An on-stage conversation between Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Gurley became the South by Southwest version of a championship fight on Sunday, or perhaps an all-star game.
In a wide-ranging chat at the interactive festival, the pair covered the problems with U.S. healthcare, the challenge with combating hackers, sports analytics and companies that Gurley, a venture capitalist, missed out on.
Yet the liveliest dialogue in the hour-long volley centered around Uber, the controversial $40 billion ride-sharing service that Gurley and his firm Benchmark backed in its very early days.
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Gurley, sporting a University of Texas shirt in support of his alma mater and the festival's host city of Austin, has an obvious interest in talking his book. Beyond the financial windfall that's coming, however, Gurley said the societal benefits from Uber are tremendous. He cited the number of jobs created for drivers (50,000 a month), and the elimination of the need for so much driving.
The greater availability of professional drivers at affordable prices means less drunk driving, diminished needs for massive parking lots and less cruising around in circles looking for parking spots.
Yet the life-saving component is what intrigued Gladwell, the award winning author of "The Tipping Point" and "Outliers."
"Traffic fatalities continue to be a catastrophic form of death in this country," said Gladwell. "More people have died because of drunk driving than have died in every war since Vietnam."
And then there's the elderly, which could be among the biggest beneficiaries of Uber. Gurley promised that the public will start to see more from Uber in terms of reaching out to the elderly and to kids.