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Think twice before betting against Uber

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Maybe the only reason Travis Kalanick’s luxury ride service, Uber, is still in business comes down to guts.

Flying into Colorado last year, where the taxi and limousine industries were trying to shut him down, Kalanick (pronounced CAL-a-nick) had just two questions for his general manager in Denver: “One, is [Gov.] Hickenlooper still trying to put us out of business in Colorado? And two, when are we getting Aspen up?”

Kalanick started coding in sixth grade. Later, as part of the start-up Scour, a peer-to-peer search engine that helped users find content on the Web, he was the scrappy fighter who tried to fend off a lawsuit from 30 media companies.

“He was such a tough negotiator we’d forget he was just 20,” says Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz, who, with a partner, held 51% of Scour’s shares until the lawsuit forced them into bankruptcy.

So far, Uber has prevailed against the taxi lobby in such key markets as New York City and Washington, D.C.

The fight continues elsewhere, but don’t bet against Kalanick.

“You put him in the ring,” Ovitz says, “and he’s always going to come out with the win.”

— Adapted from “Hey, Taxi Company, You Talking To Me?” Jessi Hempel, Fortune.

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