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Here comes the real test for Uber, a mobile application for ordering your own town car — the company just announced that it’s launching in New York City.
Until now, Uber has only operated in San Francisco (where it started) and Silicon Valley, but the company needs to show that the concept works outside the San Francisco Bay Area. On one hand, New York’s size and density make it a great target, but on the other, when Uber started hinting at its expansion plans, TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld noted that there’s a key difference between the San Francisco and New York markets: “Unlike San Francisco, you can actually hail a cab on most street corners [in New York], and there are plenty of car services in the outer boroughs.” San Francisco is also a famously small city, geographically speaking, so it could be harder for an Uber driver to pick everyone up in new York without long delays.
Still, I’ve found Uber to be pretty indispensable since I started using it a few months ago. Yes, riding in a town car is nicer than a cab, and paying in the app is easier than searching my wallet for cash or waiting for the driver to scan my credit card. But the key differentiator is reliability — Uber uses GPS to locate a driver nearby and estimate when they’ll arrive.
It will also be interesting to see how different cab driving communities respond to the company. The company received cease-and-desist orders from California and San Francisco agencies for acting too much like a taxi service. (Uber has since responded to the letters and also changed its name from UberCab.) After New York, the company has mentioned plans to expand to Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and Washington, D.C. in the future.
Uber recently raised an $11 million round from Benchmark Capital and previous investors First Round Capital, Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital, and the Founder Collective.