Rachel Holt moved to Washington, D.C., to be with her boyfriend, who is now her husband. She answered a job listing to start Uber’s operations in the nation’s capital.
I got to D.C. on November 8th, 2011. We did our first ride on November 18th, 2011. So in 10 days, we sort of got everything fully spun off. In the beginning it was just me and another launcher team that started about two weeks after me. I think it was a little bit of the blind leading the blind.
D.C. was the first market that we ever had any regulatory challenges. Ironically, when I went to D.C. I said I wanted to do nothing remotely political. Our official launch was December 15th, 2011.
I remember it was January 11th, 2012—less than a month after we launched. I actually had just come back from San Francisco. D.C. was really on fire. It was doing so well from a business perspective. In San Francisco I had met with Travis and with Bill Gurley, who was in the office at the time. I was so excited to share all this early success we had had. We were really working—really, really working hard. The team was working their tails off.
I got back to D.C. and this tweet comes up saying that the taxi commissioner declares Uber D.C. illegal. Suddenly we were scrambling to figure out what to do. And of course, because it was D.C., everyone is interested in this regulatory story. So the Washington Post was writing about it and blogs in D.C. were writing about it. And then there is a taxi commissioner, not citing any rules, saying, you know, “This is illegal.” And that really sparked two incredibly crazy days. I got a call saying, “The taxi commissioner has requested a ride. What do we do?” And I was like, “Let him take the ride. We’re not doing anything wrong.” And he had called the press before he took this ride, and ended the ride at the Mayflower Hotel, which of course is where all fun things go down in D.C. And he had the press there, and he impounded the driver’s car and gave him $2,000 worth of tickets.
I spent the rest of the day calling every partner that we had, saying, “This is what happened. We’re 100% behind you. If anything like this happens again, we’re going to reimburse you for any tickets and any citations. We’re behind you.” We called every driver personally. We had more drivers on the road that evening than we had ever had before.