Uber Promotes New Head of North American Operations

Uber logo on a vehicle near Union Square in San Francisco, California
The Uber logo is seen on a vehicle near Union Square in San Francisco, California, U.S. May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/File Photo - RTX2C0YV
Robert Galbraith — Reuters

Just in time for its sixth birthday and the announcement that it bagged $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s main investment fund, Uber has promoted its East Coast chief to head of its North American operations.

Rachel Holt, who initially joined the company in 2011 to set up and lead Uber’s operations in Washington, D.C., will now oversee Uber’s business in all of the U.S., plus Canada, the company told Fortune. In total, Holt is responsible for more than 200 cities, the company said.

Historically, Uber’s managers have been focused on cities and regions, but Holt has been promoted because of the company’s new need to “think more holistically,” as Holt tells Fortune. “We see tons of people traveling from New York to Chicago, to LA, to Toronto,” she says. “How do we create a unified experience across that location?”

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While Uber is still in early stages of its expansion in some parts of the world like Asia, in contrast, North America is its most mature market. In February, co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick said that the company was now “profitable” in the U.S., though it remains unclear how exactly the company defines that and whether that profitability has been sustained.

Nevertheless, this means that Holt has to approach business growth in a different way. “We are much more focused in new city launches in other parts of the world than we are in the U.S.,” she says.

Instead, growth in the U.S. is about expanding into the suburbs of major cities, signing up more drivers (and riders), and adding more products like its food delivery service, UberEats, which is currently only available in roughly a dozen of cities in North America.

In a market like North America, driver retention and continuing to sign up new drivers are also a priority. The company doesn’t disclose its driver churn rate, though a 2013 Princeton study found that almost 50% of drivers who had signed up in the first half of the year had quit a year later. To help keep its pool of drivers full, Uber has created a variety of incentives, including a car lease program, payment advances, and early cashing out, along with other perks like gas discounts.

In January, Uber also rolled out fare cuts across 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada in a bid to increase rider demand, though it also angered drivers who felt it would cause a significant drop in their earnings. Uber has since reversed some of these price cuts, Holt said, adding that the company continuously evaluates and adjusts its prices.

Prior to joining Uber, Holt worked at The Clorox Company (CLX) and Bain & Company.

An earlier version of this story misstated the portion of drivers who had quit within a year according to a 2013 study. The story has been updated with the correct figure.

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