Of its 1,500 employees, its $ 300M1 of annual revenue, its 207 cities located on all continents and its value of $ 18.2 billion, Uber is no longer the small start-up disrupting the taxi industry: it has become a real Goliath. To better understand the company’s growth in Montreal, I spoke with Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, the General Manager of UBER. A picture of an entrepreneur and the growth of a typical Bay Area business in San Francisco.
From entrepreneurship to intrapreneurship
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette began her business career at SECOR as a consultant, then she completed her MBA at the prestigious INSEAD school in Paris. Upon his return in 2010, he got the bug for entrepreneurship and decided to look TransacXion along with two American partners, a startup that markets the technology platform for the trade financing sector.
After 3 years of development, Jean-Nicolas decided to leave his company after realizing that he no longer had the satisfaction he had in the beginning: the growth had not been there and, in recent times, the trips that had become so frequent were took him away. from his newly established family.
The main lessons learned from his experience as an entrepreneur:
1. Find the right starting partner (complementary strengths, alignment with both values and goals)
2. Keep starting values:
1. Have fun
2. Make a difference
3. Earn money
4. keep the values in this order
Jean-Nicolas then explored a business opportunity in the manufacturing sector, until he was approached by Uber in the fall of 2013. DG for someone else; if I’m not in business, I’m not interested. Talking to other CEOs that Uber has hired elsewhere, I immediately understood that it didn’t work. You look like an entrepreneur in a start-up. ” Most CEOs have a profile similar to Jean-Nicolas, with business training and business experience.
Jean-Nicolas began working at Uber, 3 days before the launch on November 13, 2013. “We were just 2 at the start for the launch in Montreal, along with a colleague from Toronto with experience in launching cities.”
Uber’s entrepreneurial culture
Uber has a typical West Coast business culture in America: initiative, quick decision-making and action, aggressive marketing, pressure to always be “first-mover” and user-and-data-centric development.
Until 2013, Uber was actually organized like a start-up with employees taking on all sorts of functions: the company’s COO (Ryan Graves) took care of HR, operations, management growth and launch in cities.
However, with rapid growth since the beginning of the year and hiring several senior vice-presidents (Ex: David Plouffe, former campaign manager of Barack Obama), Uber needs to be careful not to lose its entrepreneurial spirit: “If you want Uber to continue to be successful, you need to let the contractors you hire do their job. If you tell me how to run my business, it won’t work. ”The feeling of being among the CEOs of each city is very strong:“ I don’t make a difference between what I’m doing right now for Uber and what what I used to do in my business. For me, Uber is my business. “
There is no doubt that with its 500 employees at headquarters (the rest are distributed in 207 cities), size is starting to pose a challenge in maintaining the initial start-up culture.
Strong growth in Montreal
When it launched in Montreal, Uber had one of the highest adoption rates of the 49 other cities where the company had previously launched. This is explained by having a very strong base of technophiles who had already used the application in other cities, before it was launched in Montreal.
Uber does not buy media in Montreal to promote its service. The only form of advertising is to be defined by its users. However, it is a mix of media relations and referrals that increases demand in Montreal. “We have a long way to go in terms of notoriety in Canada compared to the United States. In the US market, there are 1,000 articles a week about Uber in the media, while in Canada it’s like 3 articles a week. ”
So far, the company has benefited from the controversy that has emerged in most of the cities where it has established itself. Last June, taxi drivers went on strike in several major cities in Europe including London, where the event generated an 850% increase in app downloads in just one day!
“Our marketing strategy is not in the direction of traditional marketing. The product experience is what matters. Once you’ve tried it, you’ve adopted it. We give people what they’ve wanted to have for decades. The taxi has had the industry for a very long time without service. The number of complaints about taxi drivers that appeared in the media in September confirms this fact. “
The rapid growth is also explained by the fact that, unlike previous cities, Uber decided to enter the Montreal market only with its taxi service, as opposed to the luxury car (“Black car”) . The taxi is more popular than the limousine, so normally the demand is stronger in the beginning.
The reason for this choice was largely motivated by the fact that the number of limousines available in Montreal is low compared to other major cities in North America. And most of these vehicles are concentrated at the Montreal airport. “We receive a few emails per week from users who want this type of service, but currently we are unable to serve Montrealers.”
Finally, Jean-Nicolas added a few key factors behind Uber’s growth in Montreal:
– mobile payment through the application, which does not yet exist in Montreal
– the waiting time for a car (on average 3 min), which is reduced due to the ease of use of the mobile application
– the response time to problems experienced by users within 6 hours (via email only)
With its offer in the taxi segment, Jean-Nicolas wants to expand the market of monthly taxi users. Uber has already contributed to the growth of taxi usage by:
– the frequency of monthly use within the segment that already uses a taxi and has a smartphone
– the acquisition of new taxi users, ie, those who have smart phones and have not used a taxi before
A sense of accomplishment
In the nearly a year spent developing parts of the Montreal market, Jean-Nicolas acknowledges that there is still a long way to go, but he believes he has already started the revolution: “I haven’t had so much energy yet! I have no doubt that Uber is changing the transportation industry. It’s nice to be a part of that. ”
“Our goal in 5 to 10 years is to create, along with other means of transportation, a unique offer of sustainable mobility for Montrealers. You can take the metro and Bixi to go to work, but if you take Car2Go to have a drink, you will probably come back in a taxi. ”
1 This figure is an estimate made by industry observers. Uber did not disclose its results.