Regulators in Colorado want to make it illegal for Uber cabs to come within 200 feet of a hotel, bar or restaurant. Governor John Hickenlooper, who appoints the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) charged with regulating transportation, is remaining suspiciously silent on the rather aggressive proposal.
“He made it very clear that he was not the person trying to put us out of business, but his appointees at the PUC that are trying to put us out of business,” said Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick this morning after a discussion he had with the governor at Fortune’s Brainstorm TECH conference at the Aspen Institute.
The law is, to put it mildly, bizarre. There’s no compelling reason to put a restraining order on smartphone-enabled drivers other than to protect Colorado cabs from the customers who want an alternative. While the governor says he wants Colorado to be a startup-friendly environment, he has been conspicuously silent on the regulators he allegedly controls. The governor’s position is that keeping silent and working behind the scenes is a more strategic way to help Uber, but that requires us to trust that he isn’t beholden to unionized interests.
Uber, however, isn’t waiting. At the conference, the company launched a pop-up SUV service for conference attendees. The temporary service shows that Uber is willing to expand, even under the threat of regulatory apocalypse.
Kalanick also hinted that Uber could be an on-demand service for any possible need. After successful experiments with on-demand ice-cream trucks and Valentine’s Day roses, he hinted that Uber will go much broader.
“What we’re doing right now is we’re in the experimentation phase. Could it be that next summer that we just do a summer of ice cream? Sure. It’s very simple,” he said. For good measure, he joked that on Valentine’s day, “we saved marriages.”
When one questioner asked about secret talks between Uber and a business that does same day-delivery (like eBay or Amazon), Kalanick reiterated his position that Uber will be “the cross between lifestyle (give me what I want and give it to me right now) and the logistics to get it to you.” In other words, Uber could be the platform for on-demand service for everything, though he said that occasional services, such as plumbing, wasn’t a strong value proposition for the company.
Kalanick was silent on questions about whether he was pitching investors about being valued at more than $2 billion. With everything it has going on, it might very well be the next billion-dollar tech star.