‘I Heard 100 No’s a Day’: How Travis Kalanick Built Uber

“I heard 100 no’s a day for 6 years straight.”

Travis Kalanick, Founder, Uber Technologies

Travis Kalanick knew something was wrong.

The number of taxi licenses in New York City had not increased since the 1940’s. During that time, the city added over 1 million residents.


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So he picked up the phone and started dialing. One by one, he cold called black car drivers, trying to get them to join his new service.

Most hung up. But a few were intrigued and met the young entrepreneur.

They became the first Uber drivers.

Travis recounts the fascinating early days of Uber on stage with Jason Calacanis at the LAUNCH Festival in 2014. This vintage interview is a master class in how to create a startup out of nothing and make it grow.

At first, there was just one driver on the map in each city. Then, as Travis kept pounding the phones, there was another, and another.

By 2014, Uber had reached a $17 billion valuation. That same year, it did more rides than taxis for the first time in its home market of San Francisco.

Travis was a born entrepreneur.

He started an SAT prep company in high school. Later, he founded two tech startups.

The first folded, and the second, Red Swoosh, sold for a small sum. Like many great entrepreneurs, Travis’s biggest success was ahead of him.

Five years after founding Uber, the startup was still growing at 20% month over month with millions in revenue.

A growth rate like this is exceptional even in early stage companies. For a company Uber’s size, it’s truly astounding.

Like PayPal, YouTube, Google and eBay, Uber grew at warp speed from the beginning. That’s why growth is one of the main things I look for in investments.

I also love seeing founders who are close to their customers. And you can’t get closer than Travis.

He drove an Uber himself on a busy Saturday night!

One passenger saw potential in him and left this review:

“Somebody needs to tell the CEO of the company that this driver should do more than just drive. He could really add value to Uber.”

Anonymous Uber Passenger

I guess talent is hard to conceal, no matter how hard you try!

In time, Uber hopes to become a super app for way more than rides. The app currently offers food delivery, groceries and even alcohol.

If there’s any real contender for an American super app, Uber is it.

For all his success, Travis remains excited about going to work:

“You’ve gotta enjoy what you’re doing and what you’re building. You’ve gotta be passionate about creating something.

So for me, it’s not about an IPO, I don’t even think about it.

…what are all the crazy, effed up, awesome problems I can solve? And what is all the crazy, awesome s*** that I can invent?”

Travis Kalanick

Let’s go find some awesome problems to solve!

What lessons do you take from Travis’s career? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech:

The Founders: The Story of PayPal

You’re Doing Investor Meetings Wrong

Q3 Venture Funding Slows to a Crawl

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Photo: “Travis Kalanick” by jdlasica is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

3 thoughts on “‘I Heard 100 No’s a Day’: How Travis Kalanick Built Uber”

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