Marcus Holmes caught up with Michael Brown, Regional GM of Uber, and had a chat about the methods that make Uber different.
The Uber model
As Uber rolls on to different cities around the world, we wanted to know if each city is treated as a different startup. Brown explained that while there is a single central product developed by the engineering team back in San Francisco, each city team decides on the specifics of marketing, operations and logistics.
“Essentially, their job is to take the basic UBER product which we have in each market – like Uber black or UberX – and grow that, with modifications and additional things that they can do as they see fit.”
According to Brown, marketing is also 90% locally driven, with the local team deciding which organisations to partner with, which events to feature, and so on. Since it is good marketing that eventually leads to rider acquisition and builds the Uber brand, it becomes the local team’s responsibility.
“There is a demarcation between coding and product development that happens centrally, and marketing and logistics that happen more locally.”
For its Perth team, Uber is looking for “really smart people who are local”. Being a data-driven company, every one of its employees and driver partners have to understand the data and draw conclusions from it. While in most companies, the IT department provides the statistical info and the analysis, at Uber, “it is all about being inquisitive to ask questions, and once you ask questions, being resourceful yourself to go get answers.”
“A good old Silicon Valley tech company”
As described by Brown, Uber is a tech company that likes to clean up inefficient markets, remove the intermediaries and make it efficient for everybody. They are constantly trying to find ways to lower prices and offer more value to riders. In fact, Brown dreams of a not-so-distant future “where in all cities that we operate, it should be significantly cheaper to take UBER everyday as much as you want, than own a car. And as long as you know that you will be able to get one in 3-5 minutes, why would you own a car?”
Like other strong founder-driven companies, Uber continues to show excellent speed and efficiency in execution, and realise that they have a long way to go.
Because of the Uber model that is organised around cities, Uber is still very much a start-up, according to Brown. The Perth team consists of just three people. Brown believes that the city model is very helpful for growth, “because people perform better when they have a sense of agency or ownership”. In fact as they grow and develop, Uber continues to make decisions on whether to centralise certain things or leave it to the city teams.
Tips for a Perth startup
According to Brown, it is all in the data. “Study the data to find what your user base is telling you.” For Uber, what helped in going global were the excellent funding partners it acquired (including Google) who saw that the unit economics were working at the micro scale.
“Convince yourself, your teammates and investors that this is working, so it deserves to be elsewhere. You want to do all your testing, refinement, improvement and innovation while it is relatively small because it is easier and faster then. If you are going to go global, be local, especially if you have an operational business.”
When asked about being involved in the Perth start-up scene, Brown mentioned tech talks, internships and “talking about how we do what we do”.
We look forward to that and hope that Uber catches on in a big way in Perth and other Aussie cities. Good luck to the Uber team.