I have called Seattle home for more than two decades and my wife and I are raising our children here. There’s a lot to enjoy and be proud of about Seattle – the City Council’s vote on ride sharing earlier week this isn’t one of them.
Seattle is a different city from when Microsoft imported me shortly after college in 1991. Seattle then was best known for Grunge rock, which i happily ruined my eardrums on. Since then technology has completely transformed our lives, and our culture of innovation makes our community a haven for entrepreneurs and investors to create visionary startups that become lasting and enduring brands.
While Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing startups may not be headquartered here, the local impact and benefits are not inconsequential. I recently shared my own experience and week-long test of Uber-only transport. But, ride-sharing isn’t just about the convenience of consumers finding a ride in minutes, it about the livelihood of these drivers who are now operating their own small businesses and becoming entrepreneurs in their own right. I hear nothing but glowing reviews of Uber from the drivers and how the service has had such a positive impact on their lives – schedule convenience, income, and safety. (I recently heard a driver’s story about how, as a taxi driver, he’d had a knife to his neck when a fare demanded he be taken to a location without paying. His words: “Uber changed my life.”).
The spark of an idea, the power of geo-located mobile devices, and an archaic and highly inefficient, supply-constrained taxi system gave way to the creation and rise of Uber and other ride-sharing services. I have no doubt the City Council’s short-sighted decision will be overturned in time. I am just extremely disappointed – and more than a little embarrassed – that it was Seattle (the land of legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage) that failed to recognize the future is here, and the past – well, isn’t.
Last year when I spoke at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kuala Lumpur, I talked about the seeds of innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem starts with good government. I boasted that while not perfect, our system in the U.S. provides a supportive and rational system that enables innovation. I used Seattle as an example of a vibrant ecosystem and progressive pioneer in policy that many model and follow. Apparently, Seattle’s City Council didn’t get the memo.