Last year, Austin politicos proposed a policy that would require sharing economy transportation drivers to be fingerprinted. Uber and Lyft warned that, if implemented, they would decamp. And, when the measure passed, they made good on the threat.
So, getting around Austin this past week wasn’t nearly as easy (or as cool) as it was last year. Sure there were local ridesharing start-ups but, according to a writer for the Federalist, “Every festival-goer I spoke to this year, including founders of Silicon Valley startups, expressed dismay at the local ridesharing options and the absence of Uber and Lyft. They all reported rideshares that charged them but never showed up, charged outrageous fees for short rides or apps that continually crashed, requiring them to delete and re-download.”
In a world where image and consumer reviews are everything, what will this do to Austin’s image as a hotbed of innovation and creativity? SXSW isn’t just an event…it’s where the biggest tech brands and the international media descend for 10 days. And, if the cool kids can’t score a ride with a cool service, what does that say about how cool a city is?
I get that there are still significant public safety and tax implications with the sharing economy…and that Uber, in particular, has been a playground bully throughout the past few years. But, in the face of the international black-eye Austin just received, government needs to realize that blocking the sharing economy and passing bathroom bills hurt more than the bottom line.
These missteps cause potential investors to look elsewhere.