Why Uber is winning the Taxi war, and what that has to do with Broadway.

Everyone knows Uber is one of the most successful startups of the last decade, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized just how successful it had become.

I was leaving a hotel in Chicago at 4:30 AM on my way to the airport.  Like a good traveler, I had already checked with my concierge the night before about taxis at that hour of the morning.  “Don’t worry,” he said, “There’s always a line of yellow cabs right out front.”


I only got about 3 hours of sleep that night, and when I woke up the next morning I was still wiped.  And I could see that the infamous wind in Chi-town was already whipping through the streets.  It was going to be chilly out there.

And suddenly I thought of being in one of those yellow cabs . . . and maybe the heat would work, and maybe it wouldn’t.  And maybe the driver would be rude, and maybe he wouldn’t be.  And maybe the shocks would be shot, and I’d be bouncing around on a hard back seat, unable to catch a little shut eye on the 45 minute ride to O’Hare.

Before you know it, I had whipped out my phone and requested an Uber, which would arrive in 3 minutes.

And I got another 30 minutes of sleep on my ride to the airport.

The concierge was right.  When I slipped into the back seat of my SUV, there was a line of taxis right there.  And I knew they’d even be a little cheaper than my Uber.  But I didn’t care.

And it was me not caring that made me realize . . . the days of the yellow cab were over, unless they went through a major overhaul.  And I’m not just talking about a little body work.  The taxi model needs a whole new engine.

What is it about Uber and what does Broadway have to learn from it?

Here’s why Uber is killing it . . .

1.  Kill ’em with Kindness.

Rude NYC cab drivers used to be part of the character of NYC.  They were the only option, so you took what you got, and you even enjoyed it a bit.  But not anymore.  We live in the age of the consumer.  The buyers of today have more power than they did in the 80s and 90s, and they want to be treated with respect.  Uber drivers are always uber courteous. They help with your bags.  They smile.  They stay off the phone.  Why?  Because they have to.  They know that the rating you give them at the end of a ride is a big part of their future business.  So they drive to impress.

Everyone that comes in contact with a Broadway theatergoer could learn a few things from these folks.  Attending a Broadway show for the first time is a lot scarier than getting in a stranger’s car, so we need to treat these folks with the care that they deserve, especially with how much they are spending on each ticket.

2.  Comfortness is next to Godliness.

It was the thought of sitting on a warm cushy seat that got me to press “request” on my Uber app that AM.  We want to be comfortable, and we’re willing to pay for it.  And if we’re not comfortable and we’ve really paid for it, we’ll just avoid it altogether next time.

Cramped seats, long lines at b-rooms, and crowded lobbies are all reasons for folks to stay home and watch Netflix.   While it ain’t easy to make changes to some of our historic buildings, we’ve got to start taking some steps toward making our theatergoing experience as comfortable as being on your couch, if we want to get people to get off their couch.

3.  It’s easy to access.

The Uber app is incredible.  You can have a car with one click.  Bam.  It’s intuitive.  It’s intelligent.  And it’s super easy to operate.  (It reminds me of another great online innovator – Amazon – and their one-click purchase button.)

Have you tried to buy a ticket for a Broadway show recently?  And then, have you tried to do it on mobile?   Our customers are living on their phones, and making purchases on their phones, and dang it, we’re still trying to get our websites to catch up!  Once again, we’re ten years behind other industries.  And if we want to compete we’ve got to make theater much easier to get.  We need to be in people’s pockets, so they’ll pull out their pocketbooks.


Uber reminds me of Google.  Both companies entered the market, and quickly put their competitors to shame, by giving their customers what they wanted, before they even knew they wanted it.

They weren’t reactive.  They were proactive.

Which is what all successful businesses should strive for.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.