Onwards

Today is my last day at Uber.

I joined this company almost four and a half years ago. 1,592 days, to be precise. I had no idea what I was getting myself into then. I have no idea what I’m getting into now.

Uber and I go way back. Back to when I was living in London, in a job that required me to travel to all sorts of places, and in a relationship with my then-girlfriend-and-now-wife who was based in Lisbon, turning my weeks into loops of London-Lisbon-London commutes.

Uber was cropping up in London and in some of the cities where I was landing at and taking off from. It quickly became part of my routine. It saved me from tortuous Sunday late night trips home from the airport when there was no night tube, buses were few and far between with terribly long routes, and black cabs threatened to break my bank account. It spared me from dealing with the unknown of foreign transportation networks and having to carry cash and figure out the change in different currencies.

I was seeing first-hand how this up and coming American startup was turning urban mobility on its head. I just didn’t know it would turn my life on its head too.

It was the Summer of 2014. I had a couple of casual chats with people at Uber and in came the curveball: would I be interested in launching Uber in Lisbon. It was a no brainer. I had given up the idea of coming back to Portugal and was getting ready to settle more permanently in the UK. At Apple, a company whose products I loved and still do, I felt like I was one in many thousands of employees, struggling to make a difference. But Uber held a different promise: I could see myself making a difference. Helping fix a lot of what doesn’t work in urban mobility, and bringing the change I was seeing in London to my country. To my cities.

So, a couple of months, one wedding, and one lightning-fast honeymoon later, I landed in Lisbon ready to roll. I landed in a 9 square meter room, next to two other people who had just joined the company and with whom I was supposed to be a team. I had no idea how much I was going to go through and share with them, and with the folks who would join in months and years to come. Now, we just needed to figure out what to do next, and I just had to figure out what I had done with my life.

I quickly understood that this was no ordinary company, and mine wasn’t an ordinary job. Right after launching uberX in Lisbon and Porto, our tiny company, wholly ran a tiny team in Portugal, was opening the evening news. People were flocking to our app, and taxi leaders were rising to keep us out of the way. The plot was unfolding and the twists and turns that followed would be worthy of a Hollywood production. Taxi strikes, court cases, public scrutiny, political debate. The sparking of discussions around how outdated regulations should be evolved to reap the benefits of technology, or how companies such as Uber were affecting the established conceptions of labor. No two days were alike as I quickly grew accustomed to TV studios, the corridors of the Parliament House, and as I paid my first ever visit to a court. These, I came to understand, were the byproducts of innovation and disruption.

Fast forward a few years, Uber would eventually become part of the fabric of the Portuguese cities and of how people get around in them. Uber became commonplace in Portugal, and Portugal became a surprisingly strong business within Uber.

Many factors contributed to the change Uber was driving. There was the company’s simple vision that held a vastly deep implication. There was Travis’ relentless drive. But, just as importantly, there were the people. I worked with a special bunch at Uber. These special ones were talented, motivated and resilient. They acted like owners. They cared deeply about how they were helping people get from one place to another in a safer, more affordable, and more reliable. They cared about creating important economic opportunities that truly made a difference in the lives of so many families. They were united by our mission and by the challenges that we had to overcome every single day. And even though Uber is by no means heaven on earth — like any other company we had our issues and internal politics, and our global expansion had its fair share of mistakes, missteps, and media-worthy scandals — we truly believed, and still do, that what we did was worth doing. That we were on the right side of history.

I’m thankful and proud for having played a part in this story of how Uber and Uber Eats became such a meaningful part of the lives of so many people in Portugal and in Southern Europe.

Over the course of these 1,592 days, so many things changed as our small company grew at an unprecedented rate. The 800 employees that made up the Uber I had joined became almost 20 thousand. Our scrappy company became more mature, more structured and, in many ways, naturally less like the startup I had joined and more like the Apple where I had worked in the 2.5 years prior. And I changed. My Uber experience shaped me as I felt that each problem that came my way outmatched my skills and forced me into uncomfortable places.

Still, my compulsion to pick a problem apart and to be part of a solution that can make the world a slightly better place to someone remains the same. That drove me to Uber four years ago, and that’s driving me to go my own way now. To a certain extent, it doesn’t feel like change: it feels like continuity. Solving problems was what I wanted to do when I joined Uber, and it’s what I want to keep on doing. And stepping into the unknown sounds like the best way to keep trying to solve problems.

So now, I am taking the road less traveled. The one that is unlit and unpaved. I have no idea where it leads, but I am eager to find out. Right now, at the onset, it feels both exciting and agonizing. I guess that’s what comes with trying to create something new that can bring value to others. And I will be hoping that, with the coming zigs and zags, I’ll be able to make my next 1,592 days at least as fulfilling and exciting as the previous ones were.

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Building Kitch. Speaking as a child of the 90s.

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Rui Bento

Rui Bento

Building Kitch. Speaking as a child of the 90s.

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