Ryan Graves: It starts with hustle

Ryan Graves knows and values hustle. His path to become a vice president at Uber began with a Twitter reply to the startup's co-founder. His arrival at Thinc Iowa on Wednesday, he said, marked the end of his first vacation in four years. As the final speaker of the second-year event, Graves shared personal stories

Uber global general manager and vice president of operations Ryan Graves speaks at Thinc Iowa 2012.

Ryan Graves knows and values hustle. His path to become a vice president at Uber began with a Twitter reply to the startup’s co-founder. His arrival at Thinc Iowa on Wednesday, he said, marked the end of his first vacation in four years.

As the final speaker of the second-year event, Graves shared personal stories that could inspire that kind of hustle in attendees gathered at The Temple for Performing Arts. Following those stories, Graves gave conference-goers a handful of lessons he’s learned along the way.

Start with a problem

Graves emphasized the need to start with a problem. Uber went after the fact that 72 percent of Friday and Saturday night taxi requests in San Francisco went unanswered.

A lot of problems “aren’t sexy but need a solution,” he said. This is the place to start.

Hire the best

Graves explained that a company can mess up a hire in two ways, either by hiring someone who isn’t a good fit for the company or by hiring someone who doesn’t value their job. “Get people who are ready to dedicate themselves,” Graves said.

The issue of a speedy hire versus a quality hire is very real and affects growing companies, he said. “The fire fast mantra is real and hard,” Graves said. “Getting rid of the wrong people is very important.”

Be an internal optimist

He shared three points on the importance of being an internal optimist:

  • People always think things can’t be done, and that’s why they haven’t been done.
  • You’ve got to believe to sell, hire and close.
  • Optimism breeds solutions.

Be human

“We try to inject personality and fun into the Uber brand,” Graves said.

He shared some of startup’s marketing campaigns that have gone over well with users. One Valentine’s Day, for example, every female rider received a red rose.

Celebrate victories

Whether big or small, Graves believes it’s important to celebrate victories along the way of a startup’s life. Building a startup can be tough, and victories can build a team’s morale, he said. Graves told the story of how Uber busted out champagne in celebration of an early milestone.

 

Credits: Photos by Anna Jones and Phillip Harder.


Thinc Iowa is a premiere event produced by Silicon Prairie News. For live video of Thinc Iowa 2012, tune in at spne.ws/live from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Oct. 10 and 11. For more on Thinc Iowa, check out the conference on Twitter and Facebook

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