Last month we mentioned that on-demand driving service Uber had soft launched in the Valley, enabling anyone who signs up for an Uber account to take full advantage of the service. As of yesterday, the company “officially” made Phoenix its 18th location, and it did so with a launch event at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale, where guests were given free Uber rides to and from the event.
En route to the event, we discussed the company with Uber driver Kevin Collins, who was quite enthusiastic about his partnership with the company. Kevin is an independent driver who heard about Uber from a passenger. He read numerous positive reviews about the service and decided to contact them. After a face-to-face interview as well as a vehicle, qualification and background check, Kevin was selected to become an Uber driver.
While he still gets requests from independent clients, Kevin has made Uber rides his top priority because of how much he believes in the company and its growth potential. He calls Uber a “win-win for both parties” because of the safety and accountability the service provides the passenger as well as the driver.
They event itself was a casual mix-and-mingle lunch with the Uber team, including the company’s VP of Operations Ryan Graves. AZTechBeat got a chance to sit down with Graves to discuss Uber’s past, present and future.
AZTB: What attracted you to the Phoenix area?
RG: From day one I was pitching that we could make Phoenix work. We had well over 1,000 credit cards on file before we ever launched a car here, more than any other prospective city, which showed us that there was a lot of interest.
AZTB: What has been Uber’s greatest challenge launching in Phoenix, and how will you overcome it?
RG: We weren’t sure if such a broad city could work, but it is now in other cities like Los Angeles and Houston. If LA and Houston can work, then Phx can too.
For cities like Phoenix, it’s not just about a 2-minute pickup time. It’s about the transparency of the experience, letting people know they can trust the system. Uber is “everyone’s private driver”; he’s not going to bail on you. We want to bring that experience to normal people everywhere.
AZTB: How do you see Uber’s growth in Phx a year from now? How about Uber’s growth overall?
RG: Supply is relative to demand, so we look at data trends to predict the best balance. Generally we start with sedans, then over time we add different car types at different pricing levels. We’ll also continue to launch in more cities around the world.
AZTB: What do you tell people who are hesitant to join Uber because of the higher cost relative to a cab?
RG: There’s a little bit of a hurdle, but people tend to get over it. Once it happens one time it’s easy to get return riders. It’s about getting people to incorporate it into their lifestyle.
AZTB: Any advice for new entrepreneurs?
RG: We stay laser focused on a very narrow problem and we keep the service doing what it does: hit a button and get picked up. Then there’s the dependability, class and style that goes with it. We’ve tested other stuff but haven’t gotten distracted from the core goal.
So start with a clear problem, then go out and fix it. Stay laser focused on it for as long as possible. You’ll be a lot more efficient as a company when everyone knows what they’re out to do.
More About Uber
Co-Founders: Travis Kalanick, Oscar Salazar
Funding: Raised $49.5 million in two rounds of venture funding
Twitter: @Uber, @Uber_PHX
Phoenix Offices: Located at Co-Hoots