Vancouver Sun

Investors and Uber pair up on app

App arranges free 15-minute tours for entreprene­urs with big ideas


In yet another effort to pressure British Columbia and Vancouver to allow it access to the lucrative ride-sharing market, Uber is offering free 15-minute rides Thursday with leading Canadian investors such as Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes.

The program, called UberPitch, is an effort to pair up investors with riders who want to promote their innovation­s. It requires riders to download Uber’s ride-sharing app and request a short “UberPitch” meeting in a dedicated Uber vehicle.

Drivers appear with one of the designated investors and then drive around the city while the pitch from the customer is made.

In Vancouver, those investors participat­ing in the one-on-one meetings include: Holmes; Boris Wertz of Version One Ventures; Mike Satterfiel­d of Yaletown Partners; Shafin Diamond Tejani and Ray Walia of Victory Square Labs; Fraser Hall and Jay Rhind of Vancouver Founder Fund; Vijay Grover of Telus Ventures; and Naica Gautam of Campfire Capital.

Uber is also drawing on big-name investors to meet with riders in Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. In Toronto, for example, the Dragons’ Den’s Michele Romanow will meet with riders; in Calgary, former Dragon W. Brett Wilson is on the hunt for more projects. In each of the cities Uber tapped into both venture and angel investors, and larger scale investment firms.

But the pitch, which Uber announced Tuesday and which will run in each city from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. local time, also appears to be an attempt to gain support for Uber’s socially disruptive ridesharin­g concepts in jurisdicti­ons that are not yet comfortabl­e with the service. Many of those cities are either awaiting changes in provincial legislatio­n that would allow Uber to compete against other ride-hailing services such as taxis, or, in the case of British Co- lumbia, a decision by the government to consider the concept at all.

In some jurisdicti­ons, such as Montreal, cabbies have launched class-action lawsuits against Uber arguing the service is illegal and undermines an establishe­d and regulated taxi industry.

In late March Uber began to advertise looking for drivers in Vancouver, even though it lacks government permission to operate in the province. The government has warned Uber of significan­t penalties if it attempts to start its ride-for-hire service outside of B.C.’s traditiona­l taxi-licensing regime. The province has flagged safety and insurance concerns, as well as protection of jobs in the traditiona­l taxi industry, as the main impediment­s to Uber’s launch, while also acknowledg­ing it is inevitable that start-up ride-for-hire companies will enter the B.C. market.

TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender has said he’s reviewing the taxi system in the province to find a way for Uber and traditiona­l taxis to coexist, but has offered no timeline on when government will make a decision.

Holmes, who has been a strong supporter of Uber, said he’s happy to participat­e in UberPitch, as the company is helping to foster the start-up scene in Vancouver.

“I’ve been a longtime supporter of Vancouver’s start-up scene. From creating many companies to founding TNBT, a youth entreprene­ur accelerato­r, I truly believe that start-ups and entreprene­urs are the ones who will change the world,” he said in a statement issued by Uber.

Ian Black, the general manager of Uber Canada, said the company sees bringing UberPitch to Canadian cities “as an exciting and unique opportunit­y to promote innovation and entreprene­urship.”

I’ve been a longtime supporter of Vancouver’s start-up scene.

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 ?? HOOTSUITE ?? Ryan Holmes, founder and CEO of Hootsuite, will be one of the investors taking part in the UberPitch program in Vancouver on Thursday.
HOOTSUITE Ryan Holmes, founder and CEO of Hootsuite, will be one of the investors taking part in the UberPitch program in Vancouver on Thursday.

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