Engineers make the best entrepreneurs, says Uber Founder Travis Kalanick

Jan 20, 2016, 11:04 IST | Pallavi Smart

Uber Founder and CEO Travis Kalanick spoke to students and aspiring entrepreneurs at IIT-B, giving them insights into Uber and start-ups in India

When around 100 students of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), attended an interview of Travis Kalanick, Founder and CEO of Uber — the international transportation network company — they didn't expect an open invitation from him to apply for jobs. But that is just what he did, by giving out his email address and saying that he was the chief recruiter.

Kalanick posed for selfies with IIT-B students after being interviewed by Ronnie Screwvala yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande
Kalanick posed for selfies with IIT-B students after being interviewed by Ronnie Screwvala yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande

Travis, who thinks engineers make the best entrepreneurs, also shared a long list of dos and don'ts about start-ups at IIT-B's Powai campus on Tuesday evening. The Uber head was interviewed by Ronnie Screwvala, the founder of UTV.

"Entrepreneurship is to identify problems and then providing reliable solutions to it. Engineering is all about breaking down a problem and then building up on it. This is why engineers make the best entrepreneurs," said Travis, who was on a visit to India, to participate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious start-up India programme conducted in Delhi. In the interaction with students at IIT-B, Travis provided useful insights into building a start-up, making the session entertaining with his wit and humour.

"If you lack in communication, it is better you find a co-founder who is good at it," said Travis, who believes effective communication is a key to funding.

He explained, "With the growing economy that is India where ecosystem favouring start-ups is growing, funding should not be a great obstacle. Now one has access to global funding, especially when there are many who have an interest in investing in India. But it is very important that you are able to effectively communicate your point." Travis motivated techies from IIT-B by stating he once saw a function where CEOs of Google and Microsoft on stage both were sons of India.

The session was replete with his insightful comments. He said, "You have to fall in love with your idea, and put everything that you have on the table for it to work. Also it is important to realise when it is enough and one has to move on."

On jugaad
He also was aware of and commented on jugaad. One of Uber's top cultural values was to "always be hustling", and it roughly translates to "jugaad" in India, he said. "We follow the always be jugaad-ing model here....On a serious note, it's about making it work with limited resources," he said.

At the question-answers session, almost every student was asked by Travis whether he was open to dropping out. "By the way, just to clear myself, even I am a drop out," he said and quickly added, that he was letting out too much information.

Inputs from Agencies

Uber’s investment in India
Talking about Uber’s success and challenges in India Travis said, “In January last year outer market shares were 4% in India. This year now it has reached 40%. Sure we do have competition by local players, but that is only motivating us to provide better service. Few years ago when we launched, lack of smart phones to order Uber and lack of cars in India were our main challenges. But this situation is changing rapidly.” “If we see five times the return on our spending, we would spend $ 2 billion instead of $ 1 billion that we have committed to spending on the India business,” he said.

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