The Council That Kicked The Hornet's Nest — Why TODAY Matters for Start-Ups

206 Comments


This man hates you and your start-up.

7/10/12 UPDATE: DC Shelves Uber Amendment After Backlash from CEO and Customers. My dear readers, you all ROCK. Truly well done. It is a bright day for start-ups, and thank you for your support :)

Hi All,

This short post is more like a personal letter, because I just came across something that made me very angry. Namely, a tweet from my bud, Kevin Rose:

Wow, a business (Uber) is prevented from lowering its prices.. wait.. what? We live in America, right?
http://tcrn.ch/NfYOT3

In full disclosure, I’ve been an advisor to Uber from the beginning. They’re amazing. I work with 20+ start-ups because I enjoy helping entrepreneurs who want to change the world. Small-business founders are the value creators of our economy. Period, end of story.

But sometimes the corrupt (often with a track record) try to stifle the little guys. Incumbents don’t like to compete. They enjoy their defacto monopolies, are accustomed to bilking customers at will, and don’t want to change things…

Pardon my Long Island French, but here’s how I feel: Fuck those guys.

Protecting the status quo doesn’t impress me. In fact, it really pisses me off.

The last time I implored you to spend a few minutes to change laws, we helped successfully ban the distribution and sale of shark fins in Washington and California, the latter being the largest importer of shark fins in the United States.

YOUR TINY ACTIONS, PUT TOGETHER, CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS.

Below is a snapshot of the Uber situation from the TechCrunch article, and I have a little ask at the end. It’ll get you some good karma:

The Council’s intention is to prevent Uber from being a viable alternative to taxis by enacting a price floor to set Uber’s minimum fare at today’s rates and no less than 5 times a taxi’s minimum fare. Consequently they are handicapping a reliable, high-quality transportation alternative so that Uber cannot offer a high quality service at the best possible price. It was hard for us to believe that an elected body would choose to keep prices of a transportation service artificially high – but the goal is essentially to protect a taxi industry that has significant experience in influencing local politicians. They want to make sure there is no viable alternative to a taxi in Washington DC, and so on Tuesday [today!], the DC City Council is going to formalize that principle into law.

Take Action

THE COUNCIL VOTES ON THE UBER AMENDMENT [TODAY]!

If each of us writes or calls our DC Council people, we could make an impact on this law. What are we asking for?

Strike down the MINIMUM FARE language from the Uber Amendment.

Here are the City Council members’ contact info. Call/write as many of them as possible!

[7/10/12 UPDATE: No need to call or email anymore! DC Shelves Uber Amendment After Backlash from CEO and Customers.]

Phil Mendelson (Chairman), (202) 724-8064, pmendelson@dccouncil.us
Mary Cheh, Ward 3, (Chairperson of Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation), (202) 724-8062, mcheh@dccouncil.us, @marycheh
Michael Brown, at-large, (202) 724-8105, mbrown@dccouncil.us, @cmmichaelabrown
Jim Graham, Ward 1, (202) 724-8181, jgraham@dccouncil.us, @jimgrahamward1
Jack Evans, Ward 2, (202) 724-8058, jevans@dccouncil.us, @jackevansward2
Muriel Bowser, Ward 4, (202) 724-8052, mbowser@dccouncil.us, @murielbowser
Kenyan McDuffie, Ward 5, (202) 724-8028, kmcduffie@dccouncil.us,@kenyanmcduffie
Tommy Wells, Ward 6, (202) 724-8072, twells@dccouncil.us, @tommywells
Yvette Alexander, Ward 7, (202) 724-8068, yalexander@dccouncil.us, @cmyma
Marion Barry, Ward 8, (202) 724-8045, mbarry@dccouncil.us, @marionbarryjr
David Catania, at-large, (202) 724-7772, dcatania@dccouncil.us, @cataniapress
Vincent Orange, at-large, (202) 724-8174, vorange@dccouncil.us, @vincentorangedc

Those of you who read this blog know that I never write posts like this.

But I take this attack on Uber as a DC government-condoned attack on start-ups. I view it as an entrenched middle finger from incumbents who aren’t willing to improve their product or lower prices. Instead, they resort to underhanded legal means to handicap innovation. It makes my blood boil.

So, here’s what I’m going to do.

1) I’m going to e-mail every one of the above people today and tell them to read this post. E-mail helps, but phone is better…

2) Personally, I’m going to call every one of them today and politely but firmly ask them to “strike down the MINIMUM FARE language from the Uber Amendment.” I will have my assistants do the same. This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes or so, but I won’t ask that of you…

3) I’m going to ask you all — the 1,000,000+ unique readers of this blog — to call as many of the above as possible. Let’s aim for the first four. But there’s more… Politely but firmly, get the name of the person you’re speaking with, tell them you’d like them to “strike down the MINIMUM FARE language from the Uber Amendment” and then ask them if they’re in favor of innovation or incumbents. Last, indicate that you’ll be putting their responses in the comments below.

7/10/12 UPDATE: DC Shelves Uber Amendment After Backlash from CEO and Customers. :)

This DC attack could set a horrible precedent for start-ups trying to improve any space with large incumbents. If you have a few minutes, please make one phone call. It will earn you positive karma… and the knowledge that you didn’t stand still and watch Goliath snuff out David with his thumb. There’s something real to be said for that.

Sorry for the rant, but this one is legitimate. To my mind, it cannot go unanswered.

Please spread the call to action far and wide. This is time-sensitive and needs to happen ASAP today.

Posted on: July 10, 2012.

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206 comments on “The Council That Kicked The Hornet's Nest — Why TODAY Matters for Start-Ups

  1. That’s some BS for sure. I use Uber all the time in Santa Monica and applaude them for reinventing an industry with a completely broken model. That price mandate is totally ridiculous. It blows my mind that this kind of garbage is even an issue. I’m writing the counsel members immediately.

    Like

      • Props to Mary for actually writing back:

        From: “Cheh, Mary (COUNCIL)”
        Subject: RE: Strike down the MINIMUM FARE language from the Uber Amendment.
        Date: July 11, 2012 11:56:28 AM PDT
        To: Elijah Szasz

        I very much share your enthusiasm for Uber. From the outset, I have wanted to ensure that Uber is able to continue operating legally in the District, and in truth, my amendment was actually meant to do just that. I think innovation is good, and I think that the District—with Captial Bikeshare, car2go, the Circulator, and Uber—is at the forefront of progressive transportation options. I am pleased to report that we were able to work something out that was satisfactory to both Uber and the Council, and I’ll be working to introduce more permanent legislation in the fall.

        Thanks for your note.

        Regards,

        Mary

        Like

    • Hey guys i didn’t know where to leave a comment like this but here it goes. I’m 19 and i have completed one year of college and i currently work a 9-5 at a bank and i can clearly see from all the other older employees that i do NOT want to go anywhere with banking. More importantly, i feel like this book was addressed to college GRADUATES working a 9-5 who want out of that lifestyle. Can someone give some input on whether or not a college degree is necessary to live a “4-hour workweek” lifestyle.

      Like

      • Even though this is the wrong place for this, no, you don’t need a college degree for a 4 hour lifestyle. In fact, I know several people who, without such a degree, have created sucessfull businesses.

        Like

      • Done!

        To all overseasERS .. This is how I chose to conclude my email:

        FYI
        Your name and response will be published in a blog of a 1,000,000 + readers.
        If you’ll ignore this email, your name will be published as the
        DC Council-member who chose to ignore my email.

        Best
        Shunit Cohen

        Like

    • I’m outside of the United States, but I emailed the first four and send tweets to the rest of them.

      Great initiative, Tim!

      Like

  2. Tim, I’ll be emailing from Australia. For too long have stale, old governments attempted to slow innovation. Disruption to old markets isn’t just a good thing, its necessary.

    Matt

    Like

  3. Hey Tim,

    Good article. I think with your influence and intelligence, you can really make a difference with some of these injustices. I’m the kind of guy who wishes that “The Newsroom” show on HBO was real. The majority of Americans need to wake up to this kind of government abuse. I’m having a problem with gaining funding for my concept that will change the world for the better… sharesobrietydotcom (it is in dev. phase, but their is a fully functioning social network under the Share tab) I just want a place for sober, or people who want to be sober, to share and chat when their are no AA meetings going on (i.e. late at night) I tried applying for kickstarter but I was denied due to technicalities. Do you know of any options? Thanks in advance and I’ll be calling those politicians tomorrow morning!

    Like

  4. Tim, when you mentioned a late-night rant via Twitter, I expected it to be an interesting read. This, however, is disgusting. Not that much our wonderful government does these days isn’t disgusting, but still. I will be emailing in the morning. As for calling, I’d rather leave that to Insultron (http://twitter.com/insultron), but I fear that will do more harm than good. I suppose I can save it until afterward, if this does pass into law.

    For anyone else here, please read the linked TechCruch article, as there are more details there. I think Tim has been very restrained and professional in this rant, so you should read the article to see just how bad this is. And please do your part to call them out on this.

    Like

  5. Emailed. Uber is awesome in SF!

    Can you create a link so people can sign up to protest? I think a million signatures will get more press coverage and pressure than 1M unread messages in their inbox.

    Like

  6. Dropped a few emails and as luck would have it my iMac’s sound decided not to work so I hope my 30 second silent call to Phil Mendelson. Was creepy enough to end this.

    Like

  7. Should this initiative fail, as an advisor to Uber perhaps the following might work:
    1) Uber charge the 5x minimum fare but at the same time show what the local taxi fare would be.
    2) Have a disclaimer that if you are not happy with the service / fare then pay what you think is appropriate (ie the local taxi fare).
    This way they are complying with the law but protecting consumer interests by allowing them the option to pay the lower fare. Tacitally everybody knows that they are charging the same but are being bartered down from a higher fare.

    Uber has only just launched in London and I’ve not had a chance to try it out. The biggest barrier here as far as I see is the drivers not having The Knowledge compared to black cab drivers.

    Like

    • I actually got a reply from one:

      Dan – Councilmember Evans is introducing an amendment that would have no minimum for Uber. We urge you to contact other Councilmembers, particularly your at-large Councilmembers to urge them to support this amendment.

      Schannette Grant on behalf of Jack Evans
      Chief of Staff

      Like

  8. Ok, so I sent them all emails (I’m Aussie btw). I doubt I’ll get a response so I thought I should paste the email here. The more people do this, the further this thread will travel and when the council sees this post they’ll look at the number of comments as a metric to gauge how much they have to lose on this issue.

    BTW Tim, have you considered have a section on this site to deal with entrepreneurship under attack? I know you don’t post this stuff often but I do enjoy hearing about cases like these and ways to stand up for things I believe in. Having a separate section is a bit like your policeman analogy, we can go there any time but you don’t have to stop traffic (pun intended) to get it to us.

    Thanks for letting me know about this and can you do a follow up on what happens?

    =======================================

    An Address To The Council:

    Please strike down the minimum fare language from the Uber amendment. Now is your chance to show you support innovation, entrepreneurship and the revival of the US economy. It’s about maintaining a system of meritocracy and a free market. It’s about representing the true interests of your constituents. In 100 years, when we’re all dusk and from then onwards what will your legacy be? Will you name be spoken of by your progeny with pride or will they avoid discussing you at all?

    In the end history will be your judge as surely as it is for Lincoln as surely as it is for Warren Harding. So, what’s it going to be? Today, are you going to be a Lincoln or a Harding? Do the right thing, sleep well at night and make your families proud – strike down the minimum fare language from the Uber amendment. Listen to that quiet voice in the back of your head that’s urging you to be a person of integrity, come what may.

    Thank you for your attention and kind regards,

    Christian Thurston

    Like

  9. Hate to be Captain Obvious… But this is nothing new and happens all the time. Welcome to America 2012 where we have been loosing control of our government for a decade but nobody gets angry until it affects them directly. Make yourself comfortable. We saved you a seat.

    Like

    • Yes Kelly, it does happen all the time and it is about time that it stops. The little people never had a voice this powerful before and it is getting more powerful by the year.

      Like

    • Dear Council Men and Women,

      I am writing today, asking that you strike down the MINIMUM FARE language from the Uber Amendment, being voted on today.

      Please see this post for a full explanation of my concerns.

      I would certainly appreciate a response to this e-mail and am interested to know whether you as a councilman or woman value innovation or incumbents? I will be publishing your response (by name) in the comments of the above referenced blog. I will take your failure to respond to mean that you value incumbents and have voted such.

      Sincerest thanks for your attention in this matter,

      Ryan Flynn

      Like

      • From Council Mary Cheh:

        “I very much share your enthusiasm for Uber. From the outset, I have wanted to ensure that Uber is able to continue operating legally in the District, and in truth, my amendment was actually meant to do just that. I think innovation is good, and I think that the District—with Captial Bikeshare, car2go, the Circulator, and Uber—is at the forefront of progressive transportation options. I am pleased to report that we were able to work something out that was satisfactory to both Uber and the Council, and I’ll be working to introduce more permanent legislation in the fall.”

        Like

  10. Emailed them all from London. Competition between ‘Black cabs’ (your standard ‘metered’ cab) and ‘Minicabs’ (set fares based on distance) here is fantastic for the consumer. To rule so severely against the competition reeks of kick-backs…

    Like

  11. Ever wonder why the Gree nline in Los Angeles does not go directly to LAX? Yup the taxi lobbyist worked long and hard to kill a subway line that you would actually use. Consider this priority one later today.

    Like

  12. It’s definitely a disgrace what they’re trying to do. I live in Belgium, but I’m definitely sending them an email.

    Startups rule the world!

    Like

  13. Hi Guys 

    Please bring in more car sharing transport options and allow innovation to change the industry 

    The whole taxi and car hire system needs a complete overhaul it’s antiquated and doesn’t reflect world we now live in or consumer demands 

    Perhaps you can issue Taxi corporations with car share and self drive taxi licences and plates

    Please remove the min fare conditions in the Über amendment 

    You need to promote innovation and new business ideas across all forms of transport 

    Thanks for making a change 

    Regards Andrew

    Like