“You’re ready to apply for Indian citizenship. We thought about gifting you a citizenship form, but got you something else instead,” said Deep Kalra to Travis Kalanick,Co-founder of Uber, gifting him a helmet for his recent launch of uberMOTO, at the TiE Global Summit.
From meeting the God of cricket to launching uberMOTO at T-Hub in Hyderabad, the past few days have been quite a ride for Uber and Travis.
He even attended what he calls a 'Hindi’ wedding, and joked,
“If I am looking for an Indian citizenship, then I better love Hindi weddings. They are also so very customer-centric, where the bride and groom do the hard work and the people around are enjoying their time.”
After China, India seems to be a market that Uber has strongly set its eyes on. “One citizen giving another citizen a ride on the road is innovation at its best, and it is always heartening when a government understands innovation and welcomes change,” said Travis.
With uberMOTO, the team intends to drastically reduce traffic and the number of cars on the road. But solving problems has come naturally to Travis for a very long time.
Solve what can be solved before others do
Someone who started coding in sixth grade, Travis said that he was a back bencher who would solve math problems before the teacher could complete them.
It is this analytic and engineering mind that he brings in even today to his entrepreneurial journey.
“I still have the engineering mindset of breaking down a problem and finding a solution. Every problem can be seen as an engineering problem,” said Travis.
Even while building an app like Uber, Travis believes that breaking down the elements and understanding how to solve every stage is helpful.
Travis' entrepreneurial journey didn't start with Uber. From selling kitchen knives to home owners to building a pre-Napster software for music and videos with a group of engineers at UCLA, Travis has seen entrepreneurship in all its colours.
Sharing a particularly unforgettable moment at his startup Scour.net, Travis said,
We were sued by 33 media companies for a quarter of a trillion dollars. We strategically filed Chapter 12 bankruptcy. While the case didn't stay, it also meant watching your product being auctioned out. It was a difficult experience.
Two to tango
After Scour.net, Travis founded two other startups - one was acquired by Akamai and the other failed.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that finding the right partner and co-founder for your entrepreneurial journey is tough.
For someone who has been betrayed by his own co-founder, it is surprising that Travis still believes that having someone to share the journey with helps.
“Two is a lot less lonely than one. Being a solo entrepreneur is gritty and tough,” said Travis.
But there isn't any formula that ensures success. You need to see what works best for you and the company.
While your co-founders are like family, having too many of them makes decision making difficult.
“As entrepreneurs, be prepared for the hard stuff. There is always a hard story. You have to start liking it and showing people that the impossible is possible,” said Travis.
The Chinese fireball
Fund raising is harrowing for any entrepreneur. And that is true even for Travis and Uber. Having been a serial entrepreneur, Travis said that he has seen many winters.
But the problem begins when you give up. While many believe that Uber had to give up in China, Travis thinks otherwise.
“We had sovereign wealth from China being invested in our competition worldwide. It was becoming a global battle, and it was time to take a strategic call. We realised that we couldn't do everything, and the best thing to do was merging so that we could focus on other markets like India and business verticals like Uber Eats,” he said.
So, is it possible that Uber is now looking at launching driverless cars in India? Travis believes that with the kind of traffic that Delhi has, AI will possibly need to grow by leaps and bounds.