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Uber – 41 Lessons from a $40bn Phenomenon [Wired Speed Summary]

Here’s a speed summary of the cover story of the June 2015 edition of Wired Magazine offering 40 lessons from big industry leaders – including Richard BransonClayton Christensen, and Rachel Botsman – on what businesses can learn from the poster child of digital disruption – Uber: “Love it? Hate it? Uber – 41 Lessons from a $40bn Phenomenon“.

The article actually contains just 12 big lessons, broken down into sub points.  Worth reading in entirety (love the acronym of WEIRD markets – and the challenges of expanding beyond them – Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic), but for the time-pressed here’s the summary of what the Good and the Great have to say on what we need to learn from Uber, the biggest Unicorn on the planet – valued at over $40bn.

  1. Disruptive innovation is still a killer business model (technology is rarely disruptive, business models are – such as the marketplace model of Uber) – Clayton Christensen, Harvard
  2. Do one thing really well – then figure out what the second leap is – Josh Elman, Greylock
  3. Free agents are the future (If you want loyalty, get a dog – Uber drivers are free agents, monetising their car with multiple apps) [You can buy people’s attention ($500 bonus to Lyft drivers switching to Uber), If you start with a price – stay with price, When rates drop, will drivers follow? Be flexible, and follow demand, Diversify and keep your options open] – Harry Campbell, The Rideshare Guy
  4. Expand quickly, efficiently and effectively  [Put users first, Hire an operations wizard, Partner up, Don’t push your suppliers too far, Adapt your products, Defend your margins, A good product sells itself, Control pricing, Expand fast, Keep it simple] – George Berkowski, former product head, Hailo
  5. Make a habit out of your productNir Eyal, author
  6. If individuals are willing to leverage their assets, the whole world can benefit (asset 1: Home (AirBnB, asset 2: car (Uber), asset 3: bank balance (Funding Circle) [hat tip to Julian Grainger] [Accountability is king, Private data can offer social good, The sharing economy is good for cities] – Carlo Ratti, MIT
  7. Successful products spring from a passion to improve people’s livesRichard Branson, entrepreneur
  8. Disruption gets results, but you also need to be liked – Uber could learn from Microsoft – to be respected and feared is not enough… You need to be liked – Russell Davies, Government Digital Service
  9. Supply and demand doesn’t justify everything – If Apple couldn’t get away with surge pricing for iPhones in 2007 ($599 for first two-month orders), can Uber? – Tim Harford, FT
  10. Keep your app design simple, consistent and user-friendly [Keep it consistent, Be distinct, Style it out] Harry Pearce, Pentagram
  11. Sometimes it pays to play safe (make safety a priority, to fight the disruptive fight from the moral high ground)  John Fingleton, regulation consultant
  12. Collaborate, disrupt, but also promote trust (Uber will need to build trust with drivers, passengers and new users of its ‘mobility infrastructure’) – [It’s the data stupid, Fix what’s broken, Keep the liquid flowing, Loyalty is power, Protect your people] Rachel Botsman, thought leader

Uber Story

wired cover

Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
Join the discussion

  • I recently researched the Uber phenomenon, and I concluded that these guys did everything right. Uber is a leading company in the transportation market. Uber has created an excellent business strategy and set an excellent pace for competitors in the transportation industry. I think that competitors will not be able to overtake the results of the company shortly.

  • Thank you for the great article. This information helped me a lot in my work. I hope you will continue in the same spirit. All the best and good luck!

Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.