Cheng Wei, A.K.A. the Uber Slayer

Didi Dache (滴滴打车) is a mobile taxi calling app developed by Chinese mobile application company named Beijing Xiaoju Keji Co. The application is one of the major taxi apps in China, with over 100 million users. It was established in June 2012. The founder of this company, Cheng Wei, created this app because he was not able to catch cabs very often. When China is experiencing rush hour, most taxis are full. As a result, most of the time he could not catch a cab. Most importantly, he missed several flights because he could not hail a cab on time. Cheng Wei wanted to do something about this. So he set out and created this app.

This summer, the world came to know Cheng by another name—the Uber Slayer. In August, after a multibillion dollar, 1 year and 6 month long battle, Uber agreed to sell its business in China and depart the country. In return, Uber received a 17.7% ownership in Didi and $1 billion in cash. Nonetheless, it was a huge victory for Cheng. Eight weeks after the deal, Cheng said “Uber is a great company. They have the best strategy in China among all the Silicon Valley companies. They are more agile than Google. They aren’t like this in other parts of the world, but in China they’ve learned to show goodwill. They are not like a usual foreign company in China, but more like a startup, full of passion, feeling like they are fighting for themselves.”

Until August, Cheng was little known outside China, letting the company’s English-speaking president, Jean Liu serve as its public face. Didi has expanded in just 4 years to 400 Chinese cities. The service lets users digitally hail and pay for taxis, private cars, limousines, and buses. Cheng says 80% of all taxi drivers in China now use Didi to find passengers. So many people use the app, it can be difficult to get a cab during rush hour without it. Investors recently valued Didi at $35 billion, making it one of the most valuable private companies in the world. Uber, working in almost 500 cities on 6 continents, is worth $68 billion.

One big benefit Didi may get from the deal are software algorithms that Uber has developed. Uber has invested in hiring scientists and engineers who write code to match drivers with passengers. Essentially, this algorithm finds people’s locations in real time and then predicts what the best and fastest way to pick them up is. Vice President Stephen Zhu said, “In the long term, Didi’s success will depend on its artificial intelligence algorithms. Every user and driver has their own preferences and patterns and we have to match them all in a second. The core is artificial intelligence, in essence, the pattern of how people move around in big cities.”


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