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.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

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

  1. It’s fascinating how technology is shaping the socio-political landscape, facilitating voices worldwide as they champion a cause. Reddit recently crowdsourced the funds to put up a billboard denouncing Lamar Smith in his own hometown, who was the main proponent behind the SOPA bill. This is clearly just the tip of the iceberg as more and more people plug in.

    Congrats on defeating the amendment guys. Gotta love disruptive technologies- satisfying our innate desire to conquer, while liberating (as opposed to oppressing) the masses. What could be more alluring?

  2. Before I launch into this, let me say that I have nothing but love for Uber’s services. They’re fantastic, consistent, and reliable, their product rocks. Their DC team is nothing short of amazing, I know them personally and their incredible work warrants praise as well as appreciation.

    With that said, I have to say that many people on the web are grossly misinformed as to how this whole Uber thing went down. A hyperbolic letter launched from a CEO of a company to all of his users have cajoled a near social media riot begging for the blood of what many believe are corrupt DC bureaucrats who are supposedly stifling innovation in the city.

    Sorry to disappoint guys, but this is simply not the truth.

    http://inthecapital.com/2012/07/10/why-you-should-all-be-confused-on-the-uberdc-issue/

    A few facts:

    Uber and Councilmember Cheh (the one who drafted the amendment) had been working collaboratively on this amendment for a while to come to a consensus as to how they would keep this scrappy startup running in the city.

    Councilmember Cheh was also the first to come to Uber’s aid when the DC Taxi Commission attempted to shut them down, drafting a stirring letter to Ron Linton to allow the innovative livery service to continue operating in the city.

    Since that clash in Jan/Feb, the two have been working on amending city tax laws to create a new subset/category of transportation services that Uber can fit into. They are not technically a taxi service, therefore are not required to go through the same regulation process of one. They are considered a livery/limousine service in the city, therefore they require a certain price point as to not directly compete with other taxis. Okay, makes sense.

    Considering Uber was in the loop for this amendment, it makes little to no sense that they would email a letter the DAY BEFORE the hearing in protest rather than weeks before to effectively open discourse and dialogue with the city. I suppose social media and the denizens who lurk on Twitter looking for a cause are best used five minutes to midnight, something Travis (Uber’s CEO) hedged his bets on appropriately.

    Uber’s UberX program would drive prices so low they would be competing with local taxis, which is fine. Disruption = awesome. I’m all about a free market and having a better service/product rise to the top on it’s merits, but I also believe in due process and regulation. Uber had not gone through the same vetting process that many of these taxi services have, since they are still considered a livery service and not a taxi company. It’s like a doctor jumping from one specialty to another without applying for the right licenses, these laws are around for a reason. With that said, by creating UberX under the umbrella of their limousine classification, they would be circumventing numerous processes and laws that other companies have dished out buko bucks for to run their taxi businesses.

    Fair? Yeah, not really.

    So at the end of it all, this “dispute” over being forced to maintain a “fixed-price point” is simply the result of mixed messages and warping definitions to circumvent taxi regulations and laws.

    Should DC change it’s taxi laws? Hell yes. Taxi services blow in this city, and I should know because I live here. Do I use Uber like crazy? Yes, I love the quality they provide. But this should be done through the right channels with real conversation with city officials.

    Was that letter and subsequent social media meltdown necessary or appropriate, especially since it was directed at a woman who saved this company from the brink of being kicked out of the city?

    No.

    Hell no.

    Shady move on Uber’s part, all in the name of launching what could have been a great service had they taken the time to open honest dialogue and not use exaggerations and accusations to agitate the ire of online dummies against a government that’s already had a rough time with corruption.

    Not a good look for a startup with a great product, just sayin’.

    People of the internet: please educate yourself before you pick up the cause or mantel of some CEO who wrote a stirring letter.

  3. I believe that this type of un-ethical practice is illegal!

    Search Google for the following:

    wikipedia – United States antitrust law
    wikipedia – Sarbanes–Oxley Act

  4. response…

    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

  5. Got an extensive answer from the council member Mary Cheh. According to it they have reached the consesus with Uber and are working towards permanent solution to be made in the fall.

  6. Response from 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.

    Thanks for your note.

    Regards,

    Mary

  7. I go similar response from Mary.

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Cheh, Mary (COUNCIL) [mailto:MCheh@DCCOUNCIL.US]
    Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 11:06 AM
    To: Andrews, Ben B.
    Subject: RE: Uber Amendment

    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

  8. I think this company should be able to do what they want. They are setting a higher standard for chauffeured driving in big cities, and things like this should be forcing the cabs to hire people who can actually drive. They shouldn’t be stepped on because they are trying to do something right. Makes me not ever wanna take a cab again.

  9. Got the same response from 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.

    Thanks for your note.

    Regards,

    Mary”

  10. FYI – I just signed up for Uber in DC and plan on using it. It looks like the fight might not be over. There is still talking happening w/ Ms. Chen.

    “From: “Cheh, Mary (COUNCIL)”
    To:
    Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 3:29 PM
    Subject: RE: DC COUNCIL VOTES ON THE UBER AMENDMENT

    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”

  11. FYI, just received this response from Michael Brown:

    I am writing to thank you for contacting me and sharing your concerns regarding the Council of the District of Columbia’s proposed amendment mandating a minimum fare price for the Uber Car Service. In fact, I received hundreds of phone calls and over six thousand emails. More importantly, a great deal of the emails were in the form of personal notes from DC residents who have come to rely on Uber’s reliable, clean and professional service.

    As you know, I voted against the amendment, as proposed, which would have set a fare minimum upon the sedan service. Instead, I co-sponsored an amendment allowing Uber to operate legally until the Council takes future action.

    I believe healthy competition is good for business and as someone who has used Uber’s services, I have personally been satisfied with the product. However, there will be further Council discussions about Uber and their Uber X services and what regulations should be imposed upon them. In the fall, Councilmember Mary Cheh will hold a public roundtable for you to participate. This hearing provides you an opportunity to publicly voice your concerns, and provide valuable input toward the formulation of a final bill for the public vehicle-for-hire service industry in the District of Columbia.

    I welcome your attendance at this public hearing. The hearing will be held on September 24, 2012, 11:00 AM, at the John A. Wilson Buildings, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 500. Councilmember Mary M Cheh, Chairperson of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation will chair the hearing. The purpose of the hearing will be to discuss innovations in the public vehicle-for-hire industry, the implementation of the Taxicab Service Improvement Amendment Act of 2012, and Bill 19-892, the Sedan Class Amendment Act of 2012.

    The Committee invites the public to testify or to submit written testimony, which will be made a part of the official record. Anyone wishing to testify at the hearing should contact Ms. Aukima Benjamin, staff assistant to the Committee, at 202-724-8062, or via e-mail at abenjamin@dccouncil.us. Representatives of organizations will be given a maximum of five (5) minutes for oral presentation and individuals a maximum of three (3) minutes for oral presentations. Witnesses should bring 8 copies of their written testimony and submit a copy of their testimony electronically to abenjamin@dccouncil.us. If you are unable to testify at the hearing, you are encouraged to submit a written statement. Copies of written statements should be submitted either to the Committee on the Environment, Public Works, and Transportation , or to Ms. Nyasha Smith, Secretary of the Council, Room 5, John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004.

    Also, If you have any other issue you wish to discuss, don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Sincerely,

    Michael A. Brown
    Councilmember At-Large
    District of Columbia

  12. I want Uber to succeed as everybody here, lobbying in this country is alive and well and this is a fine example how politics is creating a sluggish economy. In a time when new an innovative ways are exactly what we need to keep our economy moving forward, so one day soon we (the American people) don’t find ourselves in a second rate country where China an India are where you will find innovative sprites thriving, while here we focus on ways protect our falling industries rather than promote new ones. We should be all ashamed to let the elected bodies rule for the few while they where appointed to serve the masses…

  13. Great job bringing this to our attention, Tim. Here in NYC taxi’s are constantly ripping us off and they get whatever they want from the gov’t without compassion for the consumer.

  14. This picture isn’t reminding me of a Fat Cat. Instead, I see an astute entrepreneurial Armenian in the free market.

    He may run a rug shop. Provide small loans to reputable debtors. Or, an Import/export business with his brothers. I like him. Except as a competitor.

    Maybe this is simply a stock image of a character actor that reflects my prejudices?

  15. Hi Tim,
    QUESTION- are you working on learning a foreign language?????? i heard you mention it a couple of times. i am interested in Spanish and bought Rosetta Stone and i like it but i like your style better!!!!!! YOU ROCK DUDE!!!!!
    THANKS. Leanne

  16. Hola Tim:

    “Quiero saber como difundir el mensaje de tu libro sin que me denuncies por publicitarlo sin permiso”.

    Quiero ser coacher de personas, y ayudarlas a alcanzar su sueño. Quiero que lean tu libro, y quiero poder hablar de tu libro en todas partes, en videos, en texto, en mis redes sociales (precisamente las quiero preparar contando con publicitar tu libro). ¿Como hacer esto de forma legal?

    También me gustaría saber cuantos libros has vendido en España y si estarías dispuesto a dejarme ser vendedor de tu libro o si ya te sobra el dinero, o simplemente no te hace falta más porque ya tienes la felicidad que necesitas, o simplemente no te interesa. Gracias por la respuesta.

    Un saludo. Iván Piñón.

    Si no me respondes. Creceré igual gracias a tí. Gracias

  17. Hi Tim,

    I have just started reading your book The 4-Hour Workweek, after following your blog for the passed three months. What I have read is simple and brilliant. About 1 minute ago I finished reading Fail Better by Adam Gottesfeld and decided to write to you as Im sure a load of people do at this part of your book.

    I have recently started a Kickstarter campaign and have realised in order to hit my target, my campaign is going to need to attract about 30,000 views. I have 28 days to get the word out to 30,000 people.

    How did you get such a big following on your blog in such a short period of time? From what I can see people crave for you to blog. How did you create that desire?

    Here’s the link for anyone that wants to view:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/954005590/mo-mug

    Best Regards
    Tony