The CEO of Uber's biggest rival in China told Travis Kalanick that he is his 'inspiration'
A spokesperson for the Chinese company told The Wall Street Journal that when the two execs met in 2014 - as Uber was gearing up for a huge push into China and when Didi Kuaidi CEO Cheng Wei headed a smaller company called Didi Dache - the conversation was incredibly cordial.
"It was super friendly," the spokesperson said. "Cheng Wei greeted Travis with the words 'you are my inspiration.' "
There's no way to substantiate this because the conversation wasn't recorded. Cheng also recalls the meeting differently. He told the WSJ that Kalanick suggested that Uber invest in Didi Dache, but that his advances were ultimately rejected.
"You are earlier than us" globally, Cheng says he told the Uber CEO, "but there will be a day when we will surpass you."
Since then, Cheng has put that plan into action. Didi Kuaidi was created in February, when competing apps Didi Dache (led by Cheng) and Kuaidi merged to cut the costs of competing with each other - and more importantly, Uber.
Didi Kuaidi is bigger than Uber in China, employing 4,000 drivers over Uber's 200. Though it still runs separate apps (Didi and Kuaidi), they share the same core technology and data. Together these apps account for 78% of ride bookings, according to industry researcher Analysys International, while Uber accounts for only 11%.
But Uber is growing like crazy in China. Its service is taking off there much faster than it did in the United States. Nine months after launching in Chengdu, Uber has 479 times the trips it had in New York after the same amount of time. Five of Uber's top 10 cities by ride count are now in China too.
Both firms are raising billions in funding to compete in the lucrative market. Uber closed a $1 billion round of funding at the end of August to boost operations in China. Didi Kuaidi raised another $2 billion in July.
China's potential is huge. According to The Wall Street Journal, China boasts the world's largest market of urban commuters, with some estimates putting it at 750 million people. That makes it more than twice the US population, with hundreds of millions expected to join the middle classes in the country over the next decade.