Uber for Business (U4B) Engineering Manager Hao Truong gives an engineering perspective behind the making of U4B, one of our fastest growing Uber products. It was launched a little over one year ago.
What does the Uber for Business team do at Uber?
Our mission is to be the leading provider of business transportation solutions globally. We’re focusing on making riding for business easier than ever so that U4B becomes the de facto choice for both employees and businesses. To do so, we’re building a solution for every business transportation need: travel, events, commuting and employee benefits, like late night rides home. The market opportunity for U4B is massive: We estimate the business ground transportation market to be $30B in the US. To capture this market, we’re bringing the same disruptive approach we took on the consumer side to corporate ground transportation.
What is there to disrupt?
Corporate ground transportation has historically been expensive and onerous — both for the employee and the company. Employees are currently required to gather receipts for every business ride and go through a painful expense reporting process. Companies are paying high rates for car services and taxi rides, incurring administrative overhead and facing fraud as it’s difficult to verify the legitimacy of travel expenses. Think about how unreliable all those handwritten taxi receipts are. U4B dramatically simplifies this experience by eliminating the need for receipts and streamlining policy management. Additionally, Uber’s global presence combined with a comprehensive set of business travel solutions makes us a one-stop shop for corporate ground transportation.
How are you going to disrupt?
We’re using technology to:
- Make it easy for employees to travel with Uber and seamless for them to file expenses.
- Save companies money through lower everyday rates, simplified processes, automated travel policy compliance, and reduced risk of fraud.
- Offer a solution for every business transportation need: meetings, business travel, employee benefits, events, and commuting.
The global nature of Uber and our exceptional safety standards combined with technology-driven business solutions makes U4B the easiest option for companies.
What’s your strategy?
We’re using a ground up approach and focusing on user experience. We currently have two products:
- Central U4B Account, No Expensing: We have launched a self-service product that enables companies with up to 5,000 employees to create a central U4B account. Employees bill their trips directly to their company. They enjoy the speed and reliability of Uber’s service without the hassle of filing and reconciling expenses. Companies get access to an admin dashboard where they can invite employees, set rules that match their travel policy, get trip information in place of receipts and useful reports. All trips are billed to a central payment method.
- Standard Expensing System, Automated Expensing: Several companies prefer to use an expense management system (e.g. Concur/Expensify) for all business travel spend including ground transportation with Uber, hotels and air travel. To address this segment, we have launched an integration with Concur to dramatically simplify expense reporting. Employees that connect their Concur account to Uber can get e-receipts automatically filed.
What are the project challenges from an engineering standpoint?
The main challenge is integrating with so many pieces of engineering at Uber. We work with the mobile team, the core API, the dispatch system, the website, the payment systems and the data reporting systems. We touch every piece of Uber. Two-thirds of the team had been with Uber less than two months when we started.
We have been able to leverage the same experience the Uber consumer side uses to alleviate scaling challenges which has been tremendously helpful. The admin dashboard we built only has a small amount of users at a given time, so that was a pretty easy part of the project.
How did you work with so many systems and have it all work at the end?
A strength of Uber is that everyone we reached out to was really supportive and very helpful to help us kick this off. When we couldn’t get someone on mobile, some of our own developers stepped up to focus on iOS and Android, and the mobile team offered to review the code, which made it easy for us to move forward. So we have our team working full-stack. Of course, that also created challenges because we were one of the first teams to do a project of this scope. In that sense, we were — and are — breaking new ground.
With so much of team being new to Uber, what were the special challenges that created?
Well, task estimation was a challenge because there were two dimensions of learning: nUbers (what we call people who have just joined the company) are not only learning the Uber stack, but also learning all these other services we were touching. But a huge strength of Uber is that you have direct access to the code bases you need to achieve your goals. Everyone here is an owner, not a renter. People may think we are becoming a big corporation, but we are are staying nimble: We can build what we envision — in all code bases — in a few weeks if we commit (and keep committing!) #UberOn!