Uber and other disruptive innovations

By Ray DePaul

Every so often, an innovation comes along that completely disrupts the way some piece of the world has always worked. It shouldn't be a surprise that these innovations face aggressive resistance by those who have a vested interest in the status quo.

In the mid-1800's, one of the United States most lucrative exports was ice - literally blocks of ice cut from northern lakes and shipped to the south. When the electric freezer was first introduced, "Big Ice" responded by labelling this new competitive product "artificial ice" and the inventor was vilified in the press as someone, "that thinks he can make ice by his machine as good as God Almighty."

Freezers disrupted the ice industry.

Spreadsheets displaced bookkeepers.

PCs signalled the end of mini-computer companies.

iTunes closed record stores.

Netflix destroyed the DVD business... and possibly cable TV.

Amazon closed down neighbourhood book stores.

The iPhone reduced BlackBerry to a shadow of itself.

Car2Go threatens the need for a second car.

AirBnB is shaking up the hotel industry.


Uber causes a lot of pain for the taxi industry.

I don't mean to minimize the negative impact that these disruptions have on people. Painful transition periods is one of the side effects of progress. A lot of people lost jobs and money when BlackBerry didn't respond to Apple. Likewise for BlockBuster, Kodak, and yes, Associated Cabs.

There is now a new, more convenient way to literally get from A to B. Traditional, highly regulated taxi services served us well for decades. UberX has disrupted that model and the innovations continue. UberPool, a cheaper carpool option, has the potential to augment public transportation at no cost to the taxpayer.

This is not Uber's battle, but ours. Uber may or may not be the dominant provider of rides in 5 years. But I'm absolutely sure it will be Uber-like, and we will all look back on this debate and be thankful we didn't choose to be a laggard in its adoption.