What People Were Saying About Uber When It Was Just a Startup

Before Uber was valued at $51 billion this July, they were considered another scrappy startup that might fail at any moment.

Before Uber was valued at $51 billion this July, they were considered another scrappy startup that might fail at any moment.

What People Were Saying About Uber When It Was Just a Startup

We have conflicting feelings about Uber. It wonderfully restructures the terrible taxi process, but it’s also a kind of evil unstoppable force that’s taking over the world. We know they don’t really support their drivers and they have a long history of shady business practices. But they’re so convenient! And cheap. And we can debate all this as they’re not going anywhere.

Flashback to their soft launch in 2009 and the world was trying to comprehend the concept of Uber, a.k.a UberCab (before their rebrand). Was it illegal? Would it work? Or was this some Tamagotchi trend that would die out in a year?

We know the answers to those questions, but back then we definitely didn’t.

Here’s what people said about Uber when it first started.

It’s an app to get a cab

The total, which included tip and an $8 base fare, came to $31.00, a much steeper fare than a standard cab service would have charged, but since I was rushing to the airport that day it was forgivable.

In New York City, where there’s a $7 base fare for Uber, I found myself wishing I’d just hailed a taxi cab. The Uber app said the driver would arrive in nine minutes, but due to traffic and the fact that the car initially drove past me, it actually took half an hour.

An app for being baller.
The goal was to simply scratch an itch – Garrett wanted a private car and driver without actually keeping one full time. But calling a car service multiple times a day was a hassle.

[I’ve] become fascinated with the idea of anyone eventually being able to join the service as a driver, much as AirBnB has let anyone rent out rooms in their home. I also like that it’s easier to use than taxis, have much nicer cars, and costs only about 20% more.

Uber Protest, London. Image Credit: Flickr/ David Holt

It’s surviving in a very grey area of the law

The taxi industry hated it from day one
San Francisco Metro Transit Authority & the Public Utilities Commission of California have ordered the startup to cease and desist. Ubercab has remained in service under threat of penalties including up to $5,000 fee per instance of Ubercab’s operation, and potentially 90 days in jail per each day the company remains in operation past the orders.
Uber, is now the lone “rogue” app operating in the city. Uber may well be the last such app to attempt to operate in Toronto in rogue fashion.

[Uber] maintains that it is simply a “technology company.” Its executives assert they have zero responsibility to passengers in terms of regulation and consumer protection. It is a “rogue” taxi and limousine app that should not be allowed in Toronto or any other city.
* Opinion piece by Toronto Taxicab Brokerage Association

Uber appears to be flouting volumes of city taxi and limousine regulations. The company is not registered with the commission, he said, and it is not clear whether its drivers are properly licensed.
Companies like Uber have been working to bring taxi apps to New York over the past year, but so far have failed. Uber launched support for taxi service in New York last September, but after just one month the company pulled out due to obstacles and roadblocks by groups opposed to the service.

And shady practices came into question

Bad bad boys…
This alleged rape case isn’t the first for an Uber driver. Various media reports of rape, sexual harassment and groping have surfaced in Washington D.C., Chicago and Orlando, Fla. Within the last month, The Boston Globe reported three other incidents of alleged assault or inappropriate touching by ride-sharing drivers in Boston (it’s unclear if these drivers were working for Uber or another ride-sharing service).
Uber is up to its tricks again, according to Lyft, which has released data showing that Uber employees have ordered and canceled more than 5,000 Lyft rides since last October.
Despite making national and international headlines for their proposal to launch a $1m smear campaign against Pando’s Sarah Lacy and her family, and then making even more headlines for their NY chief’s misuse of journalists’ rider data, this morning the company tried once again to silence criticism.
Image Credit: Flickr/ CEBImagery

But tech blogs were excited from day one

Because writers are cheap
“This is going to end the monopoly of the taxis in Paris,” said LeWeb founder Loic LeMeur,”You will have models here, not like Geeks in San Francisco.”
The app is incredibly simple. A map automatically pinpoints your location based on your smartphone’s GPS, or if you know you are moving, or that’s not 100 per cent correct you can define it yourself. We are thoroughly impressed with the Uber app, drive, and whole experience. The car was clean; it was a 2008 E-Class Mercedes, Francesk was friendly, and the price very reasonable considering what we did and asked for. A black cab would have cost a mortgage payment.
Uber, meanwhile, is more than a fast-growing business or the flavor of the moment with the San Francisco technorati. If in the process, Uber ends up ruffling more feathers, that’s all right by Kalanick. “I like shaking things up in an old industry and making something new and different,” he says. “I like pissing people off.”

Its popularity started the “like Uber for X” term

Here are some early mentions

The Uber for carwashes, Cherry. The service replicates how disruptive taxi service Uber allows users to book cars.

Postmates, the so-called Uber for the courier industry, debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco this September.

A collection of on-demand services to save you time. Uber for X.

We all agreed they needed better maps

Now they own Microsoft’s BING mapping
With my experience, however, the GPS had an issue detecting my location, and I had to manually enter the address. I’m assured by the good people at Uber that this was a known issue and will be rectified easily.
There are many things Uber customers love about the service; confusion surrounding the navigation process is not one of them. Following complaints that Uber drivers didn’t know the best routes to customers’ destination, the company rolled out a new in-app navigation feature.

They use gimmicks to get attention

Ice cream and kittens for everyone!
Uber Ice Cream, kicking of July 13 in honor of National Ice Cream Month, will be available in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington D.C.To access, select the ice cream cone icon within the Uber app. “Each city is working with a variety of local ice cream trucks so the ice cream will vary, but trust us, it’s all gooooooood,” Uber said.
Today is National Cat Day, and to celebrate appropriately, Uber is letting you request a kitten on-demand. The kittens—which users can decide to adopt if they fall hopelessly in love—also come with cupcakes and an “Uberiffic Cat Pack.”
The car service that provides an alternative to taxi cabs was offering free flu shots and prevention packs to its customers for a several hour period in what it described as a service test. The service dubbed “UberHEALTH” was making house calls from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.
Tomorrow, Uber is setting up an UberWedding option on its app. Drop a pin at a desired location, and if selected, a wedding complete with flowers, candles, champagne, a violinist and an officiant will show up to declare you husband and wife, or husband and husband, or wife and wife.

It was getting ready for world domination

Fight, fight, fight (the system)
At the LeWeb conference here, Chief Executive Travis Kalanick announced that Paris is the first city in Europe where the service works. The company plans to extend to two new cities a month now, reaching “around 25 cities in the next 13 to 14 months.”
Uber began operation in Germany today, giving Berliners their first taste of the fast-growing private car-summoning service. The service, which the company said is being conducted by “Secret Ubers,” is in the testing phase, with more drivers being added each day.
Uber cabs in Delhi. At least for now, Uber is just a fancy name for a company they have outsourced the actual cabs to. The company running their operation is a normal taxi operator in Delhi called “Orange Cabs”.
The company is officially hiring for roles in Shanghai and Beijing — not to mention locations that would take it into Africa, Latin America and the Middle East — as it looks to corner the potentially lucrative market in China, the world’s most populous country…and the planet’s largest smartphone market, to boot.

But the $51 billion won’t stop the controversy

Lawyering up like a boss
Dutch prosecutors said on Tuesday they have raided Uber’s European headquarters in Amsterdam in a criminal investigation into whether the car-hailing company is offering illegal taxi services. In a statement, the Netherlands’ national financial crimes prosecutor said it believes Uber has continued allowing drivers without taxi licenses to offer paid rides via its UberPOP service, despite previous fines of 450,000 euros.
A federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit in California against Uber over the payment of its drivers, upping the stakes for the ride-hailing company in the case.

And FYI, here’s what their first training video looked like

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