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商业 - 科技

它的创始人现在个个身家50亿美元:Uber最真实的创业史

Adam Lashinsky 2015年06月14日

风靡世界的打车软件Uber刚刚度过5岁生日。最早加入的5名员工近日回顾了Uber的创业史,真实地向我们展示了他们是如何加入这家公司,创业初期的任务是什么,以及如何管理业务的迅猛增长,如何应对监管挑战的。

    Uber首席执行官特拉维斯•卡拉尼克在公司创业早期。

    莱恩•麦基伦是Uber的第二位工程师。他是从格拉维斯那里知道这家公司的。格拉维斯和他一样都毕业于迈阿密大学俄亥俄分校,两人是在旧金山认识的。当时,Uber从另一家名叫Zozi的创业公司那里租用了一小块办公室。

    最终,我们在他们的办公室租了一间小会议室,就是用玻璃幕墙隔开的那种。那张桌子几乎和房间一般大。我还记得到公司的第一天早上,刚跨过门槛,我就注意到了堆在桌子上的一摞书,都是关于计算机科学、编程和数据库的。它们都是原装的,连封皮都没撕。还有一本破破烂烂的书看来已经被翻阅了无数次。我说的第一句话就是:“嘿,康拉德,为啥桌上还有一本西班牙语辞典呢?”他看着我说:“因为代码是用西班牙语写的。欢迎来到Uber。”

    奥斯汀•盖特是从实习生的身份加入Uber的。最终她干了非常多的工作,成了Uber开辟新市场的“剧本”专家。

    当时我刚出校门,正在找工作,经济环境也很不景气。我在Twitter上随机关注了一些科技界的人。后来我看到了几条关于Uber的推文,可能是贾森•卡拉坎尼斯发的吧,看起来很有意思。我听说他们正在招实习生,于是我找到了莱恩•格拉维斯,他当时正担任Uber的CEO。我对他说:“你必须给我一次机会。”

    那是2010年的8月。很快他就打来电话:“先回答几个问题吧。”我尝试着给出自己的答案。我喜欢看Uber今天的样子。然后他很快说:“你为什么不来一趟?”然后我就去见了他们。

    当时他们正在借用Zozi公司的办公室,空间很紧张。我去见了他们。我不记得当时我们谈了什么,但氛围很随和,我喜欢这一点。我记得那天我打扮得非常正式,但是他们都是一副书呆子的样子。

    当时我心想:“这些家伙真酷,对他们的事业充满激情,他们的产品也非常有意思。”所以我诚恳地请求格拉维斯给我一次机会,他答应了。老实说,我其实并不是非常够格。前几个月挺煎熬的,我做得也不是很好。但即便是在我还比较生疏的时候,他们也没有放弃我,直到我渐渐熟悉了业务。

    我是个实习生,所以我的工作也不是很固定。我记得我曾在莫斯康会展中心门口发过传单,但是没人想接。我也给Yelp上的很多司机做过电话推销。后来第一个支持我们的司机来了。当时我就觉得:“我能行。”早些时候我们也试过电话支持,那些电话会直接转到我的手机上。如果我没接,它就会转到格拉维斯的手机上。如果格拉维斯也没接,就会转到特拉维斯的手机。但随后,有人在凌晨三点打电话说,“我打不着车了。”于是我们关掉了电话支持功能。总之一开始的时候,这就是我能够做出的贡献。

    由于当时我是刚出校门的菜鸟,我一度觉得自己写不出一封得体的邮件。然后我很快意识到:“噢,大家都是写到哪算哪。”在一家创业公司里,没人知道他们自己在干什么。自从我对这一点产生了信心以后,我的工作很快就上手了。

    当我们开始得到用户的支持时,我想:“好吧,我要做所有的支持工作。”我承担了博客社区管理方面的工作和许多琐碎的事务。然后我们负责司机运营的人从公司离职了。他们说:“奥斯汀,你能把这一块的工作也兼了吗?”我说:“当然可以。”于是从那时起,我开始负责管理与合作伙伴的关系。

    当时我们做的还仅仅是礼宾车这一块。有一次我去接客户,我正好陪他走出来,结果看到他走进一辆粉色的克莱斯勒Caravan里。我想:“我们以后最后提前做一下车辆检查。”

    每次我在一个城市做推广时,我把我做的每件事都做了笔记,那就是我们最初的一个非常草率的“剧本”。后来每到一个城市,我都会修改“剧本”,使它变得更高效。他们说:“为什么你不招聘一些推广人员呢?”最终我大概招聘了50人。我的态度是:“寻求宽恕。”我负责了这次大扩张。

    Ryan McKillen was Uber’s second engineer. He learned about the company from Graves, a fellow alumnus of Miami University of Ohio whom he’d gotten to know in San Francisco. The company was using a small amount of office space from another startup called Zozi.

    Somehow we ended up in a tiny conference room in their office, this glassed-in little conference room. The table was about as big as the room. On the morning of my first day I remember crossing the threshold of the door and noticing this stack of books on the table. All these computer science books, programming, databases, all this stuff. They’re pristine—the bindings on the books had never been broken. And there’s this one tattered book on the table that looks like it’s gotten all kinds of love, a lot of use. And so, first thing I say is, “Hey, Conrad, why is there a Spanish-to-English dictionary on the table?” And he looks back up at me and goes, “Well, Ryan, because the code is written in Spanish. Welcome to Uber.”

    Austin Geidt started at Uber as an intern. Eventually she’d do so many jobs that she’d be the expert on Uber’s “playbook” for opening new markets.

    I was out of school. I was looking for jobs. It was a bad economy. I was following a few random tech people on Twitter, and I think it was from Jason Calacanis, but I saw some tweets about Uber, and it looked interesting. I heard they were looking for an intern, and so I reached out to Ryan Graves, who was CEO at the time, and basically was like, “You’ve got to give me a shot.”

    This was in August of 2010. And he called me pretty immediately. He said, “Answer a few questions for me.” I put together a little deck of some sort. I’d love to see today what it looks like. And then, pretty immediately, he was like, “Why don’t you come on in?” And then I met with them.

    They were sharing Zozi’s office. They had very little space at the time. I met them. I don’t remember what we talked about but it was very casual. I liked that. I remember that I came very overdressed and they were just, like, these nerdy guys.

    I remember thinking, “These guys are really cool, they’re really passionate about what they’re doing. Their products are really interesting.” And so I pleaded [to Graves] and he gave me a shot. I wasn’t super-qualified at the time, to be completely honest. It was a struggle for the first couple of months. I didn’t do super well, but they kind of hung on to me while I was green until I got the hang of it.

    I was an intern, so the job wasn’t very defined. I remember handing out flyers at the Moscone Center that no one wanted. I remember cold-calling drivers off of Yelp. Then our first support ticket came in. I was like, “I got this.” And we experimented with phone support early, which just went to my phone. If I didn’t pick up, it went to Graves’s phone, and then to Travis down the line. But then I would get calls at 3 a.m. saying, “I can’t get a car.” So we shut that down. But in the beginning, it was just kind of making up value where I could find it.

    I was so green out of school that I thought I didn’t know how to write a proper email. Then I quickly learned: “Oh, everyone’s kind of making this up.” In a start up, no one knows what they’re doing. As soon as I got confident on that, I was pretty much off to a running start.

    When we started getting support, I was like, “All right, I’m going to do all the support.” I took on the community-management side of blogging and whatnot. And then our driver operations guy left the company. They said, “Austin, can you take this along with what you’re doing?” And I said, “Sure.” And so then I was managing relations with partners.

    Remember, we were just limos at the time, right? And so I remember onboarding someone. I happened to walk him out and see that he was in, like, a pink [Chrysler] Caravan, and I was like, “Oh, we should probably do vehicle checks going forward.”

    I took notes on everything that I was doing as I was launching a city. It kind of became a very sloppy version of our first playbook. And then each city I would go to thereafter, I would try and refine it, make it more efficient, just streamline this process. Then they said, “Okay, why don’t you hire a couple of launchers?” I ultimately hired about 50. My attitude was, “Ask for forgiveness.” I managed the expansion.

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