UBER’S FIRST INVESTORS OPEN UP ABOUT THEIR WILD RIDE
Aruba, May 8, 2019 – Mike Walsh was busy trying to manage his doomed software company in 2009 when he agreed to take a 15 minute meeting with a little-known figure in the tech industry named Ryan Graves.
Graves, a friend of one of Walsh’s employees, was debating whether to take a job as the CEO of UberCab, a new startup looking to let customers hail black cars on demand from their smartphones. He had effectively found and applied for the position on Twitter (TWTR), in response to a tweet from one of the company’s two cofounders, Travis Kalanick.
Walsh saw the potential for a company to improve on existing car services where you “wait 45 minutes for a taxi and then they cancel on you.” He also had a “good feeling” about Graves and knew the founders were well-connected. So not only did Walsh encourage Graves to take the job, he also said he’d invest in the startup if Graves joined UberCab.
As Walsh put it in a recent interview with CNN Business, he figured the “worst case scenario” for UberCab was that “somebody would buy this thing.” Instead, backing the startup ended up being one of the best possible investments a venture capitalist could make this century.
In 2010, Walsh invested $10,000 in UberCab, with half of that coming from a deposit he’d previously put down for a Tesla. Today, Walsh says his investment in the company — now known simply as Uber — is worth tens of millions of dollars. More remarkable: It was just Walsh’s second venture investment.