When Rachel Holt joined Uber in 2011 to run the company’s small Washington, D.C., arm, the concept was relatively modest: to match corporate-oriented “black car” limousine services with customers during downtimes (when drivers would otherwise be idle). But then the business started changing fast—a hallmark of Uber’s rise.
“One of the things that really sets Uber apart is our willingness to disrupt ourselves,” Holt said at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in November. “Back when we launched [less-expensive ride-share service] Uber X, we were a black-car product, and tons of people were like, ‘Are you crazy? You’re lowering the price. You’re cutting your margins. Why wouldn’t you keep the high-margin product?’ Everything I learned [in business school] also said to keep the high-margin product. But we realized that if we weren’t going to do it, someone else was going to. We wanted to be the ones.
“So we’ve now done that in big ways quite a few times, whether it was Uber X coming in and disrupting Uber Black, or [carpooling service] Uber Pool disrupting Uber X, or some of the work that we’re looking into with autonomous vehicles. For us, it’s about lowering costs, making it more convenient, or making pickup times faster. The product and service have evolved a ton for both riders and drivers.”