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Uber and DC: Opposites Attract

December 16, 2011 / Washington, DC

Uber DC Flag
One of the more exciting (read: stressful) parts of my job is writing up our launch blog post upon opening in a city. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I like to think of it as Uber going on a date with the new city. I rack my brain trying to find similarities and common ground, and how we will end up being the perfect couple.

Well D.C. this is going to be an interesting courtship. As far as I can tell, this is a case of “opposites attract,” and based on the data we’ve seen in our first four weeks in the District, I think we’re getting real serious, real fast…

Quote by JFK: “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”

Quote by Anonymous: “Uber is an on-demand car service of Northern efficiency and Southern charm.”

I kid. I kid. Sort of…

“Northern” Efficiency

DC HeatmapOn the efficiency side, it’s all about keeping pickup times low and utilization up. That means less waiting for riders and no dead time for drivers. It’s how we keep the experience amazing and convenient, how we get our riders home from H Street safely and quickly at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night, and how we ultimately keep the Uber value high for riders AND drivers.

Even before putting cars on the ground in DC, we already knew where demand was concentrated. Uber-anxious Washingtonians have been incessantly opening the Uber app long before cars were on the ground. Here’s a heat map of app opens as a little teaser on what we know about demand.  Now imagine our super-secret time-based heat-map… Borat voice: sexxxxy time!

In DC, we’ve seen more app opens pre-launch, what we call “eyeballs”, than any other city we’ve gone to.

I credit DC’s pre-launch hunger for Uber with the dire need by certain Washingtonians to bring efficiency into their lives. DC works hard, but not everything in Washington is as efficient as we would like. Well, when you’re craving some efficient, convenient transportation, let Uber fill that void and let Uber be your happy place where you sit back and things just work… 🙂

Pre-Launch Eyeballs
Southern Charm

OK so we’re not going call you sweet pea or bake you a pie… (well… actually we put 50 Georgetown Cupcakes in our cars today to wish ourselves a happy launch!) but Uber is all about service.  Our driver will get the door, greet you by name, and you’ll sit in a sweet ride, and might even find water or candy for your journey. For a city that’s used to rundown Crown Vics and a seemingly unlimited array of fare “extras”—we’re pretty sure Uber’s southern charm will win you over.

The Populist Limo Movement

Now of course Uber loves giving riders high fives. But what a lot of folks don’t know is that we’re really all about giving drivers hugs. What do I mean by that? Well, in most cities we do business in, limo drivers and small limo companies don’t have efficient ways of drumming up business. Drivers are left with a couple appointments per day with huge gaps where their time and their car are not being used. We fill that unused time for them. We give them the opportunity to make a steady cash flow throughout the day and week, providing the opportunity to work hard and make a decent living for that work. So many of our driver-partners have gone from scrapping to make a living to comfortably feeding their families and using the cash flow to start to invest in their business. We’ve seen a number of driver-partners expand from a fleet of 1 to owning a fleet of 5 or even 10 cars. For them, Uber is part of their American Dream. DC is a particularly difficult city for a driver to make a living in—huge supply of taxis, no liquid marketplace for limos. I think Uber is going to fundamentally change that and we’re going to be giving out a lot of hugs.

Now it’s a bit more tricky to cast Uber as “populist” on the rider side. But we’ve got a little angle there. All these big time lobbyists, politicos, and government officials can afford their own private driver and maybe don’t need Uber, but their staff definitely aren’t allowed to expense that. How awesome is it for a staffer to rock Uber to and from work, a big meeting, or one of the thousands of happy hours on any given weekday. [Note: to the uninitiated, happy hours are a city pastime]. A little wink and a nod to your boss while you get your car before his private driver rolls up is priceless.

So let’s do this DC! Uber has just deployed a new transportation system to the nation’s capital. I think it’s going to be a very interesting and lasting relationship.

Uber Co-founder, CEO