The 2015 CRM Market Influential Leaders: Travis Kalanick, CEO, Uber

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Travis Kalanick is no stranger to start-ups; in 2001 he cofounded Red Swoosh, an enterprise content delivery company that he later sold in 2007 to Akamai Technologies for $23 million. Today, he is best known for his role as the cofounder and CEO of a different kind of delivery company—Uber, which he launched with partner Garrett Camp in 2009. With Uber, the 38-year-old entrepreneur has been so successful that he "created a word—'Uberization,'" says Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research. "It describes the on-demand economy we live in today."

The idea behind Uber is fairly simple: a GPS-operated taxi-hailing application that enables travelers to press a button and have a taxi track them down. Under this model, the car comes to the customer, rather than the customer hunting for the car.

But while other transport companies have capitalized on the on-demand model, none of them have been as fortunate. Competitors such as Lyft and Gettaxi, for example, which are arguably just as competent, haven't seen the same success. As of May, financial analysts valued Uber's anticipated initial public offering to be around $50 billion, making it the world's most highly capitalized start-up, according to Forbes.

"The fact that there are more Uber drivers than cabs in New York City puts things into perspective," Brent Leary, founder of CRM Essentials, says. "Kalanick has led a business revolution that shows how important understanding modern customers is to building digital-first organizations."

But the service is not for every customer, especially those who don't rate well with drivers. Last year, Uber launched a customer scoring system that enables drivers to review and keep records of customers—a fairly novel idea that allows drivers to be more selective about their clientele. "We have two sets of customers—the riders and the drivers," Kalanick told the audience at TechCrunch Disrupt in September.

Despite the controversial move, customers who aren't blacklisted will enjoy more personalized riding experiences. Thanks to a partnership with Spotify in November, riders can stream music through Uber's mobile app.

These developments support the idea that organizations should think not only about the destination but the journey as well. It's an idea that will likely influence many other organizations in multiple industries for years to come.

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