The fact that iw as just announced that the University of Maryland has partnered with Uber for a startup incubator of sorts, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with knowledge of the University of Maryland’s seeds in the startup evolution process, nor those familiar with the former civil servant turned catalyst of change, Ken Ulman.
Ulman, who has sat as the chief executive for one of Maryland’s wealthiest counties, Howard County, on their County Council and most recently as the running mate in a failed gubernatorial bid, is no stranger to risk taking, innovation, technology or seeking forgiveness rather than permission. Ulman was the youngest person to ever sit on the Howard County Council and serve as it’s County Executive. His brother is the social entrepreneur behind the Ulman Cancer Fund For Young Adults and Ken has taken entrepreneurship across the state to a new level of well, innovation.
Put that picture in context next to that of Uber founder Travis Kalanick and the two would be like a match made in heaven. While Ulman is a public servant and a politician he’s a little more polished around the edges where Kalanick is a bit brash but other than that they both see the importance of innovation.
That’s why, in Ulman’s new position as a Czar of sorts, for economic development at the University of Maryland, he has linked Uber with a new incubation initiative called the Startup Shell, a play off of the University’s mascot terrapin.
Uber is one of the fastest, highest valued startups in the world. They’re making a lot of noise in a lot of markets and causing true disruption in the taxi cab industry. In Uber’s case, all of the legislation being brought forth to circumvent the company is testament directly to the disruption the startup valued at most recently, at $41 billion dollars, is causing.
So now to the University
Uber has partnered with the new Startup Shell incubator at the University of Maryland. They’ve provided a $25,000 investment for the student run startup space and incubator, according to citybizlist.com. But of course the partnership doesn’t stop at the investment.
Uber has committed to providing mentorship, training and partnerships for future endeavors that would come out of the Startup Shell. Specifically they are looking for more startup ideas and concepts in the “on demand” sector, specifically on college campuses.
It’s been evident over the last few times that Kalanick has spoken, that the company is constantly hearing that startups are the “uber for such and such” and they are looking at ways to fill some of those holes.
UBer has created an entire segment of apps and competitors, most directly is Lyft. With both Uber and Lyft, the end user uses an app to hail a car for a ride that’s being driven by a vetted “Uber driver” or “Lyft driver” but those drivers aren’t taxi cab drivers and they’re not driving cabs. Uber and Lyft both require a newer four door vehicle but they can range from Toyota Prius, to Ford Focus’ and anything in between. The higher end cars. like sedans and town cars are reserved for the Uber service while more average vehicles are used for a slightly less costly service, Uber X.
The company has come under fire for “surge pricing” which Kalanick and his team have done a good job of explaining, as the increase in demand rises and the number of drivers decreases, naturally pricing goes up. This is prevalent during major holidays like the Fourth of July and New Years Eve, during big events and bad weather.
Where the Startup Shell comes in is innovation. Uber is a company built on innovation and they want to see startups succeed all around them. If they find the next Uber for textbooks or campus lunches, that will just be a big plus.