Travis Kalanick - Co-founder and CEO of Uber Technologies Inc.

Outspoken tech entrepreneur Travis Kalanick created a billion dollar business out of a startup called Uber, based on the simple premise of connecting driver and passenger at the click of a button. We take a look at the Uber journey.

In the space of seven years, Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, has managed to turn a two-car operation in San Francisco into a visionary digital business worth $70 billion, with more than 5 million rides booked every day. Hailed as the founding father of the ‘gig economy’, which has sparked the likes of Airbnb and TaskRabbit, Travis is thought to have created the fastest-growing startup in history with an initial capital investment of only $200,000.

From a middle class family in Los Angeles, Travis dropped out of UCLA’s Engineering School in 1998 in order to start a file sharing service for films and music – Scour. But Travis soon found himself subject to an astronomical entertainment industry compensation claim and was forced to declare the startup bankrupt. Only a few months later, he launched Red Swoosh, another file sharing network for software. Despite initial cash flow shortages and a long-winded investment acquisition process, Travis managed to sell the business to tech giant Akamai Technologies for $20 million.

Travelling the world with his newfound fortune, Travis met startup entrepreneur and future Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, who shared his learning-by-doing attitude and never-ending thirst for innovative projects. The idea for Uber was allegedly conceived during a joint trip to Paris. Travis mused how great it would be to order a limousine with one click, and a business was born. The startup was founded in 2009 as an exclusive limousine service in San Francisco. This was followed by an ‘app for everyone’, allowing customers to book private drivers directly. Anyone with a car and a smartphone can become a taxi driver, with 20 percent of the fare going to Uber as commission. The taxi industry’s criticism of the counter-model has been well documented – and the company has not been without controversy surrounding regulation – but Uber is keen to end these stiff, monopoly-like business structures. Travis sees himself as a visionary, who is ridding cities of unneeded cars whilst freeing up time for other things.

Currently, Uber operates on six continents in over 70 countries and 400 cities and could test the IPO market in late 2017 or early 2018. The business model is extremely popular with investors. No business apart from Facebook has ever been traded as hotly as Uber. Currently, its value is estimated at $69 billion and it has invested greatly in worldwide growth. Travis’ secret: “You can’t become a great entrepreneur if you are satisfied with having solved one problem. There are always greater challenges.” This might explain why Uber is currently experimenting with driverless cars, carpooling and helicopter services, food and package delivery services in some cities, as well as striving to become a worldwide platform for on-demand and connected mobility.

Photos: courtesy of Uber Technologies Inc; DLD conferences; Volvo Group; Anutr Yossundara/123rf

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