Corporate Gang War: Uber v. Lyft
In a recent post, "The End of Taxis," I extolled Uber—the elegant chauffeured automobile service you can call from a smartphone. In two-to-10 minutes, you will be picked up by a well-dressed driver in a spotless, roomy town car. He will deliver you to your destination and no money changes hands.
The cost for this s-m-o-o-t-h service is roughly the same as a taxi. And you experience none of the grief (e.g., grungy car, no leg room and an unkempt driver yakking on a cellphone the whole way).
In 2009, Uber started up in San Francisco and is currently operating in 128 cities and 37 countries. Uber's current worth is reported to be $18 billion.
Three years later, the upstart Lyft launched—also in San Francisco—and is doing business in 65 U.S. cities in 30 states.
If you are fascinated by the strategy and tactics of war—between nations, religions or corporations—check out Casey Newton's dazzling exposé, "This is Uber's Playbook for Sabotaging Lyft."
Newton reveals chapter and verse of the diabolical dirty tricks devised by Uber to run Lyft off the roads and over a cliff. Nixon's Watergate perps would love it! Included:
- How "brand ambassadors" are hired.
- The high-tech equipment they carry.
- Coded argot of Uber's corporate jihad: brand ambassadors, Operation SLOG, hashtag #shavethestache, virtuous circle, slanging, street teams, contractors, messaging app GroupMe.
- Reproduced are instruction sheets to the brand ambassadors, online forms and a splendid internal memo that starts:
Hello my lovely Sloggers!
We are implementing a new way for us to get CCs. Thanks to Target CW we are going to be able to get each of you your own CC info! I know you can hardly stand the excitement, I know I can't either-no more waiting. EPIC! ...
This is great investigative journalism!
Plouffe! The Sound of Air Going Out of a Balloon
Added to the Uber v. Lyft jihad story is a fascinating sidebar.
David Plouffe was the technology wizard behind the curtain of Barack Obama's two presidential campaigns. His pioneering work was the apotheosis of jollying along the individual voter, pulling in cash and getting out the vote.
After years of laboring in politics, Plouffe joined Uber on Aug. 18. As Mike Isaac wrote in The New York Times:
Mr. Plouffe's move to Uber is the latest example of someone from a position of influence in Washington moving to a technology company to help it expand its communications, policy or lobbying efforts.
Eight days later Casey Newton's exposé of the jihad against Lyft broke in The Verge.
David Plouffe's high hopes for a bright, happy future have no doubt been sidelined as he deals with this bombshell of a public relations nightmare.
Takeaways to Consider
- In a surprise move, Lyft's Chief Operating Officer Travis VanderZanden announced his resignation from Lyft on Aug. 18—the same day Uber hired Daivd Plouffe.
- VanderZaden's entire team was leaving with him.
- "Imitation is the sincerest form corporate stupidity." —Bill Munro
- He who gores an ox will have his own ox not only gored but also eviscerated.
- Who at Uber gave TheVerge.com's Casey Newton the scoop, along with all the documents?
- If the leaker can be identified, a public firing is in order, so that person's name will go all over the Internet as a corporate traitor.
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