I have never written out a pitch to any of the Silicon Valley giants before. I guess I will just have to wing it. I gather you guys don't go in for neck ties and old school formality, so maybe you will give me a pass for my terminally dodgy grammar. I gather you guys also hate paper, so I give you my word of honour never to print these words out. I reckon bullet points are probably the way to go.
WHO AM I?
A pulp fiction writer who is punting an idea in your direction.
HOW MUCH CASH AM I AFTER?
Not a penny, not a brass farthing, not a cent. As in zip, zero, nothing.
SO WHY AM I BOTHERING WITH THIS OPEN LETTER?
Because I am father to two mixed race sons and I am getting seriously pissed off/concerned about the rise in race hate in Britain in the wake of the Brexit vote.
SO WHAT'S IN THE IDEA FOR UBER?
Loads. Masses and masses of positive PR in return for barely any cash spent. You get to do good for the families of lots of your drivers. You get to feel the warm glow of doing the right thing at the right time. Silicon Valley is all about choosing to wear white hats instead of black hats, right guys?
Britain calls a referendum on its membership of the European Union – 'Brexit'. The campaign gets nasty, ugly and toxic. Elements of the 'Leave' side play the race card and elements of the tabloid press give over their front pages to hating foreigners. The 'Leave' side wins the day and parts of the community take this win as a signal. All of the sudden they feel victory has given them the right to racially abuse any foreigner they can find. Incidents of race hate climb sharply.
SO WHO IS ACTUALLY DOING IT?
There is not hard evidence yet. But we can take a guess. The older generation voted overwhelmingly for 'Leave' and so it seems likely much of the racial abuse will be coming from the older end of the age scale. Under 24's voted 'Remain' to the tune of 75%. The last few days have demonstrated that young people are well and truly pissed off. They reckon their future has been stolen by people who will be long gone before this particular future arrives.
ARE YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE MOOD TO FIND AN OUTLET FOR THEIR OUTRAGE?
It would appear so. Early days mind.
HOW DO MOST YOUNG PEOPLE FEEL ABOUT RACISM?
Most hate and despise it. They have grown up in classrooms filled with all creeds and colours. Racism makes no sense to them. The see it as one of those pathetic things stupid old people hang onto.
MIGHT YOUNG PEOPLE BE READY TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?
It looks and feels like they most probably are. Look at who is supporting Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. Lots of young people are outraged at the selfish, nastiness of the older generation.
AYE RIGHT, BUT DO TODAY'S YOUNG GENERATION ACTUALLY EVER GET OFF THEIR OVER PAMPERED BUTTS AND ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING?
Oh yeah, sure they do. Check out the 'Indignados' in Spain. A potted history. Post Lehman Brothers, the Spanish banks found themselves up the creek. So the bankers started to crack the whip and call in the poor buggers who had got behind on their mortgages. This meant they were sending out bailiffs to evict pensioners and turfing them out onto the streets. Well. Most pensioners have grandchildren and the grandchildren were pretty damned angry at what was going down. So the young people branded themselves as the 'Indignados' and found a way to make it stop. OK Gran. Listen up. If the bailiffs turn up, DON'T open the door. You text me and I will fire out text to my local 'Indignados' group. Everyone will drop everything they are doing and get themselves round to your place. Within 5 minutes of you sending the text we will have the bailiffs outnumbered by 50 to one. No contest.
And so they did it. And it worked. Every time banks sent out their bailiffs round to evict pensioners the bailiffs were confronted by hundreds of angry young people. The banks had a tantrum and told the police step in and fire off some tear gas. The police told the banks to get stuffed. In the end the banks gave up trying and wrote off the debt.
It was people power and it worked.
DO UBER DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS AT THE MOMENT?
Of course you do. You already have the App. If one of your drivers finds themselves in trouble with a passenger, all the driver needs to do is to hit the App on their phone and every other driver in the vicinity will head their way to back them up. People power, right?
So maybe you could tweak this driver safety App a touch and stick it up on iTunes free at the point of downloading.
TO DO WHAT AND WHO FOR?
Well maybe I'm an immigrant living in Britain. I watch the news. I read the paper. I check out Twitter. And what I see makes me scared. Race hate is on the rise. The streets don't feel so safe any more. I feel alone and vulnerable. I feel eyes are on me. I hardly dare open my mouth. So I download the Uber 'Race Hate Alarm' App from iTunes or wherever. So if some meathead gets in my face and starts telling me to get back from where I have come from, all I need to do is hit the icon on my phone. Just like ordering an Uber cab, right?
OK. SO THEN WHAT HAPPENS?
Uber will have by this time used its mastery of the online world to promote the new App to all the young people who are disgusted and appalled at the post Brexit rise in race hate. If their phone buzzes with an alarm in their vicinity, they can make their way to where in incident is playing out. Then they get out their phones and start filming whilst at the same time letting the racist idiot know exactly what they think of them. The footage goes up on Youtube and the racist is suddenly kind of worried to show a public face. The person who has been attacked feels protected and welcomed. Even if they are not attacked, they will be able to check out their phone at any time to see lots of re-assuring blips which represent young people in the vicinity who have signed up to make a stand against racism.
DOES THIS WORK FOR UBER?
Oh come on guys! What age group represents your main customer base? Young people. Are they going think good things about you if you do this? Duh. And let's face it, you have a whole bunch of skin in this particular game. What percentage of your drivers were born outside the UK? 80%?These are your people who are being attacked right now. Will it cost you much? I doubt it. Most of the technology is already written. A few days worth of time for some of your smart guys and it will be job done. A mix of Uber and the young can put these idiots back in their nasty caves. Imagine how good that would make you feel. It's called doing the right thing guys. Go on. Give it a go.
Yup. That's it. Over to you.