Overall winner: Uber: Changing the Way the World Moves

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This case won the Overall Award at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2018.
The case

Who – the protagonists

Travis Kalanick and Garrett CampTravis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, founders of Uber.


Uber is the smartphone app that allows passengers to book a driver, who will pick them up in minutes, and is generally cheaper than a traditional taxi.

The cost of the ride is automatically charged to the customer’s preloaded credit card, with 20%-30% of the gross fee kept by Uber, and the rest going to the driver.

Users can track the car’s approach and once the driver arrives, the built-in GPS guides the driver to the rider’s destination. 


Kalanick and Camp had recently sold their respective start-ups, and were in Paris, when they encountered difficulties finding a taxi in the snow.

The duo began to devise an app that would solve the problem of summoning a car service.


Uber, then UberCab, officially launched in 2010, and by the summer of 2014, it was valued at $51billion.


Uber started as a private luxury car service catering to San Francisco and Silicon Valley executives.

Uber now has more than a million active drivers and operates in over 60 countries and 330 cities around the world.

Key quote

“Shock, horror, Uber makes a loss. It’s the case of Business 101: You raise money, you invest money, you grow (hopefully), you make a profit and that generates a return for investors.” – Uber’s response in 2014 to the media’s assumption of the company making a loss.

What next?

In 2016 Uber released a complete revamp of its app, adding a series of fresh features, while pushing ahead with a number of new services, including the testing of autonomous vehicles.

The company is also experimenting with UberPOOL, pairing riders on the same route, in some cities. Kalanick has hinted at expanding this service to include buses.

Interested in finding out more?

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Uber: Changing the Way the World Moves
Ref 9-316-101
Teaching note
Ref 5-316-109

The author

Youngme Moon

Youngme talks about Uber polarising opinions in the case classroom.

On winning the award

Youngme said: “It’s an absolute delight. Case writing sits at the core of what we do at Harvard Business School and it’s an honour to represent the School in this small way.”

Dig deepDig deep

She continued: “In my mind, a good case is one that captures the complexity of a given business situation in a way that forces students to dig deep for insights.

“If a case feels ‘easy’ to students, it’s probably because the case hasn’t forced them to think hard enough about the trade-offs. Few business dilemmas are easy. A good case offers layer upon layer of insight; the more rigorous the analysis, the greater the learning.”

Splitting opinion

“Uber is a polarising company, for sure,” Youngme explained.

“What makes the discussion provocative is that while many students have used Uber and tend to prefer it over traditional methods of transportation, its aggressive approach to expansion creates real discomfort in the discussion.

“Like many highly disruptive companies, it is creating value and destroying value at the same time.”

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath

Youngme concluded: “On the one hand, Uber is an inspiring story for students; on the other hand, it is a somewhat unsettling story as well.

“Rarely do you see a David and Goliath scenario flip so quickly, whereby the underdog wins the early battle so convincingly that it turns into a behemoth almost overnight.

“Uber may have started out as a David, but today, it is a Goliath, and while the rest of the story still remains to be written, this makes for an extremely compelling business scenario.”

About the author

Youngme Moon is the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
e ymoon@hbs.edu


View all the 2018 winners