E180: Travis Kalanick of Uber on This Week in Startups




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What do you do when you can’t hail a cab? Travis Kalanick wasn’t about to wait around–instead, he founded Uber, a totally new way to get a sweet ride to you in seconds. On this episode of TWiST, Travis talks starting up from an early age, the legal battles he’s faced as a founder and one particularly scary run in with a thug. Don’t miss this one!

0:00-2:00 Welcome to TWiST with Travis Kalanick of Uber.
2:00-3:30 Jason talks about gambling on dinner in Vegas with Mike D from the Beastie Boys.
3:30-5:00 Thank you to GoToMeeting for sponsoring the show. Check out their beautiful new HD Faces product when you sign up at GoToMeeting.com.
5:00-7:00 Travis talks about his first company, doing SAT Prep, when he was 18.
7:00-8:30 Travis’ SAT score revealed!
8:30-10:30 Travis’s second company, Scour, was the first peer-to-peer software.
10:30-11:45 Discussion of early peer-to-peer software.
11:45-15:30 Travis talks about Michael Ovitz and Ron Burkle, who invested in his first company.
15:30-18:30 Travis discusses how Scour evolved into a huge platform.
18:30-23:30 Scour starts to meet with music execs and senators about copyrighted content and peer-to-peer sharing.
23:30-25:30 How do you deal with all of this insanity as a 22 year old founder?
25:30-26:15 Ovitz invested in Scour, a company that is cannibalizing his own industry, then denies that he knew what was going on.
26:15-28:00 Thank you to Hiscox for sponsoring the show. Go to HiscoxUSA.com/SmallBiz to get a free, fast quote online for your small business or startup!
28:00-35:00 Travis tells a harrowing tale of getting threatened by a shady industry type before going on stage at one of Jason’s digital coast events.
35:00-36:00 The Scour lawsuit is settled and Travis sells the company for $10 million in bankruptcy court.
36:00-38:00 Do you remember the first mp3 players?
38:00-40:00 Red Swoosh, in which Mark Cuban was an investor, was too early to market. Travis describes that time as blood, sweat and ramen.
40:00-42:00 Travis explains how he and Mark went on a week long flame war about P2P being crap.
42:00-42:30 So you sold the company to Akamai a few years later?
42:30-43:45 How did you and Garrett come up with Uber while at Le Web in Paris?
34:45-46:00 How does Uber work?
46:00-47:00 Travis says there are going to be more Uber cars than towncars in each city.
47:00-48:30 Travis: Successful entrepreneurs can get their first round of funding done very fast.
48:30-50:00 How do you know when you actually have a good idea?
50:00-54:30 The State of California and City of San Francisco sued to shut Uber down. Why?
54:30-56:30 Uber changes the driver/passenger relationship by establishing names, rating system.
56:30-58:00 Uber has experimented with variable pricing on NYE.
58:30-59:45 So you raised a round from Benchmark Capital for $11 million?
59:45-01:00:00 Travis describes what it was like meeting with Benchmark.
01:00:00-01:03:15 What is the future of Uber?
01:03:15-01:05:00 Jason tells about when he realized Uber was a $1B company.
01:05:00-01:07:00 Why is Uber going to work in NYC?
01:07:00-01:10:00 Joseph Park, what happened to you?
01:10:00-01:15:00 Why can’t it be ‘push a button, get bagels and lox’?
01:15:00-01:16:00 What is the perfect addition to the service?
01:16:00-01:17:00 Travis explains what the traveling salesman problem is all about.
01:17:00-01:19:00 Uber jets–it that going to happen?
01:19:00-01:20:00 Thanks for joining us Travis, continued success. Remember to check out Uber in Chicago, Boston and DC when they launch in a few months! And if you’re an awesome business or sales person, email travis@uber.com.


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Jason: @jason
Tyler: @steepdecline
Travis: @travisk
Uber: @uber

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Executive Producers


Associate Producers

  • Brad Pineau
  • Kat Ganesan
  • Nicholas Christian
  • Mau Frontier
  • Kyle Braatz
  • Serena Ehrlich
  • Nathan Hangen
  • Lauri Hahne
  • JD
  • Trudy Baidoo
  • Ian Gerstel
  • Julian Hearn
  • Alex Lotoczko
  • James Kennedy
  • Benoit Curdy
  • Asher Nevins
  • Mike Kaltschnee
  • Paul Higgins
  • William Doom
  • David Lee
  • Jake Kerber
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  • Giuseppe Taibi
  • Tyrone Rubin
  • Keno Vigil
  • Paul Peters
  • Jamal Waring
  • Nick Ostroff
  • Alex Binkley
  • Tom Altman
  • John MP Knox
  • Zon Petilla
  • Bryan McCormick
  • Marcos Trinidad


  • Ryan Hoover
  • Michael Cranston
  • Josiah Thomas
  • João Fernandes
  • Petrus Theron
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  • Adrian Grant
  • Dale Emmons
  • Kieran McGrady
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  • C. Dain Miller
  • Joshua Opatz
  • Milan Babuskov
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  • Nelson Melo
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  • Priidu Kull
  • Marc Kohlbrugge


  • Carmen Harvey

Broke-Ass Fans

  • Alexander Hektor
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more episodes

  • tom

    love the twist shows! peace from israel

  • Another great episode. In the Netherlands we need more on-demand services such as uber and taskrabbit.com. Greetings from The Netherlands

  • Manny

    Wow jason great interview with travis, amazing stories and what a cool idea uber is. Well done!

  • Tunji_tq

    instant classic!

  • Prop betting on who’s Entre is coming out next. I LOVE IT

  • Excellent episode.  Thanks!

  • BTW At minute 120 there was an expletive in the closing song.  You may want to remove that for iTunes like you discussed in the episode.  

  • Jason,

    This was, hands down, my favorite TWiST episode so far, and I’ve listened to a little over half of them.  
    Travis: When Uber comes to Chicago, I’m in.

  • Tim Altman

    great show

  • Monicakelly415

    Signing up for Uber while watching this. The idea rocks my world as a San Francisco native with no car. I am telling everyone I know to sign up asap. Great episode.

  • One of the best TWiST episodes!!! Hands down!!