If you live in one of 17 select major US cities, you might be familiar with Uber. Maybe you’ve even gotten a ride from one of their shiny black cars. If you’re in one of the cities that they haven’t expanded to (yet) maybe you’re not familiar- let me fill you in: It’s an uber fast, uber clean, uber safe car service that you can beckon quickly from your smartphone and get text updates as your fancy black car nears your location. This high tech startup has modernized the concept of a personal driver.
Today I attended the press lunch for Uber Phoenix at the beautiful Saguaro hotel in Scottsdale and learned more about the company, and got to mingle with some of the minds that make it all happen.
I was first greeted by Gabe, the community manager for Phoenix and his wife Chanelle who was photographing the event. Warm and inviting as always, they welcomed me and gave me the lay of the land. The event was informal, food and drinks were at the perimeter and the Uber movers and shakers were working the room. A projector flashed images of maps of major cities, some already inhabited by Uber, others that were on their way. Gabe and I chatted about his role, which is basically the Phoenix area go-to guy. There isn’t a national “customer service” number, and it’s actually a term they shy away from according to Matt Atkin. He says that they prefer a more relaxed, personal and real approach to keeping their clients happy, and that’s where Gabe shines.
I chatted it up with Blaine Light, Operations and Logistics manager. We talked about number crunching and all the crazy analytics that go into determining the locations of the drivers and how many to keep on hand. Some of the methods were unconventional, but interesting- Freakanomics, anyone? He assured me the Uber Blog was a good read. He was right.
One of the brains I picked was that of Austin Geidt, who seemed to be the only Uber-lady in attendance- after seeing her twitter bio in which she describes herself as “Estrogen of Uber” I’d guess I was probably right. She’s also the Launch Manager and New Market Specialist. We got to talking about safety, and both agreed that taxi cabs sometimes were more than a little sketchy. I was happy to hear that the drivers contracted by Uber are interviewed, vetted and continuously user-rated for quality, adding an extra layer of safety and accountability. If a driver’s user reviews aren’t top notch, they don’t continue the relationship. Geidt said that fortunately they haven’t had any safety issues with drivers and experience a very low number of fender benders. Definitely something to consider when contemplating the added expense of hiring an Uber driver versus dialing a traditional taxi.
Ryan Graves addressed the crowd from a pair of crutches. He thanked us all for coming expressed his excitement to enter our market. He also let us know his injury was from a surfing accident, which admittedly made him seem just that much cooler.
So now that you know how awesome the service is, I’m sure you’re dying to try it out. I don’t blame you. In honor of Uber’s Phoenix launch, which officially starts tomorrow, we have a little deal for you. Use this invite link to get $10 off your first ride. On that note, it’s not as expensive as I thought it was going to be. An airport ride I took using the service ran $35, and a taxi ride on the same route was about $19. Something to note is that the $19 taxi wasn’t a shiny black Escalade, they didn’t ask me what I wanted to listen to on satellite radio, they didn’t help me with my luggage and the taxi driver wasn’t in a suit. Plus, I didn’t feel like like a celebrity when I got out of the cab. Just sayin’.