How Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Went From A Startup Failure To Owning A Multi-Billion Dollar Empire

Uber is a massive company that’s now valued at $US18 billion, likely making its CEO Travis Kalanick a billionaire.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Uber was the third in a series of startups Kalanick had helped get off the ground, and the first that has been truly successful.

It took Kalanick years to get where he is now. At one point before Uber even existed, Kalanick was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sleeping in his parents’ house.

This is the story of how Travis Kalanick built Uber’s empire.

Kalanick grew up in Northridge, Calif., a suburb outside Los Angeles. When he was a kid, he wanted to be a spy.

However, Kalanick would eventually follow in the entrepreneurial footsteps of his mum, a retail advertiser. He went door-to-door, selling knives for Cutco as a youngster. He started his first business at age 18, an SAT-prep course called New Way Academy.

Travis' parents, Don and Bonnie Kalanick, were 'rider zero' when Uber launched in Kalanick's home town, Los Angeles.

Source: Business Insider

He went to UCLA to study computer engineering. He'd drop out in 1998, but with good reason.

Kalanick dropped out of college to work on Scour, a peer-to-peer search engine, with classmates Michael Todd and Vince Busam. He collected unemployment while working full-time for Scour, which was run on angel funding obtained by one Scour co-founder's friends and family.

Now a millionaire, Kalanick owned a big house with a personal chef. He called his home the 'jam pad,' because it was where tech entrepreneurs would get together and jam on business ideas. Box's Aaron Levie and marketing mogul Gary Vaynerchuk were among the house's frequent guests.

Travis Kalanick's Jam Pad, on 3800 16th Street in San Francisco.

Source: Business Insider

Kalanick spent his first year as a millionaire travelling around the world. He went to Spain, Japan, Greece, Iceland, Greenland, Hawaii (twice), France (twice), Australia, Portugal, Cape Verde, and Senegal.

Uber is now in 60 cities around the world thanks in large part to Kalanick.

Source: Business Insider

Late in 2008, at the LeWeb technology conference, he first heard the idea for Uber. He envisioned it as a way to lower the cost of black car service at the touch of a button.

Garrett Camp, Oscar Salazar and Conrad Whelan built the first version of Uber, a black car service called UberCab. Kalanick served as a 'mega advisor,' though he's previously said his title then was 'chief incubator.' With UberCab, which cost about 1.5 times as much as a cab, you could request a car in San Francisco by sending a text or pressing a button.

Early in 2010, Ryan Graves was brought onboard as UberCab's general manager. Soon, he'd be named CEO. UberCab launched in June 2010 in San Francisco. It was a huge hit in San Francisco, though investors weren't initially knocking down Uber's door to invest.

Ryan Graves, Travis Kalanick and Scooter Braun at SXSW 2013

Source: Business Insider

In summer 2010, Uber raised money from investors: a $US1.25 million seed round from First Round Capital, Kalanick's friend Chris Sacca, and Napster cofounder Shawn Fanning.

Kalanick's personality -- described by those who know him as reckless and arrogant, at times -- has been the reason Uber has found so much success. After San Francisco, Uber rapidly expanded its services. Today it operates in more than 130 cities across 45 countries.

Kalanick took what was left of his Red Swoosh team abroad for 6 weeks as a cost-saving and rejuvenating measure

Source: Business Insider and Uber

In June, Uber was valued at an astounding $US18 billion. It's raised $US1.5 billion in funding. Its recent valuation would make Kalanick a billionaire.

Honoree and CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, arrives at the Time 100 gala celebrating the magazine's naming of the 100 most influential people in the world for the past year, in New York April 29, 2014.

Source: Forbes

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at