[Interview] Likai Gu, General Manager of Uber Taiwan

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2014/02/18 by lingdecklee

 [The following is an interview by Jessica Kao (EST staff) on Likai Gu, General Manager of Uber Taiwan, with authorization for publishing on the personal blog of Start Jeffrey Up and the FB pages of Entrepreneurs Society of Taiwan (EST) and Plus8.]
About Uber:
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1. How long has Uber been in Taiwan?
Uber has officially been in Taipei since 7/29/2013
2. What is its business model?
We are a technology company that acts as a platform that connects riders and drivers. We don’t own the cars nor employ the drivers – but rather work with existing car services to maximize their efficiency as well as provide users with a premium ride experience. So far in Taiwan we have been focusing the black car product – high-end vehicles such as Mercedes Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series. Users can download the Uber app on their smartphone and with a few taps on the screen, have a black car show up at their doorstep to pick them up within minutes.
3. Who is the target audience of Uber?
Anyone and everyone. We believe that our competitive pricing allows anyone to use Uber, just that people will use it differently. For instance, a businessman may end up using Uber instead of hiring a private driver for his daily commute to/from work as well as business meetings with clients, whereas a recent college graduate might use it on date night with his girlfriend to make it extra special. We’ve just seen so many use cases for Uber, from parents using it to send their children to school to adults using it to send their elderly parents to meet them for dinner, that we truly believe that anyone can find a time to use Uber in their lives.
4. What problem does Uber solve?
Having a comfortable, reliable, and premium ride at an affordable cost in Taipei without having to employ your own driver, purchase your own car, and have your own parking space. Delivering a private driver experience at a fraction of the cost. Improving safety by tracking driver quality as well as reducing drunk driving.
5. Have you had to adapt Uber when bringing it to Taiwan? If so, in what way?
Because of the abundance of affordable transportation options in Taipei, we’ve had to really focus on the quality of the experience here in Taipei. Thankfully, there’s a large supply of quality and friendly drivers in Taipei that have been terrific partners in working with us. Also, since many other transportation options are so convienent, we’ve really tried to focus on improving our pickup time, and it’s something we’ve continually tried to improve on.
About Likai Gu:
1. How did you become the General Manager of Uber?
A former colleague of mine happened to know the Uber Singapore recruiter. We connected via email and then via phone, and the rest is history. It just turned out to be a good timing as they were just getting started in Taipei.
2. What experience was valuable in shaping how you operate Uber now?
All of my professional experience has helped me tremendously. My time at McKinsey gave me the skills to think analytically and structurally about a problem, as well as the experience to lead a team. My entrepreneurial experience gave me the operational experience to know how to operate, grow, and run a startup. Of course, Uber is a very unique company where I am still constantly learning on the job, and I’ve been blessed with an amazing team here in Taipei.
3. What was one misconception that you had before working in startups and how has that changed?
I think working at a startup certainly lives up to the hype. You really end up working with extremely brilliant, dedicated, and passionate people that help push you to another level. One concern I had coming in was that a larger startup like Uber would give new cities in Asia less attention, but the complete opposite has been true, and we’ve had tremendous support from our HQ since the beginning. The communication with our other Asian and global cities has been extremely helpful.
4. What is one problem that Taiwan startups often face, and what is a possible solution?
The one problem that everyone talks about Taiwan startups is the issue of scale. How do you grow beyond the Taiwan market and become a regional and global player? A large part of it is keeping up with the global trends and having that international mindset when you build your company and product, but it’s definitely easier said than done. I do think that it’s been encouraging to see that some Taiwanese startups are starting to thrive on a global stage, and that’s a testament to the development of Taiwanese entrepreneurs.
5. What excites you about the Taiwan startup community?
Its growth and sense of community. It has already come such a long way since when I first started engaging the community in 2009. The level of support fellow entrepreneurs give to each other, and the various companies who are helping to foster this startup culture in Taiwan has been extremely encouraging. There really is a genuine sense of community within startups in Taiwan, and the startups that we’ve partnered with so far have been nothing short of spectacular. Many might not view Uber as a startup in Taiwan due to our global nature, but the fact is that we only have a 3 person team here on the ground, so we are very much in the same boat as the others within this community. We hope to work more closely with other startups in 2014.
6. What is one goal that you have for 2014?
To develop Uber into a household name for both technology and transportation in Taipei, and to further integrate ourselves into the startup community. The goal is to grow our platform into a level where riders can always get a quality and reliable ride and drivers can use our platform as a sustainable source of generating income.
7. What keeps you going every day?
One of the best things about working at Uber is the people. Although we’re only a team of 3 here, we have over 70 city teams out there facing the same types of problems and hurdles that we are daily. These global colleagues often serve as an inspiration and motivation for the team to push through any hardships that come our way. Some of my colleagues around the world are really, really, amazing, and to see how they’re able to execute and deliver incredible results really pushes us and keeps us on our toes to know that those feats can be accomplished.
[Likai will be the guest speaker at the upcoming EST event: EST Speaker Night: Uber in Taiwan. Join us and listen to his startup stories!]
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