The 3 Company Values That Got Uber to a $50 Billion Valuation

October 15, 2015

Uber’s growth since it started in 2009 has been almost unprecedented. In the past 20 months alone, they’ve gone from 605 employees to 4,900 and from 66 cities to 341. And now, it's reportedly worth $50 billion.

That growth hasn’t been without obstacles. The company faces competition in nearly every city it operates in and has been the subject of intense protests by taxi drivers, all while trying to hire thousands of employees and finding millions of drivers in all corners of the world.

So, how did they overcome that to become one of the most valuable companies in the world, seemingly overnight? At her keynote presentation at Talent Connect Anaheim today, Uber Global Head of People and Places, Renee Atwood, said it really came down to one thing: The company’s culture.

“We needed the best people,” Atwood said. “And getting our culture right is a big part of that.”

What is the key to that culture? Uber’s three core values, Atwood said, providing an example of each.

They are:

1. Be an owner, not a renter

Uber doesn’t want its employees to see their job as a place where they can put in their forty hours and collect a paycheck, Atwood said. They want people who legitimately care about Uber, who will act as “owners” of the company, not people who are just “renting” there for a bit.

Example: An example Atwood pointed to that showcases the owner culture at Uber was with one of the company’s “launchers” – Megan Zoback - in Stockholm, Sweden. “Launchers” are people who are sent into cities when Uber first expands into them. Their job is to recruit as many drivers and riders as possible, along with building out a small, full-time team there.

Well, one of the key tasks of the launcher is hiring a general manager for the region, and Zoback found a man who was perfect. The problem? He didn’t have a place to live. So Zoback had him stay at her house for two weeks, until he could get his own apartment.

“I’m not encouraging this as a standard recruiting practice,” Atwood joked. “But it shows that, at Uber, we go above all obstacles until our mission is accomplished.”

2. Take big bold bets

The inception of Uber itself was a big bold bet that obviously has paid off. But it can’t stop there, as the employees at the company need to keep making big bold bets to keep Uber moving forward, Atwood said.

“If you aren’t taking big risks, if you aren’t looking for the next big thing, you will be disrupted,” she said.

Example: The Uber location in Paris needed more drivers in France. So, on their own, they sent out this video to one million French people who, at one time, took a ride in an Uber:

The move worked, as thousands of people signed up to become drivers after seeing the funny, engaging ad. Again, this sort of innovation and big bets are critical to Uber’s success, Atwood said.

3. The best idea wins

Along the same lines of taking big bold bets, Uber emphasizes the idea, over the person. In other words, the company tries to “avoid politics” and “encourage toe-stepping” by encouraging employees at all levels to voice new ideas, and then supporting them if they seem doable, Atwood said.

Example: In Chicago, a recruiter suggested conducting interviews during an Uber ride. Rather than run it through months of meetings and bureaucracy, Uber tried it. And it worked: Not only did candidates love the novelty of interviewing for Uber during an Uber ride, it created a buzz that generated more interest from prospects, Atwood said.

What this all means to you

Uber is not the first company that points to its culture as a key to building a rapidly-growing company. Google in the early 2000s, Ford in the early 1900s and dozens of other companies – LinkedIn included – have cited their culture as a key to their success.

Why? Because great companies aren’t based off of one great idea or a few superstar founders. Great companies are great because all of their employees, from the CEO to the lowest-level hourly worker, have a clear vision of what the company values and the confidence to try new things.

As recruiters and talent managers, it is critical to continue to reinforce your own company’s culture and keep it front-and-center in all recruiting collateral and all conversations. Just like Uber, that culture, those values, are critical to building a great company that will continually lead your industry.

*Image from Uber

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