How Uber failed in Japan

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Really interesting:

This strategy has been phenomenally successful in America, but has failed miserably in Japan for three key reasons.
#1 People Trust Government More than Industry
My libertarian friends in San Francisco find this baffling. They often dismiss it as brainwashing or propaganda when I explain it, but it’s not. The United States is unique in the free world for our visceral disgust for and distrust of our own government.

It’s not that people is Asia consider government motivations to be pure. Over beers Japanese, Taiwanese, Indians and even Singaporeans gripe about how politicians are crooked and enriching themselves at the expense of the public.

Mistrust of government is pretty much universal, and that’s a good thing. Outside of the United States, however, people trust corporations even less.

Americans seem uniquely credulous of corporate claims of being the true champions of the consumer and of regulations existing primarily to benefit politicians and their cronies.

In the rest of the world, however, when Uber drives into town claiming to be a white knight who will fight the government regulators in order to provide good jobs and affordable services, people simply don’t believe them. Nor should they. It’s a laughable claim.

The U.S. playbook assumes that consumers will come down on the side of the disruptor, but that doesn’t automatically happen in Japan.

In most of the world, when a company claims that labor protections, environmental laws, tax laws, insurance regulations, and licensing requirements all need to be changed so that they can do business, that company is viewed with extreme suspicion.

Uber grossly over-estimated the amount of grass roots support they would receive when they entered the Japanese market. They’ve since regrouped and are now taking a more patient and conciliatory approach to winning over Japan’s consumers.

We Americans love rule-breakers. It’s so ingrained in our culture we’ve managed to convince ourselves that progress is impossible without rule-breaking. When progress is made without breaking the rules, we’ll retroactively redefine some convention or common practice as a rule, and then credit our visionary entrepreneur with bravely breaking it.