Uber v. the anti-corporate open source insurgency

I started the Uber post-mortem 6 months ago, long before it was vogue. Now it is coming undone and the threads will keep getting pulled. The car crash happened, I drive on.

Let’s ignore the wreckage and now examine one leading cause of the crash. I call it an open sourced anti-corporate insurgency

Open Source Anti-Corporate Insurgency is an organizational method by which a large collection of small, visible and empowered activists groups can work together to take on corporate hierarchies. It does not have a centralized operations or command and little to no advertising spending. It is a loose, meshed network of individuals and small groups working independently, but united by a single purpose, in this case: defeating Uber  

  • Open source insurgencies are much more innovative than their bureaucratic corporate counterparts. They are constantly coming up with and trying out new ideas in quick, short cycles
  • Anti-corp anti-uber headlines accelerated and directed the insurgency by interacting with it
  • The insurgency strikes at the supports of its target, it does not want the CEO, it wants everything around him or her
  • Increased ‘survivability’ among the participant groups. They can withstand counter offense by the corporate and its legal, marketing departments
  • More frequent attacks and an ability to swarm the target


One of the earliest major offenses was amplifying the sexual harassment claims.

The corporation is the target of attacks. The corp must hold and exert power, for example Uber taking a bigger cut of drivers incomes

The objective animates the group. Because of the diversity of the groups and individuals that join together in an open source insurgency, the only goal that works is simple and extremely high level. More complex goal setting is impossible, since it will fracture/fork the insurgency. The insurgents do not want resolution

A demonstration of viability. An attack that demonstrates that it’s possible to win against the enemy. It deflates any aura of invincibility that the enemy may currently enjoy. The demonstration serves as a rallying cry for the insurgency

Return on investment for disruption: If a small group disrupts a corporation by attacking its weakest points, it can amplify the results of its attacks to achieve as much as a 1,400,000 percent return on investment. Let’s look at a recent anti-corp Mexican gas pipeline attacks. Six attacks by an unknown guerrilla group destroyed five PEMEX natural gas pipelines (likely through a timed detonation). 12,000 people were evacuated due to fire risk. 

  • Over 2,500 business suffered severe harm in 11 of Mexico’s 32 states. 1,100 companies shut down production. Key industries impacted: Auto, glass, food, and cement. For example: Volkswagen (1,780 cars a day, 81% of which is for export)
  • Revised estimate of $200 million a day in costs
  • Impact expected to last for a week.
  • ROI for an attack that cost less than estimated $10,000 to accomplish? Rough estimate: 1.4 million percent.

Organization? kinda…

The founding group of  insurgents sets the original goal and conducts the operation that provides the insurgency with its demonstration of viability and then follows a simple path:

  • Relinquish. Give up any control over how the goal is achieved, who may participate, how to communicate, etc.
  • Resist. Stay small. Don’t grow to a size that makes the original group easy for the enemy to target. Don’t establish a formal collection of groups, a hierarchy of control, or set forth a complex agenda. This will only serve to alienate and fragment/fork the insurgency. In some cases, it will make it a target of its own insurgency.

Uber was first, there will be many more.

Early on, the only opposition to Uber was from taxi companies and local city council.  More recently, opposition to Uber has formed over several high-profile sexual assaults.  These assaults have created a small open source insurgency that is fighting an open source media war against Uber from Taiwan to India to Paris to Seattle.  

The insurgency has scored huge wins at the point of the greatest weakness to attack and will work against all of the ‘sharing economy (or whatever you wanna call it) companies

“Uber’s drivers aren’t the faceless, nameless bots. They are real people!”

‘Freelance economy’ companies expect to be able to hire people that act like nameless, faceless bots — quickly, easily and at low-cost.  This business model makes it easy for independent groups to attack the company’s brand whenever the following occurs:

  • Sexual assault
  • Road rage.
  • Sexual harassment
  • Theft

To defend itself from these attacks, Uber is spending tens of millions on PR firms, phalanxes of lobbyists in Washington and capitals around the world.  However, this defense won’t work if the brand is damaged and its funding is sidetracked.  

The anti-corporate insurgency is destroying the brand of Uber:

  • Moral warfare waged against the brand has pitted customers against the company and the drivers against the company.
  • Attrition warfare waged against Uber’s income is slowing the company’s growth
  • Maneuver warfare has created fear, uncertainty, and doubt through attacks from unusual quarters, is is getting punched from everywhere.  Lawsuits and legal action have put constraints on new fundraising.

Welcome to modern warfare