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Houston Effort to Silence Uber Supporters Gives Scrappy Company PR Win

· February 28, 2014

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It’s been a while since DisCo has reported on Uber, the startup that is known equally for its app that connects passengers with drivers and for doing a remarkable job engaging its users to challenge local governments and incumbent taxi companies.  One of the cities in which Uber is currently facing an existential threat is Houston.

On Sunday, Team Uber Houston wrote a blog post calling Houston to action, including a petition (which was signed by more than 10,000 people) and information on a City Council hearing on Tuesday.  And yesterday, Team Uber Houston put out another post with the shocking information that the City of Houston is trying to silence its citizens.

Please consider this as a formal demand that your client, Uber, cease and desist from transmitting or aiding in the transmission of form e-mails to City officials regarding the adoption of an ordinance to accommodate their enterprise. Despite my informal request to you by telephone on Monday, the excessive number of e-mails has gone unabated, to the point that it has become harassing in nature and arguably unlawful. Failure to cease and desist will be met with appropriate action by the City.

Elected officials censoring their constituents for complaining about an ordinance that affects them is a little bit ironic.  (Their job, in theory at least, is to legislate and serve their constituents… which entails people telling them what they are upset about.)  And by sending Uber this letter, which Uber fortunately publicized, the City of Houston is only further emboldening Uber and its customers to fight for competition.

Competition

Some, if not all of society’s most useful innovations are the byproduct of competition. In fact, although it may sound counterintuitive, innovation often flourishes when an incumbent is threatened by a new entrant because the threat of losing users to the competition drives product improvement. The Internet and the products and companies it has enabled are no exception; companies need to constantly stay on their toes, as the next startup is ready to knock them down with a better product.