Up until March of 2009, taxicabs were the main option of hired transportation. You simply called one up, or stood out on the street to hail one in the rain - or the snow, where founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp were when they found themselves dreaming up a technology where cabs could be app-ordered. Shortly after, Ubercab entered the world - and the entire taxi industry was left writhing, frantic to reclaim itself.
The Beginning of a Long Line of Opposition
It didn't take long for a cease-and-desist order to pounce upon this newborn company. The San Francisco Metro Transit Authority claimed that Ubercab didn't follow license regulations like all other taxis, and the jobs of taxi dispatchers were seriously being threatened.
So, Uber, being its typical self - uber-smart and uber-sly - simply changed its official name from Ubercab to Uber. The company began promoting its services and its signature black cars soon began taking over the roads.
What's the Problem with Uber?
Scott Solombrino, co-founder of the National Limousine Association, says that there is nothing wrong with the concept of Uber. One million customers per day can certainly attest to the brilliance of the idea.
However, Solombrino warns, that is precisely where the company's faults are bred. "The company makes up its own rules, and after pushing its way into the market, it has consistently refused to cooperate with regulators. There's a reason why some countries have taken the step to ban Uber entirely. Uber is not special. They need to start following the rules like everybody else."
It's simple. Uber is essentially an app-ordered taxi. Every vehicle company follows taxi and limousine regulations, but Uber is intent on labeling itself as its own niche.
"This attitude is coming from sheer Silicon Valley arrogance. Uber needs to stop litigating, and become legitimized in cities. This is an international company picking up millions of people, but it's not acting as such. The company creates huge levels of pollution and traffic. Being evasive and non-compliant is not going to get them much further," Solombrino states.
Uber was founded on the premise of disrupting an existing industry and has been using loopholes to fight legal forces tooth and nail since inception. The media has Uber fatigue, and the public is already growing tired of it.
But if there's one message that should last, it's that cutthroat business tactics, poor PR management, and snarky attitude will never win. The resentment of drivers and customers will catch up eventually. (#DeleteUber, anyone?)
Is Uber Making an Effort to Improve?
But it's not like the company isn't trying. Recently in June, the "180 Days of Change" campaign was introduced, aiming to improve the experience of drivers by providing them with more control, flexibility, and recognition.
Solombrino says that Uber has been blessed with the hiring of its new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. "He's practical and good at fixing things. There are a lot of issues he'll need to shut down. But I believe that he's the most qualified hire, and I hope to see good things."
We're Still Here, Waiting
There are myriad ways Uber can pick itself up. The company needs to start paying its drivers as W2 employees - including overtime compensation. It also needs to take safety issues more seriously, such as utilizing fingerprinting methods and performing more thorough background checks on its drivers. Further, Uber must justify its controversial use of Greyball, and take actionable steps to remedy a workplace atmosphere that has been openly deemed toxic.
"Uber is just another example of a company failing to adhere to any corporate values or company ethos, at least meaningfully, as it goes about its daily business," said Shane Green, an experienced business entrepreneur who consults global Fortune 500 leaders on customer experience and organizational culture. "It is time for Uber and its board to realize that the future success of this company will no longer just be about 'what' they do but more importantly 'how' they do it."
While it may sound unappealing to the Silicon Valley breed, Uber must take a page out of more established corporate books, and doing so won't in any way strip the ride-hailing service of its innovative nature or disruptive identity. Rather, such a shift will merely create a continuation of its proven model in a more refined way. Simply put, Uber must publicly define its values and implement them into its everyday business to start winning again.
Uber doesn't have an unlimited window of time to get its act together; perhaps fifteen or twenty months at most before it either monetizes or sells privately, according to Solombrino. Under Khosrowshahi, he is eager to see signs of things turning around.
**Liba Rimler & Nathan Feifel contributed to this article.