis kalanick
Companies: uber


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  1. icon
    Corwin (profile), 25 Feb 2013 @ 6:18am

    Greed isn't sustainable

    And that's as much for Uber as for the morons trying to prevent it from working/existing.

    What regulations? What fines? You can't prevent people from doing things. It would work like this: When you need a taxi, you flash a QR code that directs your smartphone browser to a webpage (which forwards the content, that's actually on TOR or FreeNet or something) that locates you and tells you how far the nearest free taxi is, so you can order it to come pick you up.

    But that's not going to sustain Uber. It's just going to help people do more things more efficiently. What's that again? Oh, right, the definition of progress.

    The State won't let Uber do their things, so what, do them without Uber. DIRECT, distributed, encrypted, onion-routed, mesh-networked P2P between clients and merchants. The regulations prevent Uber from doing business as middleman, but they don't prevent people from building the service such that the System just can't shut it down.

    Also, what's preventing Uber from raising VC to buy the abolishment of those regulations? It's not like the prices are unknown. If they want to play within the system, they need to buy the rules. It's in the rules. So, play by the rules or change the game.

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