Watch out, taxi cabs: Uber army growing to 800 strong

Travis Kalanick is a startup warrior who fearsomely defends his company against all who challenge it.

The CEO of Uber revealed the next stage of his battle plan while speaking at a Lean Startup event held by 500 Startups and Eric Ries at SXSW in Austin. Kalanick said he plans to quadruple the size of his staff in the next year, growing from 200 to 800 members, and continue global expansion.

Uber is a car service that books luxury taxi rides on demand from smartphones. The transactions are completely done through the mobile app, which helps get around the tangled web of transportation regulations.

While users love it, Uber has had to defend itself from day one. Cab services are heavily regulated in America, and many transportation agencies and city councils said Uber is illegal because it results in unlicensed cabbies to drive a taxi. Kalanick has fought for the right to operate around the country, facing challenges in California, Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago.

This week at SXSW, Austin’s City Council tried to shut Uber down, and Kalanick responded by offering the service for free. SideCar, another ride-sharing app, is doing the same. The municipal complaint is that services like these detract revenue from the city-licensed cab drivers, but efforts to uphold the hegemony of taxis are eroding as startups like Uber, SideCar, and Zimride/Lyft continue to acquire customers and enter new markets.

Kalanick his known for espousing the mantra of “ask for forgiveness, not for permission.” His company is now in 30 cities around the world, and he is fighting battles in half of them, although he doesn’t seem to mind.

“Competition is fun,” he said at TechCrunch Disrupt 2012. “If there isn’t competition, what is the freaking purpose? Let’s have some fun and make the world a better place at the same time. You have to be fighter, you have to be a warrior, and if not, you should go do something that is a little less disruptive. I’m bringing it, I’m not sleeping. If the other guy is sleeping, I am going to kick his ass.”

Soon there will be 800 in his army, not to mention the thousands they shepherd around, to keep fighting the good fight — or in this case, the good drive.

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