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. identicon
    special interesting, 25 Feb 2013 @ 4:33pm

    My favorite industrial book is a novel about the theory of (manufacturing) constraints: Dr. Eli Goldratt, The Goal, A Process of Ongoing Improvement. In its field it has quite the following. Although its written as a novel its taken as an underground bible for problem solving in the manufacturing industry.

    Its common that the boss of a firm would pass out books to the whole department, have a meeting and ask pointed questions about it like: “why the product(s) manufactured were never named” (the book wasn't about any particular product but how it (anything) was made).

    Its a great 'just do what you think must be done because your boss wont let you before he gets the credit' kind of thing. (kind of on topic, related?)

    Ann Rand is still on the reading list, only got through the first few chapters its in the box of undead duds but I expect to pick up on it someday.

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