Photo: Flickr, Ken Yeung
This morning we grabbed breakfast with Uber cofounder Travis Kalanick.Uber is an iPhone app and personal driver service. Just push your location to Uber and a black car will arrive momentarily. The ride, tip included, will be charged to your credit card on file — no cash is accepted.
We discussed what the personal driver startup has been up to since it raised $32 million in December. Uber has secured new A-list celebrity and Silicon Valley investors and it’s gearing up for a big Los Angeles launch.
Of the six US cities Uber operates in — San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Boston — Kalanick says five are profitable. Uber currently operates in eight cities world wide.
Kalanick wouldn’t say whether the cities are profitable by $1 or $100,000 each month. He said the margin varies but noted Uber’s gross revenue was up 66% month over month in December.
It’s impressive the 2.5-year-old startup is already profitable in most cities; it’s not cheap to launch a fleet of personal drivers and deal with each new city’s legal road blocks. Seattle, for example, considered passing a law that would require 30 minute pick up times when ordering a black car — clearly a swipe at the real-time ride service.
New York has been an especially tough city to master but Uber is working hard to improve its service in the world’s most congested city. Kalanick tells us wait time has dropped from 10 minutes to 6 minutes because he hired his very own set of drivers dedicated solely to Uber. They operate under an Uber-owned dispatch base called Unter.
Uber has been in New York for 280 days and Kalanick says the city is leaps and bounds ahead of where flagship city San Francisco was at that time.
More surprisingly, Washington D.C. is on track to kill them both. Uber launched in D.C. in December; while Kalanick says revenue there hasn’t quite caught up to New York’s, it is on track to match or even pass it very soon.
It’s cheaper to pay for a cab in D.C. then it is in New York, which means Uber pricing is cheaper in the Nation’s Capital. That means more people order Uber cars in D.C. and they’re doing so more frequently than in most other established Uber cities.