UBER’s Ireland boss Kieran Harte has indicated there could be yet more jobs created at the ride-sharing service’s centre of excellence here.
Speaking at a special ‘fireside chat’ for start-up companies in the Strand Hotel, Mr Harte also heaped praise on the team who brought the firm to Limerick, saying the pitch they got “was by the far the most outstanding”.
Uber is well under way to creating 400 jobs in Limerick, and hope to move into offices in the Thomas Street centre this side of Christmas.
Already, it has 100 staff working in temporary offices at Henry Street.
At the meeting, the Australian national also addressed controversy which surrounds Uber from the taxi industry, admitting that his firm has not tackled the “taxi versus Uber” narrative well enough.
Limerick’s customer service hub for Uber will deal with both users and drivers from across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
This, Mr Harte argues, puts Limerick right at the forefront when it comes to further job creation.
He said: “The guys here are in the first centre of excellence outside of America, and it is a big job. But I am thrilled when you start thinking about the opportunity here in Limerick. The more the Uber brand grows in Europe – in countries like Germany, France, Spain, massive markets like these – the bigger we are going to need to get here in Limerick. It is very exciting.”
Saying he is “bullish” about Limerick, Mr Harte – who joined Uber six months ago – added: “We see the centre of excellence here being these problem solvers to a variety of issues [throughout the world].
“Here in our backyard, we have a centre managing these logistical challenges from cities across Europe. It is a pretty new industry. We are finding new challenges as we go ahead. The guys here in Limerick are at the heart of understanding and being able to understand the numbers and the size of these challenges.”
Mr Harte also said Uber’s presence in Limerick is good news for the city’s small business sector, as, if they have solutions to these problems, they can team up.
This would mean Limerick firms would gain access to a market with millions of people globally.
The company executive paid a special tribute to Mungret man John Moran, formerly a special advisor in the Department of Finance. He has recently joined the firm as a consultant.
It was Mr Moran who introduced him to his various connections in Limerick – including council CEO Conn Murray, Barry O’Sullivan of Vistakon and Chamber representatives – and ultimately helped convince Uber’s global heads to invest in Limerick.
It was at a dinner and presentation attended by these, which won the day for Limerick.
“The pitch we got from Limerick was by far the most outstanding. That is not just me saying it. The guys in the USA were just set. We walked out of that dinner thinking this is a different city. These are people who are really passionate about the city. It wasn’t a case of: this is who we are, you are going to want to come here. It was: this is our plan and vision for the city, and this is how we feel you might fit into that. This was a really strong narrative which carried us through due diligence,” Mr Harte explained.
He believes Limerick is a city “which is going to do some exciting things” and “we want to be represented by the sons and daughters of this city.”
Mr Harte believes taxi drivers have nothing to fear from the advent of Uber, saying many will switch to using the app.
In one of its biggest markets, San Francisco, he pointed out that taxi usage dropped by under 10% in five years when Uber started.
He said their ambition is not to take taxi drivers off the road –but negate the need for personal drivers to own their own vehicle.
“Our hope is people realise it is cheap enough and reliable enough for people not to have to invest the money in owning your own car,” he concluded.