A disagreeable evening in Paris leads to a worldwide success
Like all startups, the app is a solution to a problem. In 2009, the founder was on vacation in Paris, unable to find a taxi. He started thinking of a solution for folks in the same situation. He returned to San Francisco and started working on the app. At the beginning, it was only available to friends, but it was adopted by a larger and larger clientele. Today, it spans worldwide.
Built-in word of mouth drives a massive customer base
Uber avoided the traditional route for recruiting users. The app added word-of-mouth sharing as a feature in itself: when the user invites a friend, they get $20 off their next trip. Talking about Uber is a profitable venture.
All features built around engagement
- The marketplace is conditioned by increased demand. The price of a trip decreases when demand decreases. Prices can decrease by 50% for drivers, which simultaneously encourages increased customer demand.
- Showing the taxis on a map is, without a doubt, the most appreciated feature. The user knows exactly where his taxi is and doesn’t have to wait in uncertainty.
- The rating system is critical for Uber, just like AirBnB and TripAdvisor, because it ensures the service’s reliability. When a driver gets a poor rating, Uber meets them in their physical offices to suggest possible improvement mechanisms. Alternatively, the driver is expelled.
- The rider’s music in the taxi is the last idea to date. The app concluded an agreement with Spotify so users can play their own music in the taxi.
Leveraging users in negotiations with regulatory authorities
Uber stirs controversy just about everywhere it goes. The app challenges the taxi monopoly, which has been relatively unchanged for the last 60 years. The industry has pressured local governments to prohibit the app, even if no legal framework can be established quickly enough for new technology.
Uber understands that its biggest strength is its users and that they are essential to pressure local governments. When a municipality wants to sanction the service, Uber asks its users to sign petitions to demonstrate the need and desire for such a service.
The goal in Montreal: reducing single-passenger car trips
Traditional transport methods in Montreal have evolved slowly, for example, BIXI bike-sharing. But initiatives to fight single passenger trips have failed. The number of cars has increased by 15%, reaching 1 million cars in total, at the same time as tax increases on gas and reduced parking availability.
Uber Montréal has positioned itself as a tool to fight single passenger car trips and parking shortages, while charging 45% less than taxis. The app has been trying to increase its visibility with francophone customers since 2013 and to move beyond the idea that it’s just a taxi application.