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Uber taps global leaders for new public policy advisory group

TechCrunch TechCrunch 4/05/2016 Kate Conger

Uber announced today that it has assembled an advisory board from around the globe to help guide the company as it continues to expand into new countries. The board includes members from every continent except Africa and Antarctica, and has been formed to advise Uber on public policy as it expands into new markets.

Uber now operates in 70 countries, and plans to grow even further. But although Uber has grown rapidly, its expansion has been rocky at times. Uber settled a U.S. labor lawsuit for $100 milllion last month, and pulled its carpool offering, UberPOP, from most of the European countries where it was initially offered after it sparked destructive protests.

These are the kinds of growing pains that the company hopes its advisory board will help it to avoid. Uber’s new public policy advisory group includes:

  • Melody Barnes
    Vice Provost for Global Student Leadership Initiatives at New York University and former Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House

  • Roberto Daniño
    Former Prime Minister of Peru

  • Dr. Allan Fels
    Professor at Melbourne, Monash and Oxford Universities and former Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

  • Neelie Kroes
    Netherlands Special Envoy for Startups and former Vice President of the European Commission

  • Ray LaHood
    Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation

  • Dr. Gesner Oliveira
    Former President of the Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE)

  • Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud
    Founder and CEO, Alf Khair

  • Adil Zainulbhai
    Chairman of the Quality Council of India and former chairman of McKinsey India

The roster is less of a road map of where Uber plans to go and more of a look at where the company has been — Uber already operates in all of the countries represented on the new advisory board. But Uber expects that its advisors will offer regional insights beyond the borders of the United States, Peru, Brazil, India, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the Netherlands.

The board will help Uber navigate as it expands into new countries — but it seems that Uber has its eye on shaping yet-to-be-established public policies that will govern the ridesharing economy. Uber’s chief advisor David Plouffe noted that, only a few years ago, California was the only place that had regulations in place for ridesharing. “Today more than 70 jurisdictions in the U.S. do, and many other places around the globe are following suit, including in Australia, Canada, India, the Philippines and Mexico,” Plouffe wrote in a blog post announcing the new group.

Uber has sparred with regulators in California and beyond, often facing hefty government fines, and it’s easy to imagine why the company wants to avoid this moving forward. Plouffe referenced his company’s brash reputation in the post: “Uber has a reputation for getting straight to the point (sometimes a little too quickly),” Plouffe wrote. He said he hoped the board’s advice would be “equally direct.”

The advisory board held its first meeting earlier this week. “We had vibrant discussions about every aspect of our business and the unique challenges and opportunities Uber faces around the world,” Plouffe added.

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