UBER IS HERE.
At long last, Uber, a private car rideshare company based in San Francisco, has announced that they are launching in North Dakota, starting right here in Fargo this Thursday.
“We understand that Fargo has a growing tech ecosystem,” said Sagar Shah, Uber’s general manager of expansion to North Dakota. “It’s exciting for everybody, and bringing tech like Uber there really supports that growing environment for tech.”
Uber has been an active part of the rideshare legislation process in North Dakota since January, Shah said. Now, Fargo is the first city for Uber expansion that has rideshare legislation already in place.
“North Dakota is the first place that has passed ridesharing regulations before Uber started operating,” Shah said. “That’s very forward thinking and really speaks to the fact that North Dakota is a business-friendly state that supports innovation and new tech.”
Fargo joins the Uber ranks currently operating in 300 cities in 57 countries – the closest being Minneapolis. Because of the friendly legislation, Shah said they do plan to expand to other North Dakota cities such as Bismarck. Uber will also be operational in Moorhead, MN.
Uber in Fargo: The Untold Story
While rumors of Uber coming to Fargo surfaced last December, the story really begins about a year ago, in a Chicago cafe.
Local Fargoan Joe Burgum was sipping coffee when, in an instance of “urban serendipity,” he ran into a college friend who was an early Uber employee.
As a strong Uber enthusiast, Burgum got his contact info and began sending him monthly e-mails about bringing Uber to Fargo. For months, there was no response.
“I thought, ‘they aren’t interested in Fargo, I guess,'” Burgum said.
Then, when North Dakota began updating legislation for cab ordinances this past winter, Uber tuned in. Burgum got an e-mail: “Hey, let’s talk.” He met with Shah and other Uber representatives, and they immediately began work in Bismarck to get rideshare legislation introduced.
“That’s the untold story of all of this,” Burgum said. “It was definitely easier than in a lot of states, but there was a lot of man hours out in Bismarck that went into this.”
One of the unique challenges in North Dakota was that, because Uber was not already operational, more explanation was needed for people to grasp what Uber is and why it is valuable, Burgum said.
Lunch & Learn + Promo Code
Their efforts, however challenging, were successful. Now, Uber is about to get one of the warmest welcomes a city can offer. As part of the celebrations, Uber and Emerging Prairie are currently planning a Lunch and Learn event this Thursday, at 12 PM at the Myriad Mobile Library. Sign up here!
Shah also announced that for the first week after the Fargo launch, Uber will be offering free Uber services. When logging in, type in promo code: FARGOFREE
“My hope is that this is Uber’s most welcome launch ever,” Burgum said. “I want Fargo to just embrace them and get them off to a great start.”
Drunk Driving and Taxi Troubles
For many Fargoans, the availability of a rideshare service such as Uber in Fargo could pose a solution to recent complaints against the taxi cab systems – or lack thereof.
Just last month, NDSU student Suzie Marin had a frightening encounter with a taxi cab driver in which his harassing questions made her fear for her life. Others report of cab drivers blowing through red lights and stop signs.
But perhaps one of the most widely acknowledged problems is the struggle to get a cab at bar close.
“People can wait for over an hour on a Friday night to get a cab,” Burgum said. “Because of that, people are more likely to get in their cars after drinking.”
For this reason, Fargoan Dan Haglund has already applied and been accepted as an Uber driver.
“I had a former coworker in a previous job, she was killed as well as her husband and young daughter, and they had a baby on the way, they were all wiped out by a drunk driver on the interstate,” he said to Valley News Live.
Since then, Haglund has been volunteering to give rides during bar close and holidays. Now, as an Uber driver, he can offer those services as part-time work.
More Fargo Jobs
Already, Shah said that they have received hundreds of applicants for Uber drivers. However, applicants must meet qualifications such as owning a car that is 10 years old or less, and passing a heavy background check.
“While we have many applicants, a select few of them will be on the road and ready to drive,” he said.
He ensured, however, that there will be drivers at the ready come the Thursday launch.
“At least right off the bat, availability will be limited,” he said. “But our team is working really hard to get that going.”
While Shah can’t offer a hard number on exactly how many jobs Uber will bring to Fargo, he does know that around the world Uber is creating the equivalent of 50,000 jobs a month.
Uber also has a track record of reducing drunk driving, as can be seen in a Seattle study where the implementation of Uber reduced drunk driving incidents by 10%, Shah said.
“Especially in communities like Fargo, we’ve had really impactful reductions in drunk driving,” Shah said.
How to Uber
For those unfamiliar with Uber, here’s the lowdown on Uber-ing:
1. Anyone with a car and a license can apply to be an Uber driver, and, if qualified, will work as an independent contractor with weekly pay.
2. Riders can hail an Uber driver like a taxi by logging into the Uber mobile application, selecting the service you’d like, and plugging in your location.
3. The app will locate the nearest Uber driver and send them directly to you. Riders can view info on their ride, such as a photo of the driver, their rating, and the make and model of the car.
4. After your ride, you don’t pay the driver directly – they’re paid through the app, with gratuity included. Drivers and passengers rate each other, as an accountability method for being good drivers and passengers.
Fares are determined based on the city on a per mile or per minute basis, on top of a base fare of a few dollars.
Advice from the fastest-growing startup in the world
The Fargo launch comes just days after Uber made international headlines with reports of the company seeking to raise $1.5 billion in funds – which could push its total valuation to a groundbreaking $50 billion and make it one of the richest startups in history.
As a part of such a record-breaking startup, we asked Shah what his advice would be for Fargo’s tech startups and entrepreneurs.
“Really just work hard,” Shah said. “You can have the most interesting idea and the coolest tech in the world. But if you’re not working really hard and executing with all your strength on the ground, a lot of that can get lost. Ultimately, success is the ability to give it your all.”
Since its founding in 2009, Uber has been disrupting taxi and limo services across the globe, and is now widely hailed as one of the fastest growing startups in the world.
And now, it’s coming to Fargo.
“I think it’s a total game-changer,” Burgum said. “I think Uber is going to put Fargo on the map as a big city.”
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Photos courtesy of Uber.com & Marisa Jackels.