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 @ 8:22am

    Re: Established power, or?

    Well, everything that article finds wrong in Uber and AirBnB could be addressed with openness and transparency. Those companies try to become billion-dollar-businesses instead of offering the most honest services technically possible.

    Fare prices can vary? The fare price should be displayed at the time you book it, so if there are several Ubercabs near you, you order the cheapest.
    Accountability? Log everything in the client and the cab's devices, and there are known ways to prevent/detect/correct data tampering. Then users should be able to comment and rate the cab they used.

    Same for renting rooms. Rate, photos, comments, you should see a maximum of information about the service before you buy it.

    But those features are good for the customer, and bad for the middleman, who tries to gross as much money as possible. So they're not really serving the public well, because if, say, a driver eats every twelfth passenger, then Uber might decide to hide that, to keep it open for business.

    That's why those services can't work as companies, only as Free/Libre/Open things that live on the Internet. They're not just comunities, nor just software. It's the use that makes them. Maybe the right word is network. Just a network, with a special purpose : cache information between people buying and selling one service.

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