The rise of uber

The hot new brand is Uber. Uber, although based on a seemingly simple idea, has revolutionized transport by creating a reliable and transparent service that the consumer can operate from their smartphone. As a technologically based service, Uber, has disrupted the established industry by making its own rules and gaining massive public support.

Uber was founded in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in San Francisco. It launched in Beta in 2010 and the service and mobile app were officially launched in 2011. Now (in early 2016) it is in 400 cities and growing fast.

Uber brands

Using Uber’s standard service you summon a car on your smart-phone and the driver is paid automatically by credit card. Uber has already diversified into economy, premium (limousine), and assisted (to accommodate help with wheel-chairs etc) services. It has tried UberPop (for untrained drivers), UberPool (car pooling) and it is leveraging its brand into food, UberEats, delivery services, UberRush, and even water taxi services in Instanbul and Paris called UberBOAT (UberBateau). It has even developed a game UberDriver, where the user becomes an Uber driver and takes customers to destinations around San Francisco.


Uber has spurned a new business model and also a new business buzz word: uberisation which is defined as the conversion of jobs and services into tasks that can be requested on-demand (it is taking freelancing into sectors where it has not been used before).

The importance of Über

Although most of the success of Uber as a modern brand is from its appeal to consumers for its disruptiveness it has also tapped into a strong brand name, Uber, that has taken hold in pop culture in the last few decades.

The word has you may have guessed, comes from German. It is a very everyday word meaning above and in English, over, is its direct cousin.

Uber in literature

The adoption of uber into English has an interesting history. To English readers of literature its most familiar manifestation is in the word Übermensch famously used by the German philosopher, Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra (1885) to describe the ideal, superior man of the future who would rise above conventional morality to create and impose his own values. It was translated mostly as superman and therefore uber remained a German word.

George Bernard Shaw used the English word in his 1903 play Man and Superman, which touched on some of Nietzche’s themes. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created their Superman, the all-American comic-book hero, a few decades later (Superman first appeared in the first edition of Action Comic in June 1938).

The late 20th century revival of uber happened around the late 70s early 80s. One story is that its renewed popularity was due to American punk band, The Dead Kennedys’, satirical political song California Uber Alles, a parody of the German anthem Deustchland Uber Alles (Germany Above All, which was much favoured by the Nazis).

Uber was picked up by Californian youth culture and became popular online (it is also often still spelt with the umlaut as Über). It is commonly used in online gaming to describe the ultimate, above all, the best, top, the leader. So it is not surprising that Uber, when a Californian start-up, picked it up as the brand name for their service that, based on its meteoric rise so far, is destined to be one of the world’s top brands.