Austin ridesharing reminds me of Chinese protectionism

Its no secret that a lot of the Internet economy in China is fuelled by protectionism. A reddit user managed to post some service equivalents.

In May 2016, I landed in Austin to see that there were no more pickups in Austin. I took exactly two cabs during my stay (to/from the airport), and walked everywhere I needed to go. It wasn’t a great experience as the weather was pretty bad as well, and Paul Graham also chimed in. Apparently there are hacks to get around to using Uber in Austin, but I’ve never bothered to use them (that article also talks about the requirements beyond just background checks BTW).

People get creative naturally – they started a Facebook group, so much so the police have started to crackdown.

But I’m starting to see all these other services crop up that presumably abide by whatever Austin asks for:

  • at the airport, ads at the baggage carousel for FARE (some news about their launch)
  • at the hotel I saw a brochure for Wingz which promises pre-booking, flat rates, surge-free and around town you pay a minimum of $20, and to get to/from the airport its a $25 minimum.
  • at the hotel again, I saw a brochure for Fasten with a $20 off my first ride promo code as well (their font initially made me look for “faston” instead of “fasten”).
  • Get me via an email from the hotel informing me that I wouldn’t be able to use Uber/Lyft in Austin.
  • zTrip was also in said similar email as above.

So its not that Austin doesn’t like ridesharing. And with time, presumably enough people will complain so we will see Lyft and Uber make their way back. This week I’m walking around Austin as well (its 38C, but thats better than rain I guess). But it sure feels very protectionist.