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
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), 25 Feb 2013 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Until ego gets in the way

    Here's just one example. If you have created a disruptive product that has a market, would you really need to complain about what one media outlet said about you? And are your potential customers so easily influenced that they won't buy from you after one bad review? And isn't it good to at least have your numbers right?

    Ego can color decisions.

    Elon Musk: The NYT Review Of The Model S Cost Tesla $100 Million - Business Insider: "In an interview with Bloomberg's Betty Liu, he said the damage from the review could cost Tesla a hundred million dollars. Liu did some quick math and realized that would mean 1,000 cancelled orders for the Model S.

    "Musk quickly clarified to say that it was 'probably a few hundred,' not a thousand. That's still bad! He says the $100 million estimate is more around total value and brand damage."

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