When he comes up for air, I ask the standard question: “What do you do?”
“I’m a tech entrepreneur.”
“My company creates an online experience for people to talk about their problems with complete strangers without fear
that it will come back to haunt them.”
I’m thinking, Why would anyone go online and pay money to look at a screen image, talk to a complete stranger, and not
at least get a fare out of it?
He continues his spiel: “Ninety percent of my friends in the tech world are in therapy. Where in today’s world can people
★ IS IT SAFE? ★
get things off their chest — in a bar? I don’t think so. In the office? Nope, huge risk of backlash. At home? Not with all the
screens and other distractions. So then where can people talk? So our company gives them someplace to really connect in
a safe environment.”
I listen to him patiently and then interject, “Just like being an Uber driver.”
So it is with being a driver — hundreds of thousands of drivers
worldwide, and most of us amateur shrinks. In the car we’ve
just got a few moments to establish a rapport. Even so, connections can happen — instantaneously, even with no words
exchanged. People instinctively know when they’re in the company of someone who makes them feel comfortable. That’s my
goal, to make people feel safe, and I’m not just talking about
physical safety; I’m talking about emotional safety, about psychological safety. When people feel safe, they’re willing to take
risks, to risk the sharing of what’s most dear to them, to shed
the skin — to bring down the walls that separate human beings
from each other. When that happens, that’s the magic of being
an Uber / Lyft driver … but it ain’t always like that.
★ DRIVER CHURN ★
Driving for Uber and Lyft is a lot more demanding than it
seems and a lot less lucrative than Uber and Lyft lead you
to believe. After gas, taxes and maintenance, you’re lucky if
you make $12 an hour. Uber recognizes this and now offers
various bonuses and hourly guarantees, but they come with
conditions attached that are designed to get you out on the
road more. Why? Uber’s got a huge driver churn problem
— half of all drivers go inactive within a year. As a result,
they need the drivers they do have to spend a lot of time
working — and they need to always keep new ones coming
into the pipeline.
Why so much driver churn? First, some drivers are
deactivated by the company. An undisclosed number of
The pickup is way up in the back jungles of Ross, but Waze, my GPS of choice, gets me there straightaway.
A young guy, well dressed, gets in without a word and goes right for his cellphone.