Full Circle: Bringing Uber to Chicago

by Ryan Graves
September 21, 2011


My past in Chicago

As a San Diego native, a move to Chicago was very unlikely, but after meeting my wife at Miami of Ohio and following her to Chicago after college, I indeed found myself in the windy city.

In my first gig at a local consulting company I was doing IT & strategy work and getting early exposure to technology projects. From there I took a roll with GE in their technical management training program and bounced between Chicago an Milwaukee for a year or so. Meanwhile, I kept my entrepreneurial interests subdued by reading TechCrunch daily and launching a few side projects.

I started blogging at (http://ryangraves.org), I started an entrepreneurs meetup (Founders Fire), and a startup interview video site (ActionsTalk.com). At the time there was very little early stage activity but one of the entrepreneurs I interviewed is now a Chicago staple, Andrew Mason of Groupon.

My buddy Justyn Howard (CEO, SproutSocial) & I started the ‘Chicago Tech Meetup’ where we had a few startups present their products along with a talk from Jason Fried. The young community was bubbling and excited at the time, but still this sort of event was few and far between.

Tech scene changes

2 years later I returned to Chicago to check out the vibe and prepare for a launch of Uber in my beautiful wife’s native city. The drastic changes to Chicago tech were astounding. Things had developed from top to bottom. There is now a very strong early stage investment scene with Exelerate Labs, Sandbox, and a developing crew of Angels. There is a notable later stage scene lead by Lightbank, but including New World Ventures, Apex, NEA and a few others.

Bottom line, by everything I’ve seen with a lot of travel from San Francisco back to Chicago in the last few weeks, Chicago is on pace to be a main player in startup world. It has all the makings of a very strong environment, right up there with San Francisco & New York City. Corporate interest in the developing startup scene, good Venture attention, and great early stage environment with not only Angel money, but Angel mentorship, a critical piece to growing the entrepreneurial base of the city.

Uber & Chicago...

So why bring Uber to Chicago? Well the city needs it and they’re begging for it. Before even having cars on the road there we about 1000 credit cards on file with Uber and a barrage of Tweets & Facebook posts begging for Uber to come to Chicago. The Windy city has core characteristics that we look for in a strong taxi/limo market, struggling public transportation systems, an intelligent and solid wage earning group of city dwellers, and a general excitement about a transportation refresh in the city.

If you’re not familiar, Uber is an on-demand private driver service. With the touch of one button on your phone you can have a private driver waiting for you in about 5 minutes. We combine the luxury and efficiency pieces of a private driver and deliver a completely smooth transaction process.

After joining Uber in February of 2010 I lead the launch of the company in San Francisco, and since have expanded to two additional markets (NYC & Seattle). Chicago, our fourth market, is a pillar city that deserves a premium form of transportation. We’re excited and focused on bringing local solutions to each market we enter and delivering that in a meaningful, authentic fashion. Chicago is no different and we’ll continue wow users with efficiency, luxury, and technology enable elegance. On Thursday September 22, we’re launching @Uber_CHI, and we’re thrilled for what’s to come.


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