In the opening key note at the first TiE Global Summit in Delhi, Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber took the audience through his journey as a student and an entrepreneur, and delivered an optimistic view of the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem. In a year that has been heralded as the burst of the so-called funding bubble, his words of encouragement and optimism did not go unmissed.
In an earlier interaction with Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, he joked about his intentions of applying for an Indian citizenship if it helps to keep Uber away from the nationalism wave.
The Uber co-founder then had a conversation with Deep Kalra, Founder & Group CEO MakemyTrip, where he opined that the country has evolved as a hub for entrepreneurs and is brimming with innovation at its peak.
A Geek And An Entrepreneur: Understanding Travis Kalanick
The presentation at the keynote ceremony covered the early life and the struggles faced by Travis. He recalled his early days in school and referred to himself as a geek at school. He scored a 1580 in the SATs out of 2400. When asked about his first interest, Travis said, “I have always been interested in coding.”
Travis admitted that although he dropped out of UCLA at the age of 21 to start his first venture, Scour Inc., one thing that still stays with him is the problem-solving approach he was taught during his Engineering days. “I like to breakdown the problem into smaller parts and then we look for solutions for each part and weave them all back in,” he said.
Talking about entrepreneurship and the strategy, he said, “It’s not an easy road, especially when it is solo. You have to be tough and you have to be hardcore. Also, having too many co-founders can also lead to difficulty in decision-making as you get baffled with so many different opinions. In such a case, decision by consensus becomes difficult.”
On being asked about the right time to move on from a business idea, Travis said, “The time when you think you are at a stage when you might start doing physical and mental damage to yourself, is when you should call it quits. That’s when I backed down from Swoosh (his second venture: A P2P file-sharing company) and sold it to Akamai Technologies.”
He later moved on to talk about the betrayal by his co-founder during those days. “After nine months into the business, at the time when the company was looking for a fund raise, during a meeting with a ‘strategic investor’ I found an email sent (by the co-founder) to the people we were raising money, stating you can hire me and the rest of the team…It’s hard to describe such a thing, but it sort of takes the wind out of you…This is the part where two co-founders split.”
Uber Wars In China: Aftermath
He later went on to talk about the war with Didi Chuxing in China and said, giving up on the battlefield in China was emotional. He said, “The battle in China had become global. We had American tech companies that were being compelled to invest in our competitor in China.” After pouring in billions of dollars to take on the Chinese market, Uber finally had to sell out to rival Didi Chuxing, admitting bitter defeat in claiming the market it coveted. Travis stated that’s when the team thought they should start focussing on other areas like driverless cars and other, viable markets like India.
Hyderabad’s Gain: uberMOTO
Earlier this week, during his visit to Hyderabad, Travis launched bike-sharing product, uberMOTO. uberMOTO gives riders an affordable and convenient motorcycle ride at the push of a button, through the Uber app. Riders receive driver and bike details just as they do for other Uber rides, as well as all standard safety features before, during and after the ride including GPS tracking, two-way feedback and the ability to share trip details with family and friends.
Currently, uberMOTO is available in the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia and Vietnam, and is especially well-suited for first mile/last mile connectivity, getting people from their homes or offices to metro stations and vice-versa.
It will go live in Hyderabad from January 2017, with fares as INR 20 for the first 3 kms and INR 5 per km thereafter.
Travis opined that uberMOTO was an economic and eco-friendly way of offering last-mile connectivity. It signifies less traffic on the roads and hence less pollution and he plans to make it a pan-India initiative soon.
He concluded the address by stressing again on the fact that failure does not mean the end of a journey for an entrepreneur, Travis said, that it’s not one season of a game that matters but the whole innings.
“The champion’s mindset is not about winning and losing. But it’s that if you keep getting back up, it becomes impossible to lose. The journey is much more important than a single game. It’s you who decides if you want to win a game or opt for a fulfilling journey.”