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Celebrating a milestone, Uber’s CEO outlines a rosy future

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick defended his company against regulators who are trying to shut it down his riding hailing service in a number of U.S. cities and overseas.

“A city that welcomes Uber will be a better city,” he argued on Wednesday. “Don’t deprive people of this service because of outdated regulations.”

Kalanick, speaking at an event in San Francisco celebrating Uber’s fifth anniversary, delivered an impassioned state of the union about the ride sharing company’s growth along with its impact on road safety, road congestion, and the economy. His message, not surprisingly, was that Uber is wonderful — in sharp contrast to the company’s critics that include some taxi company owners, politicians, and regulators.

Since its founding five years ago, Uber has grown rapidly into a Silicon Valley giant. It is now a major business that is displacing taxis by letting drivers use their own cars to chauffeur passengers around town. In doing so, Uber and its executives have wielded sharp elbows and created enemies. The company has famously battled regulators, and in some cases completely ignored them while pushing into new territory.

In a rare moment for the normally immodest CEO, Kalanick acknowledged that he’s not perfect. While he’s a fierce advocate for Uber, he acknowledged that many would rather call him a different word that starts with “a.”

But on this day, Kalanick focused more on the positive by hammering home the point about the company’s rapid growth and contribution to the economy. Uber, whose early history is told here, is now in 311 cities in 58 countries with more than 3,000 employees worldwide.

Kalanick emphasized that Uber is adding hundreds of thousands of drivers every month. San Francisco now has 22,000 drivers, New York has 26,000, London has 15,000, and Paris has 10,000.

Globally, Kalanick said that Uber now has million drivers and is expecting to add a million more in the next year. That size and growth has made the business a financial powerhouse.

Earlier this year, Uber revealed it would take in $500 million in annual revenue in San Francisco alone, or three times the regional taxi market. Revenue in San Francisco is growing at 200% per year.

Meanwhile, Uber’s valuation as a private company has skyrocketed to $41 billion. To justify that, Uber must continue to grow, especially in international markets.

China, where over 150 million people already use taxi apps, is a huge opportunity. Chengdu, for example, is now one of the largest cities for Uber with 42,000 drivers.

But Uber faces also serious competition in China. Tencent-backed Didi Dache and Alibaba-backed Kuaidi Dache are the current leaders in the Chinese market. Usage of taxi-hailing and ride-sharing apps are only expected to grow as smartphone use in China expands.

One of Uber’s fastest growing features is UberPool, which lets passengers share rides in a single car for a discounted price. Almost half of all Uber rides in San Francisco are through UberPool, Kalanick said.

At the end of the address, Kalanick turned to the future. In his view, Uber will continue to redefine transportation and make an even bigger impact.

“The innovations that make it cheaper to use Uber than own a car is what the next five years is about, “Kalanick concluded. “The transportation status quo is broken and imagine what we can achieve in next five years.”

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