Garrett Camp: the quiet techie who dreamt up Uber

The taxi app is always associated with its former boss Travis Kalanick. But it was actually his co-founder, Garrett Camp, who came up with the idea. He’s now sitting on billions. Jane Lewis reports.

947-Camp-634
Garrett Camp: the brains behind Uber

So much is made of Travis Kalanick's association with Uber it was his "intuition and drive", notes the Financial Times, that propelled the taxi app into the valuationstratosphere that it's often forgotten who originally came up with the big idea.

That honour belongs to Garrett Camp, "a serial entrepreneur" from Canada who was by far the quieter player in the double-act with Kalanick, says Forbes. The two men worked together for a tumultuous decade. Camp, now 40, was Uber's chairman. But he was often absent and later criticised, along with the rest of the board, for allowing Kalanick's "frat-house" culture to go unchecked.

A factory of ideas

For Camp, Uber was the big idea that delivered beyond dreams. He "holds the distinction of reaping the largest windfall for doing the least amount of work". True, the value of his stake estimated at $3.7bn before the float has taken a trimming following the company's disastrous initial public offering (IPO). But he's still sitting pretty on billions to feed into new ventures.

Born in 1978, in Calgary, Camp "inherited his parents' entrepreneurial spirit", says Investopedia. His mother, an artist, and his father, an economist, had ditched their careers and set up together, designing and building houses. Their son, who had techie talents, took a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Calgary, where he majored in "collaborative systems, evolutionary algorithms and information retrieval".

He launched his first company, StumbleUpon, in 2002 while still at university. Camp called it a "discovery engine" the idea was to help people find sites "more targeted to their interests" than a regular search engine could. The idea flew. After attracting Silicon Valley cash, the company moved to San Francisco in 2006 and was sold to eBay a year later for $75m.

A time saver for San Franciscans

He actually came up with idea of Uber "as a cool app" that would save his friends in San Francisco time. Even though Camp successfully ran Uber's first investment pitches, he now freely admits that he "didn't really thinkabout the scale that it would reach". It was only when "Travis joined" that things "started to go faster".

Being slow to grasp the "significance" of Uber as a disruptive force was a rare "failure of imagination" on Camp's part. But he also made another big miscalculation, says Bloomberg. In his original presentation to investors in 2008, Camp described the Uber as "profitableby design". Ten years and tens of billionsof dollars of losses later, investors arestill waiting.

Recommended

Craig Newmark: the nerd who shook up the media giants
People

Craig Newmark: the nerd who shook up the media giants

Twenty-five years ago, Craig Newmark lost his job at a brokerage and fired off an email to friends. That seeded a venture, Craigslist, that dominates …
26 Oct 2020
Great frauds in history: the Independent West Middlesex Fire and Life Assurance Company's early Ponzi scheme
Investment strategy

Great frauds in history: the Independent West Middlesex Fire and Life Assurance Company's early Ponzi scheme

The Independent West Middlesex Fire and Life Assurance Company (IWM) offered annuities and life insurance policies at rates that proved too good to be…
21 Oct 2020
Mukesh Ambani: the Indian billionaire eyeing global expansion
People

Mukesh Ambani: the Indian billionaire eyeing global expansion

Mukesh Ambani is already the richest man in India by a large margin, but his ambitions do not end there. He wants India to be at the front of the worl…
19 Oct 2020
Great frauds in history... John Factor’s penny-stock scams
People

Great frauds in history... John Factor’s penny-stock scams

John Factor sold worthless penny stocks through a boiler room operation, ramping the price via his financial newsletters. But he was never held to ac…
14 Oct 2020

Most Popular

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm
Bitcoin

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm

The Bank of England could win the race to create a respectable digital currency if it moves quickly, says Matthew Lynn.
18 Oct 2020
Don’t miss this bus: take a bet on National Express
Trading

Don’t miss this bus: take a bet on National Express

Bus operator National Express is cheap, robust and ideally placed to ride the recovery. Matthew Partridge explains how traders can play it.
19 Oct 2020
Three stocks that can cope with Covid-19
Share tips

Three stocks that can cope with Covid-19

Professional investor Zehrid Osmani of the Martin Currie Global Portfolio Trust, picks three stocks that he thinks should be able to weather the coron…
12 Oct 2020