From Eureka Moment to World Domination: A Timeline of Uber’s Aggressive Expansion | Uber
The Uber files show how the taxi app has bulldozed into cities around the world through a combination of lobbying, manipulating technology, fighting regulations and exploiting drivers.
The leak of more than 124,000 documents to the Guardian, shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, sheds light on when Uber was most aggressive: between 2013 and 2017.
Here, we trace the company’s history from the scrappy beginning co-founded by Travis Kalanick to the humble tech giant of today.
2008: A cold night in Paris
The idea for the ride-sharing business came “on a cold winter evening in Paris,” as Uber’s website will recount, when entrepreneurs and computer engineers Kalanick and Garrett Camp were unable to catch a cab. “That’s when the idea of Uber was born.”
The company is founded in San Francisco as UberCab. In the company’s first pitch deck for investors, Kalanick and Camp outline a professional car service that would provide a faster luxury alternative to taxis and could be hailed via a mobile app.
2010: The first cars hit the road in San Francisco
Kalanick is named CEO of Uber. On July 5, the company receives its first carpool request and the cars hit the road in San Francisco. UberCab is immediately ordered to cease and desist or face fines or even jail time.
2011: New York launch
Uber launches in New York and faces strong opposition. It closes a Series A funding round that values it at $60 million. It launches in France, its first expansion outside the United States.
2012: To London and Amsterdam
Uber’s first trip to London took place in June 2012, making the UK Uber’s second largest European market. Uber is launching in Amsterdam, its third European city and the headquarters of Uber’s European operations. As of October 2012, Uber had a presence in 20 locations, according to its website.
Uber is launching in more than 40 new locations around the world. New countries include Italy, Germany, China, India and Russia. There are launches in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, marking its first African presence.
2014 : God View controversy and rape case in Delhi
The former collaborator of Barack Obama, David Plouffe, is hired to lead the political team in August. In November, an Uber executive was investigated for using God View – a tool that allows him to monitor the movements of any customer – on a journalist. In December, Uber raises $1.2 billion and is valued at $40 billion. Currently, Uber claims to operate in 250 locations worldwide. Days later, an Uber driver rapes his passenger and the company is banned in Delhi. Uber is launching in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and Spain but has seen its operations suspended in the latter after a series of protests from taxi associations.
2015 : Kill Switch deployed as Amsterdam offices raided
Uber offices in Amsterdam are raided for operating illegally. The company deploys a regulatory evasion tool called a “kill switch” that cuts off access to computers when authorities enter offices. Anti-Uber protests in France erupt into violence as taxi drivers attack drivers believed to work for Uber. A group of American drivers is filing a class action lawsuit against Uber and competitor Lyft, claiming they are wrongly classified as independent contractors and should instead be treated as employees.
The company claims to have made 1 billion trips worldwide since its launch in 2010. Uber Eats, its take-out delivery service, is debuting in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
2016: Sale in China
In August, Uber sells its China operations to Didi, the first major retreat for a company seeking expansion. In September, Uber launches its first self-driving car pilot in Pittsburgh, then rushes to launch a self-driving pilot in San Francisco in December that is quickly shut down for not seeking city approval.
2017: Annus horribilis
Uber is facing a backlash for failing to stop rising prices during a protest against the Trump administration’s Muslim ban, prompting the public to scrap Uber. A few weeks later, former Uber employee Susan Fowler publishes a blog post detailing the sexism and harassment she encountered at the company.
Many other corporate infractions come to light, resulting in the departure of several executives. Google is suing Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets from its self-driving arm. Uber hires former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate all of the company’s issues. Holder and his law firm recommend that Kalanick be removed from his responsibilities. Kalanick resigns. Dara Khosrowshahi is hired. Uber posts a net loss of $4.5 billion.
2018: Take-out, Google settlement, 10 billion trips
Uber is selling its Southeast Asian branch to rival Grab a year after selling its Russian business to fellow competitor Yandex. Settles Google’s $245 million trade secret theft lawsuit. The company claims to have doubled its trips in just over a year, from 5 billion on May 20, 2017 to 10 billion on June 10, 2018.
Uber fell 7.6% on its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange on May 10, 2019. It claims to have reached 111 million active users in the last quarter of 2019, made 6.9 billion trips during this year and have 3.8 million drivers worldwide.
In the months following the IPO, Kalanick sold more than $2.5 billion in Uber stock and resigned from the board.
2020: Self-driving sale
Uber is selling its self-driving arm to startup Aurora, ending its longstanding ambitions to develop a vehicle that could replace drivers. Uber is acquiring delivery competitor Postmates and merging it with its Uber Eats operation, signaling the company’s decision to prioritize food delivery. Uber and its gig-economy counterparts are spending more than $220 million to push a ballot in California that would allow the company to continue treating its drivers like contractors, breaking the record for money spent on a single vote initiative in the state.
2021: Record the number of active users
The company claims to have a record 118 million active users. In a blow to Uber’s fight to preserve its model of using a freelance workforce, a UK court is forcing the company to treat its drivers as employees.
2022: Uber files published
The Uber files expose 18.7GB of files showing the taxi company’s extensive lobbying effort at a key time in its development. Uber posted another loss – of $5.9bn (£4.9bn) – in its latest quarterly report. As of this writing, the company claims to have operations in 1,200 locations worldwide.