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Uber prepares for Sydney launch: Five top tips from the US venture’s GM

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

The Australian general manager of US-based car service Uber has offered start-ups some advice after spending five years in Silicon Valley, as the business gears up for its Australian launch.

 

Uber, based in San Francisco, is an on-demand car service where drivers pick up users based on iPhone, Android, SMS and web-based requests.

 

Last month, Uber confirmed its intention to launch in Australia, posting job descriptions for an operations manager and a community manager, having already hired a general manager.

 

That person is David Rohrsheim, who is heading up Uber’s expansion to Sydney after spending five years in Silicon Valley, where he not only worked but attended Stanford Business School.

 

Ahead of Uber’s Sydney launch next week, Rohrsheim shares his insights about start-ups:

 

Never stop moving

 

“I was a bit of an IT geek as a kid. I studied engineering at uni but was encouraged to do a double degree in finance, so I would understand more than just engineering,” Rohrsheim says.

 

“I spent a few years working with [global management consulting firm] Bain and then was introduced to a VC firm in San Francisco, Draper Fisher Jurvetson.”

 

“I worked for them for two-and-a-half years… It was an ideal way to meet a lot of people in a short period of time. I was welcomed into the valley.”

 

“I then applied to Stanford Business School, which was just down the road… Almost half of the people in venture capital [in Silicon Valley] have a Stanford MBA.”

 

“I decided it would just be a fun experience. I thought of it as a gift I gave myself.”

 

Be driven by the cause, not the title

 

“The biggest change in my mindset over the last five years is to actively pursue projects I’m passionate about… It’s important to solve a problem that matters to you.”

 

“I do think too many people start businesses – and this is all around the world – because they think it’s sexy or they want the CEO title.”

 

“Start-ups are such hard work that if it isn’t your main reason for being alive, eventually you will give up on one of the down days.”

 

Silicon Valley is hard work

 

“You’re encouraged to get on the plane and go to Silicon Valley, where it will all work out.”

 

“I think sometimes people are expecting too much. They expect to arrive and for it to just start happening… Get as much of [your] story together before you arrive over there.”

 

“There’s a lot of magic there but you’ve got to get some runs on the board first.”

 

Don’t be afraid to come home

 

“It was a tough choice to come back… I had many more friends in San Francisco than anywhere else in the world.”

 

“I wanted to work for a disruptive consumer technology company, and there’s lots of them there, but in the back of my mind I knew I would come home one day.”

 

“I didn’t think it would be so soon, but the Uber opportunity was one of the most interesting jobs I could imagine back in Australia.”

 

Get frustrated

 

“I am personally frustrated by how long we have to wait for innovative services in Silicon Valley to move down to Australia.”

 

“Every day I am longing for Amazon Prime and Turntable.fm. I am highly motivated to shorten that gap, and Uber is just my first project.”

 

“Australians are tech-savvy, wealthy and share a common language, so we deserve to have the latest from Silicon Valley earlier.”