Undeterred by its ban from Belgium, Uber expands in stealth to Finland

By Carmel DeAmicis , written on April 16, 2014

From The News Desk

In its relentless efforts for world domination, it looks like Uber is quietly expanding to Finland. This is a new country for the transportation platform, which already moved into the neighboring nation of Sweden.

Uber has posted three job openings in Helsinki, for a community manager, a general manager, and an operations and logistics manager. One listing opens with, “Build the Uber brand in Helsinki & wow users with great support!” Another says, “You are literally rolling out a new transportation system in your local metropolis.”

Comments on the news, reported by Finland business paper Taloussanomat, were largely positive, with people praising the addition of a new transportation competitor to break the monopoly of the taxi industry.

The company’s recruitment efforts aren’t a guarantee that it will introduce the service to Helsinki residents anytime soon, however. A year ago, Uber began recruiting manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa posted on LinkedIn saying the company was getting ready to hire people in Finland. Promises that seemingly led nowhere. Pando reached out to Uber for comment (~3 hours prior to publication) but has yet to hear back. We’ll update this post when we do.

Taxi services in Finland are regulated just as harshly as in the United States, with limited entry to the market, so Uber will face its share of legal obstacles and incumbent adversaries. Of course, charging through regulatory hurdles is what Uber does best, so the company is likely undeterred.

The biggest obstacle Uber might encounter is that Helsinki taxis already have smartphone app accompaniments, so Uber’s technology won’t be quite as revolutionary there. Or at least, that’s what Finland’s Taxi Association President believes, telling reporters that the market is saturated from a technology innovation standpoint.

The news about Uber’s stealthy Finnish expansion comes at a time when the company is facing mounting pressures in nearby Belgium. A Belgian court has issued an order banning Uber from operating its ridesharing service — called uberPOP — in the country.

At this point, such a setback — one that spans an entire nation — is small potatoes for Uber. The company has rapidly moved into 35 countries around the world, not counting those where it’s stealthily setting up shop like Finland. This means that each individual state, particularly small ones, hold far less of an impact on the company's bottom line. Breaking laws and asking questions later has worked for Uber until now, and that’s likely going to be its approach to the Finnish market too.

After all, at this point Uber can’t slow down its breakneck expansion pace. The company recently raised a venture round at a reported $3.5 billion valuation and its competitor Lyft has newly minted $250 million in venture from its huge Series D to launch its own international growth plans. Let the disruption begin.

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]