Co-founding Uber made Calgary-born Garrett Camp a billionaire

Fresh off of selling his web startup, StumbleUpon, Garrett Camp co-founded Uber with Travis Kalanick. The rest is history

 
Uber co-founder Garrett Camp

(Portrait by Jamie Tanaka)

It was a snowy night in Paris in 2008, when Garrett Camp and his friend Travis Kalanick struggled to get a cab. Most would simply moan about the inconvenience and continue shivering in the cold, but Camp and Kalanick instead started dreaming up ways to fix the problem. It wasn’t idle dreaming; the pair were flush with cash after selling startups and were actively searching for their next idea. A year earlier, baby-faced Camp sold StumbleUpon, a web-curating service he and two fellow grad students at the University of Calgary built from the ground up, to eBay for US$75 million. Kalanick, meanwhile, had just sold his second startup, Red Swoosh, a content-delivery company, for $20 million to Akamai Technologies.

Camp’s solution to the cab problem: Order a car with the push of a button on your phone. Kalanick wasn’t sure, but the two fleshed out the idea further, and when Camp got back to his adopted home city, San Francisco, he registered the company’s first domain name, UberCab. If it was Camp who gave the idea its legs, supervising the building of its first few iterations, it was Kalanick, a brash entrepreneur, who saw its potential and helped those legs go from a trot to a sprint.

Damn the (naysaying) regulators and the (bloated and inefficient) cab industry—Uber was going to change the way we navigated through our cities. The first app came out in 2010, for use in San Francisco, and by 2012, it had gone international to its incubation city, Paris, before spreading to Toronto, London and Sydney. It is now on its way to becoming a verb (“I’ll Uber there”) and its valuation is close to US$70 billion—this despite never yet having turned a profit.

In personality, Camp is mild-mannered Steve Wozniak to Kalanick’s bumptious Steve Jobs—except that Camp has a greater sense of what the customer might want than Woz ever did. He’s just not a swashbuckler like Kalanick. What he loves to do is what he did with Uber: taking that initial good idea and shaping it into a viable business.

This summer, Camp bought back a majority share in his first venture, StumbleUpon, hoping to help it repossess its mojo (it had 25 million active users at one point). He co-founded incubator Expa, which has a US$50-million war chest to help find and grow the next Uber. No matter how these ventures go, he’ll always have Paris.

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