Former Obama Advisor David Plouffe on His Uber Job | Summary and Q&A

May 10, 2016
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Former Obama Advisor David Plouffe on His Uber Job

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In this interview, the former campaign manager for Barack Obama and current senior adviser to Uber discusses various aspects of the ride-sharing platform. He talks about the role of ride-sharing in the transportation ecosystem, the diversity of Uber drivers, the need for modern regulatory structures, and the mission of creating more work opportunities for individuals. He also addresses criticisms of Uber, including the company's political involvement and approach to regulation, and emphasizes the focus on safety and improvements being made for drivers.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the interviewee generally commute?

The interviewee mentioned that he usually takes Uber in New York, but sometimes he uses the subway or taxis depending on the situation. In Chicago, he took a taxi because it was more convenient for him at that time.

Q: Has the interviewee ever driven as an Uber driver?

No, the interviewee has not driven as an Uber driver but expressed interest in doing so.

Q: What is the ideal Uber driver scenario?

The interviewee explains that one of the great aspects of the Uber platform is that there is no specific ideal Uber driver. Initially, people with professional driving experience tended to gravitate towards the platform, but it has become more diverse over time. Stay-at-home parents, retirees, and individuals looking to augment their existing income are among the fastest growing demographics of Uber drivers.

Q: What impact does Uber have on the existing regulatory system?

According to the interviewee, the existing regulatory system in most cities around the world imposed limits on the number of people who could drive professionally, which restricted job opportunities and forced people into car ownership. Uber and similar platforms offer a solution to this problem by allowing more people to gain work and income from driving. The interviewee believes that new regulation should be more modern and adaptable to the nature of these platforms.

Q: How do people typically use Uber in terms of hours worked?

In the United States, approximately 60% of Uber drivers work under 10 hours a week. This percentage can be even higher in certain cities like Chicago and Miami. In China, the majority of drivers also use Uber to supplement their existing income. The interviewee emphasizes that Uber aims to create a flexible opportunity for drivers, whether they work a few hours a week or several hours a day, regardless of the country they are in.

Q: Why did the interviewee transition from politics to Uber?

The interviewee states that after working on the Barack Obama campaign and serving in the White House, he was ready to leave politics. He wanted to learn new things at his advanced age, and he found the opportunity to work at Uber intriguing because it allowed him to learn about different countries and their transportation challenges. Furthermore, he believed in Uber's mission of creating more work opportunities in a flexible manner.

Q: How does the interviewee address the criticism of Uber's approach to regulation?

The interviewee acknowledges that there are valid criticisms of Uber's approach to regulation, but he believes that the narrative has evolved. Initially, most regulations did not consider the use of technology and two-sided marketplaces in transportation. However, governments now recognize the need for a new regulatory structure that aligns with these platforms. Uber is eager to work with cities and governments on transportation and economic challenges to create a more modern and suitable regulatory framework.

Q: What happened with Uber and its services in Austin?

Uber and other transportation network companies, including Lyft, shut down their services in Austin after the city council implemented regulations that would essentially treat them as taxis. The interviewee clarifies that Uber was already regulated in Austin, but new barriers to entry were being imposed. A referendum was held, and the measures were approved. As a result, Uber and Lyft suspended their services in Austin.

Q: How does Uber address safety concerns?

The interviewee explains that Uber prioritizes safety through various measures. They conduct background checks on drivers at the federal, county, and state levels, which includes driving record checks and a zero-tolerance policy for DUI offenses. Furthermore, the entire ride is tracked using GPS, ensuring there is no anonymity between the driver and the rider. This information can be crucial in the event of any incidents. The interviewee also mentions that Uber contributes to a reduction in DUI incidents, particularly among Millennials.

Q: What changes is Uber making to improve its offerings for drivers?

The interviewee mentions several changes and improvements being made to benefit drivers. These include partnerships with unions to provide representation and benefits, monthly meetings with Uber management, and pilots for new features such as shorter waiting time for payment and accepting new trips while on a current trip. The interviewee acknowledges that there is always room for improvement and that they are actively listening to driver feedback to enhance the overall experience.

Q: Are there similarities between raising money for a startup and a political campaign?

The interviewee suggests that there are similarities between raising money for a startup and a political campaign. In both cases, people need to feel passionate about the mission and believe in the chances of success. The key is to show potential supporters or investors how the company or campaign will succeed and make a positive impact. Additionally, the interviewee highlights the importance of keeping stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the journey.


In summary, the interview with the former Obama campaign manager and senior adviser to Uber covered various aspects of the ride-sharing platform. The interviewee highlighted the need for modern regulatory structures and expanded job opportunities. He addressed criticisms of Uber's political involvement and approach to regulation, emphasizing the company's focus on safety and continuous improvements for drivers. The interviewee also discussed the similarities between raising money for a startup and a political campaign, emphasizing the importance of passion and showing a clear path to success. Overall, the interview shed light on the mission and ongoing efforts of Uber to create a more flexible and accessible transportation ecosystem.

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