Travis Kalanick's background is quite similar to the stereotypical 'Big tech CEO' background. While Kalanick was in college studying Computer Science, he dropped out to work on Scour, a P2P search engine, with his classmates. Problems with lawsuits led to Scour filing for bankruptcy and an eventual shut-down. Travis Kalanick then co-founded Red Swoosh, a networking software company, with Michael Todd, one of the founders of Scour. After a fall-out with Todd and other legal problems, Red Swoosh was on the verge of bankruptcy, but Kalanick managed to secure additional funding to see them through to success. So much so, that Akamai bought the company for $23 million. After Travis Kalanick became a millionaire, he spent a year traveling the world.
Uber’s story began in Paris in 2008, when Travis Kalanick and his friend Garrett Camp (Founder & CEO of StumbleUpon at the time) were attending the famous tech conference LeWeb. The concept for Uber came about when the pair was unable to get a cab. Initially, the idea was for a timeshare limo service that could be ordered via an app. After the conference, Kalanick and Camp went their separate ways, but when Camp returned to San Francisco, he continued to be fixated on the idea and even bought the domain name UberCab.com.
In 2009, Camp began working on a prototype for UberCab as a side-project. He persuaded Travis Kalanick to join as the 'Chief Incubator', and the service was tested in New York in early 2010 using only three cars. The official launch took place in San Francisco in May 2010, and a good performance saw them raise $1.25 million in October, led by First Round Capital. Soon after, Travis Kalanick took over as CEO. The ease and simplicity of ordering a car fueled the app’s rising popularity. After a cease-and-desist order by the transportation board over the use of the word 'cab', they changed their name to Uber and bought the domain 'Uber.com'.
At the time of launch, Uber's service included only black cars and limos. Under Travis Kalanick's leadership, they soon pivoted to a more affordable model by the introduction of UberX, which included cars like Toyota Prius and Cadillac Escalade. Thus began Uber's exponential growth, rapid expansions, battle with regulations, and controversy-laden path to success.