Uber hires former Obama adviser Plouffe to counter opponents

Plouffe: A new full-time job and "labor of love" with Uber.
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WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc. hired David Plouffe, a former top political adviser to President Barack Obama, to help it cope with regulatory hurdles and mounting opposition from cabbies around the globe.

The San Francisco-based startup, which makes a mobile car-booking application, said Tuesday it has hired Plouffe to be senior vice president of policy and strategy.

Uber said Plouffe will start with the company in late September and lead policy and political activities, branding and communications.

"I will look to him as a strategic partner on all matters as Uber grows around the world," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post titled "a leader for the Uber campaign."

Uber is adding to its executive bench as it grows quickly -- and runs into protests and regulatory snafus in the process.

The company in June landed a $17 billion valuation in a $1.2 billion financing, making it one of the most highly valued startups in Silicon Valley.

Uber has been taking on opponents in the taxi industry and in governments worldwide as it disrupts the transportation business with its technology, which lets people hail rides from smartphones and bypass taxis.

The company has faced mass protests from cabbies in Europe and elsewhere, which Kalanick has in the past likened to having to wage a political campaign.

Most recently, Uber has grappled with regulatory hurdles in Berlin, where the company is defying a ban and risking a 25,000-euro ($33,000) fine on each ride.

More resistance

Uber may face more resistance as it pushes into new businesses. It offers bicycle courier deliveries in New York, will connect users in Atlanta and Nashville to furniture movers, and recently began delivering medicine, diapers and toothpaste in Washington.

The company is also testing a carpooling service for sharing rides with strangers in its hometown.

"Our mission has become a surprisingly controversial topic," Kalanick wrote in the post. "Our opponent -- the Big Taxi cartel -- has used decades of political contributions and influence to restrict competition, reduce choice for consumers, and put a stranglehold on economic opportunity for its drivers."

Plouffe, 47, is a contributor to Bloomberg TV, though he said on a conference call that he plans to resign by the time he starts at Uber next month.

He was a strategist for both of Obama's presidential campaigns and worked in the White House from 2011 to 2013.

"This is going to be a full-time job and labor of love," Plouffe said on the call, adding that he plans to move to San Francisco by next summer. "So I'm not going to have time for other pursuits."

Kalanick said on the call that he has been working on filling the role at the company for six months.

Lyft exit

Plouffe's hire came on the same day that rival Lyft Inc., which is battling Uber for market share, said Chief Operating Officer Travis VanderZanden had left the company.

He had joined San Francisco-based Lyft about 18 months ago when the ride- sharing company acquired his startup Cherry.

"We've talked about the future and all agree that Travis will move on as we move forward into the company's next chapter of growth," Lyft said in a statement yesterday. "We appreciate everything he's done here, and wish him the best in his next adventure."

Lyft and Uber last week engaged in verbal sparring over each other's tactics as they try and spur their business. Lyft alleged Uber employees had booked and then canceled more than 5,000 rides, a behavior that Uber later said Lyft drivers and workers had also engaged in.

Technology blog Recode earlier reported VanderZanden's exit and Uber's hire of Plouffe.

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