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Colombia's Uber Angel & Uber's Unconventional Methods for Capturing Global Markets

First Posted: Apr 28, 2015 05:00 AM EDT
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Uber has conquered several cities in the U.S. -- garnering the ridesharing "startup" the highest valuation in history for any venture capital-backed private startup, at $41.2 billion as of its last December 2014 funding round.

But conquering markets across the world is much more difficult, with unique challenging situations for every county, or city, that Uber moves into -- be it legal, competition-wise, or cultural. 

Here's how Uber is using unconventional strategies to address the interesting peculiarities the company is finding in new markets across the world, starting with Colombia.

Uber Angel in Colombia

Uber has a great service that's only available in Colombia called Uber Angel. Imagine this: You go out on the town, but after a few too many drinks at the club, you realize you shouldn't drive yourself home. What do you do? Get a cab back and pick up your car from downtown the next day?

What you certainly should not do is drive home drunk (whether you're in Bogota or anywhere else in the world). But in Colombia, the laws against drinking and driving are especially harsh, because Colombians have a particularly bad habit of engaging in that dangerous risky behavior.

For example, according to an NIH study from 2012, "Road traffic crashes caused 5,704 deaths and injured 39,318 people in 2010" in Colombia, a large proportion of which can be attributed to drunk driving, the study added, "because the proportion of crashes involving fatalities rises on weekends and between 12:00 a.m. and 05:59 a.m. when drink driving is likely to occur."

When mass-media awareness campaigns weren't enough to curb the dangers of drunk drivers on the road, Colombia stepped up enforcement and passed laws imposing fines up to almost $15,000 and up to 25 years revocation of offenders' drivers licenses, depending on the severity of the crime.

Hence UberAngel, an Uber offering tailored for Colombia, where the company faces low smartphone penetration and stiff competition from traditional taxi services and local startups -- not to mention legal resistance from some Colombian government officials. 

So after a long day partying in downtown Bogota, you can hail an UberAngel and Uber's (sober) driver will take you home in your own car. Buzzfeed says it's a free service, though Uber's Bogota site states that the service costs 10,000 Colombian pesos (about $4.50 U.S.), with no additional fees per minute or distance.

Uber's Adapting Across the World

In any case, it's a perfect example of one of Uber's unconventional ways it's getting a foothold in many countries around the world.

Another example: As we previously reported, Spain sided with the taxi industry and outlawed Uber in 2014. To keep a toehold in the country, Uber soon launched UberEats in Barcelona -- a food delivery service similar to UberFresh in California.

Buzzfeed lists a couple other examples of Uber's creative marketing that are fun to read about.

For example, sometimes Uber goes far beyond the typical ride-sharing service to catch locals' attention, like with UberSuperCar in Singapore -- which lets users get a 15 minute ride in a Maserati or Lamborghini for about $125 to $150, and $5 per minute after.

How about launching that service in the U.S. next, Uber?

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