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
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 25 Feb 2013 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Established power, or?

    Well, for starters, just about every single horrible, evil, abusive thing you've heard of happening in the last few decades in the name of "capitalism" can be laid at her feet.

    Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, was actually a moralist first and an economist second. His work was heavily concerned with not only finding efficient ways to manage an economy, but also with ensuring that they were good ways, in the moral sense. Read his work sometime, look carefully at the ideas he espouses, and ask yourself, "would a person promoting this policy today be accused of being pro-communism by modern 'capitalists'?" and you'll be surprised how often the answer is yes.

    What changed? Ayn Rand got published. She took what's essentially The Philosophy of the Two-Year-Old and wrapped it in a bunch of eloquent, romantic words to make it look like a worthwhile moral compass. (Seriously. Look at how much of her philosophy can, without exaggeration or hyperbole, be summed up in the words "I don't want to and you can't make me!") And the heroic ideal that she held up as a model, an ideal path to be followed, was drawn heavily from the character of a sociopathic murderer who she idolized. (See http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/romancing-the-stone-cold.html for details, since actual links posted in comments tend to get caught in the spam trap here.)

    If you want to see why capitalism changed from the moral system proposed by Smith to the ugly, cruel monster we see today that remains capitalism in name only, where narcissism is the highest virtue and the system rewards and encourages people to act like sociopaths, you need look no further than Ayn Rand's influence. It's rather telling that the Library of Congress's study on the most influential books on American thought found the Bible in #1, and Atlas Shrugged a close second.

    It's hard to think of another person in American history who has caused more harm, more damage, and more outright evil, in America and throughout the world, than her.

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