Dreamforce: Uber CEO Tells How the Cloud Made Ride-Sharing Possible

By David Needle  |  Posted 2015-09-16 Print this article Print
Uber Cloud

Kalanick explained that Uber drivers can see a heat map showing where demand is going to be to help them get closer to their next fare.

He also took a shot at the taxi industry, though he said taxi drivers are "good people just treated badly."

Kalanick estimates Uber rides are about 40 percent cheaper than taxis and give drivers a better, more flexible income opportunity. "Taxi drivers pay $140 a day to rent a car, that’s $40,000 a year," said Kalanick. "For that much they should be driving a Bentley."

While there's great technology behind Uber, Kalanick said the company got its start five years ago the old-fashioned way by reaching out to potential customers over the phone.

"We didn't know if it was going to work," he recalled. "I was typing in limousine services in Google and cold-calling those companies." A third of them hung up right away, a third hung up after a few minutes of hearing the core pitch and a third responded with "This is interesting," Kalanick said.

"We didn't have the app yet, it was just an idea, but I knew from past experience that if 30 percent of the people you cold call express interest you’re doing good," he said.

Salesforce CEO Takes an Uber Pool Ride

Since then, Uber has started offering new services like Uber Pool where you can share a ride by sharing the car with another passenger. Marc Benioff, the billionaire CEO of Kalanick's host Salesforce.com, said he recently tried it out.

"A Prius picked me up and a few blocks later a Goldman Sachs guy joined me and we had a good conversation. He was a young guy trying to save money. It was a great experience," said Benioff.

Kalanick said Uber Pool is less profitable for Uber in most cities, but he’s excited about the service. "Uber Pool gets over 100,000 passengers in each city it's in every week," he said. "That’s exciting for us, two cars becoming one and making Uber cheaper than owning a car."

Consultant Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of IT market research firm THINKstrategies, said companies like Uber and AirBnB are poster children for the so-called sharing economy that wouldn't be possible without the advances in connectivity and software as a service of recent years.

"The rise of cloud computing created the economics that made all this possible. Ten years ago, the parts weren't in place. You didn't have GPS and the central coordination, the payment systems and analytics," Kaplan told eWEEK.

He also said companies like Airbnb and Uber are creating and benefitting from an attitude shift, particularly from a younger generation raised on digital devices and always on connectivity who are more receptive to sharing services and less concerned with ownership.

Kalanick mentioned Uber is still challenged by customers who want to schedule pickups. He said at some point most everyone will get over the need to schedule. "When you took a shower did you schedule it?"

As to the future, Kalnick says he's "super optimistic" about what's ahead. "We're creating a company and culture of people who want to invent and create new things."


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