As Uber and Lyft sling mud, the campaign to become president of ridesharing is getting ugly

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on August 12, 2014

From The News Desk

We all knew this was coming.

When Uber founder Travis Kalanick sat on stage at the Code conference and explained that he was now treating the growth of Uber as a political campaign, we call knew things were going to get ugly (or uglier) in the ridesharing industry.

As one of the Valley's most famous Randroids, Kalanick has never shied away from a fight -- with the government, with the taxi industry and even with victims of assault if he thought they were a risk to his business. So when that guy says "ok, now the gloves are off," you know that he intends to pick up a knife.

Yesterday it was reported that Uber was attempting to sabotage its main rival, Lyft, by requesting and then canceling thousands of rides in order to tie up Lyft's drivers and clear the way for Uber.

Now Kalanick has responded in full politics mode, first by accusing his rival of even worse sabotage and then by claiming that Lyft is secretly lobbying for Uber to acquire it. According to a statement given by Uber to the New York Times and Business Insider:

These attacks from Lyft are unfortunate but somewhat expected. A number of Lyft investors have recently been pushing Uber to acquire Lyft. One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would “go nuclear” if we do not acquire them. We can only assume that the recent Lyft attacks are part of that strategy.
The claim that your rival secretly approached you to make a deal is dirty politics 101, most recently seen in Massachusetts where Charlie Baker and one of his rivals for governor -- Tea Party candidate, Mark Fisher -- both accused each other of trying to make each other a $1m deal. Uber was careful to say it was an "investor" in Lyft making the demands. Given Lyft has over 100 investors, according to Business Insider, there's pretty much no way to confirm or deny the allegation.

That said, the idea that the major investors in Lyft have invested $332 million in the company only to strong-arm Uber into a purchase makes about as much sense as the plot of Atlas Shrugged, and is roughly as laughable.

We've reached out to Lyft CEO John Zimmer to ask if there's any truth in the allegation, and I'll update this post if we hear back. What's clear, though, is that Kalanick's campaign for president of ridesharing is entering a new phase.

As he said at Code:

“Uber is the candidate and [their opponent] is an asshole called Taxi. I’m not totally comfortable with it but we have to bring out the truth of how evil Taxi is.”
Now that Taxi has pretty much dropped out of the race, the message for Lyft is clear. By fair means or foul, Travis Kalanick is coming for you.