Digital

Uber Hires Obama’s Campaign Strategist as Top Policy Executive

Aug 19, 2014 3:30 pm

Skift Take

A certain breed of political strategists are turning in Capital Hill for Silicon Valley to help sharing economy startups navigate policies in exchange for better salaries than they could ever receive in D.C.

— Samantha Shankman

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Zbigniew Bzdak  / Chicago Tribune/MCT

Limousine driver Florian Bucea checks his Uber service in Chicago, Illinois, on March 25, 2013. Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune/MCT


Uber Technologies Inc. is adding to its executive ranks by hiring David Plouffe, a former top political adviser to President Barack Obama.

The San Francisco-based startup, which makes a mobile car- booking application, said today it has hired Plouffe to be its senior vice president of policy and strategy. Uber said Plouffe will start with the company in late September and lead policy and political activities, branding and communications.

“I will look to him as a strategic partner on all matters as Uber grows around the world,” Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post today.

Uber is beefing up its executive bench as it grows quickly — and runs into protests and regulatory hurdles in the process. The company in June landed a $17 billion valuation in a $1.2 billion financing, making it one of the most highly valued startups in Silicon Valley. Uber has been taking on opponents in the taxi industry and in governments worldwide as it disrupts the transportation business with its technology, which lets people hail rides from their smartphones and bypass taxis.

The company has faced mass protests from cabbies in Europe and elsewhere, which Kalanick has in the past likened to having to wage a political campaign. Most recently, Uber has faced regulatory hurdles in Berlin, where the company is defying a ban and risking a 25,000-euro ($33,000) fine on each ride.

More Resistance

Uber may face more resistance as it pushes into new businesses. It offers bicycle courier deliveries in New York, will connect users in Atlanta and Nashville to furniture movers, and recently began delivering medicine, diapers and toothpaste in Washington. The company is also testing a carpooling service for sharing rides with strangers in its hometown.

Plouffe, 47, is a contributor to Bloomberg TV. He worked with President Obama at the White House from 2011 to 2013.

Plouffe’s hire came on the same day that rival Lyft Inc., which is battling Uber for market share, said Chief Operating Officer Travis VanderZanden had left the company. He had joined San Francisco-based Lyft about 18 months ago when the ride- sharing company acquired his startup Cherry.

“We’ve talked about the future and all agree that Travis will move on as we move forward into the company’s next chapter of growth,” Lyft said in a statement. “We appreciate everything he’s done here, and wish him the best in his next adventure.”

Lyft and Uber last week engaged in verbal sparring over each other’s tactics in recruiting drivers to their services.

Technology blog Recode earlier reported VanderZanden’s exit and Uber’s hire of Plouffe.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Milian in San Francisco at mmilian@bloomberg.net; Pui-Wing Tam in San Francisco at ptam13@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at ptam13@bloomberg.net James Callan.

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