A new pack of startups are giving everyday people a lifestyle upgrade. Want a personal assistant? Sign up for Fancy Hands and you can have an army of them starting at $25 per month. How about a personal chef? Call up Kitchit.
Uber wants to bring that sense of iPhone-enabled luxury to the urban transportation business. “Our motto is ‘everyone’s private driver’ and that is the experience that you get,” says Travis Kalanick, the CEO and Cofounder of the San Francisco startup.
Currently operating in nine cities including San Diego and Boston, Uber is an iPhone and Android app that calls you a car with the push of a button. Within minutes, a Lincoln Town Car or Mercedes S Class will arrive to take you wherever you want to go.
“It was a lifestyle thing,” says Kalanick of the idea behind the company. “Me, my cofounder, and our hundred friends could roll around San Francisco like ballers.”
Uber costs about 50 percent more than your average car service, Kalanick admits. That means a trip from Manhattan to JFK Airport will be at least $30 more expensive than a Yellow cab. But there are other conveniences, such as the app’s fast response time, automated payments, and a driver rating system.
“Uber is efficiency with elegance on top,” says Kalanick. “That’s why I buy an iPhone instead of an average cell phone, why I go to a nice restaurant and pay a little bit more. It’s for the experience.”
Convincing passengers to pay a higher price may be the easy part of the business, as it turns out. In the video, Kalanick says that the company faces a mess of different regulations and entrenched competitors as Uber expands to more cities. But with funding from Menlo Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Bezos Expeditions, Benchmark Capital and others, the company may be the equivalent of an armored limo.