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04 JULY 2015
Dude, where’s your car?

by Mike Stopforth: Entrepreneur and investor. Sometimes writer and speaker. Exploring how we lead, and how we should lead, in an increasingly complex world.

Just over two months ago I put my BMW 320d into UberBlack. For those of you who still don’t know how Uber works, check out this useful explainer video from Mashable.

I also invested in a company that owns and runs a number of Honda vehicles in UberX. I’ve learned a handful of very interesting things through the experience that I’d love to share with you, hopefully with the intention of you choosing to use Uber more yourself. Especially in Johannesburg!

1. I don’t need a car

Yup, you heard me right. Mike Stopforth, acquirer and celebrator of numerous vehicles of varying degrees of practicality, hasn’t had a car for almost three months. And I haven’t really missed it. In that the only time I miss my car is when I need to drive anywhere more than a half hour outside of Joburg (like the Cradle) or if I need to transport a lot of stuff (like bikes to the Cradle).

To a lesser degree the Gautrain and to a much greater degree Uber have given previously advantaged Johannesburgers the option NOT to own a motor car. Or three motor cars, as is often the case. I had underestimated how big a deal the car you own really is for many Joburgers – some of whom are genuinely shocked that I don’t have a daily runaround. The Jozi car status self-worth index is a thing.

2. The benefits are astonishing

I never need to worry about finding or paying for parking.

I never need to worry about having a beer or eight over dinner.

I have extra space in my own garage for, you know, golf simulators and things.

I am no longer risking my life every day texting in traffic (yes, my name is Mike Stopforth and I text in traffic).

I have more time in between meetings to make calls, check mails, browse GIFs on Reddit and write comically long updates on Facebook.

Traffic doesn’t bug me as much because at least I can read or work.- I get at lease an hour of time back every day like this.

I have used the system hundreds of times from Jozi to Cape Town to London and New York and have been let down maybe once or twice, and even then not severely. It just flipping works and I flipping love it. I’m even bumming lifts off colleagues and getting to actually know people I work with – imagine that.

3. It is a good thing (at least in SA)

I am part of something that is creating thousands of much needed jobs, very quickly and very efficiently. Every day I get to meet rad guys and girls who are getting a chance to build a career and even in some cases a business. I met a guy a week back who has just added a fourth Corolla to his own Uber fleet and he’s making R50k and upwards a month. Just over a year ago he had been unemployed for 6 months before someone asked him to drive for him. I think that’s amazing. And that is why Uber is getting so much flack from cops, from metered taxis and even from government departments who are invested, formally or informally, in those taxi services. The irony is 80% of the Uber market never used metered or minibus taxis before this. They did, however, drink and drive, which is pissing Metro cops off no end.

Get the app. Use the service. It’s not cheap, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Treat your Uber drivers right and you’ll be rated highly, which in turn helps them provide better service. Help minimise traffic. Help create jobs. Help make our roads safer. Help piss off corrupt cops and corrupt officials. And when Uber’s competition (be it Lyft or a local competitor or whoever) arrives, support them the same way. Cos even Uber are, by all accounts, are a little evil and could use some healthy competition here. But rethink your attitude toward public transport in Jozi. Goodness knows Jozi needs it.

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