The Virgin billionaire warns that any country attempting to halt the progress of the disruptive taxi app is hurting its own consumers
Sir Richard Branson has weighed into the Uber debate, claiming that any attempt to clamp down on the popular taxi-hailing app will hurt UK consumers.
The Virgin billionaire told London’s traditional taxi businesses to “accept” that there is a new model in the industry, and they must either “embrace it or change what they are doing”.
You cannot stop progress and you can’t turn the clock back
Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard, who has made a career out of launching start-ups to break up long-standing monopolies, said that any attempts to block Uber’s growth would be futile.
“You cannot stop progress and you can’t turn the clock back,” he said, speaking at the Virgin StartUp Foodpreneur event in London. “Once you’ve let the genie out of the box and people are benefiting from something, you can’t put it back in.”
Sir Richard warned that Transport for London’s (TfL) proposal to ban some of Uber’s key features – by demanding a minimum five-minute wait between ordering a minicab and its arrival, and banning operators from showing cars for hire within a smartphone app – would stymie innovation in the UK.
“Countries that try to ban Uber are holding themselves back,” he said. “It’s like banning Google because it’s competing with education. You must embrace it.”
The founder of the Virgin Group said that he had been caught out by emerging technologies in the past, and had learnt to adapt, rather than try to stand in the way of progress.
“I’ve been put out of business by new innovations: iTunes destroyed my record business,” he said. “So we moved into mobile phones, trains, health clubs and into space.”
He claimed that taxi lobbying groups who are fighting to curb Uber’s expansion in the capital should either “accept Uber and embrace it or change what they are doing”. He added: “The moment somebody creates something that’s better value for the consumer, you just have to accept it.”
In 2013, Hailo secured $30m (£19.2m) from investors including Sir Richard Branson