Uber's fight vs establishment is nothing new: Advisor

Guiding startups through the red tape

When ride-sharing company Uber stormed upon the transportation scene, it encountered loud resistance from traditional taxi companies as well as regulatory hurdles in some regions. Most recently, it found itself going toe-to-toe with New York City's mayor and the establishment that oversees the city's iconic yellow cabs.

Yet the start-up's fight is one that disruptors often face when challenging an industry, said Bradley Tusk, CEO of Tusk Ventures and one of Uber's advisors. The car ride service, valued at more than $40 billion, tends to ruffle feathers both at home and abroad.

Tusk said given how disruptors work, friction is unavoidable.

"You are disrupting someone. That means someone is being disrupted and they punch back," he said in a recent interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"They tend to have political influence, they've been giving campaign contributions for a long time and they try to use that influence to pass regulations or laws to prevent the start-ups from gaining traction," he added.

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French taxi drivers burn tires as they protest against UberPOP in Marseille in June.
Anne-Christine Poujoulat | AFP | Getty Images

Another problem is old regulations that are in place never envisioned the type of technology available today, Tusk said.

"They may be well meaning but if they were written 30, 40, 50 years ago, they just couldn't have conceived what we have today," he noted. "So adopting old regulations to modern technology is pretty hard."

Tusk recently opened his new consulting firm, Tusk Ventures, to help guide start-ups through the process. He is working with Uber, as well as several other pre-initial public offering (IPO) companies, and sees opportunity in industries such as education, health care and gambling.

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He counsels his clients to be willing and not afraid to push back against those trying to keep them down.

Industry pushback

An Uber vehicle cruises Manhattan in New York City.
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
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For Uber, one if its challenges is the "big, powerful taxi industry," Tusk said, and that industry is formidable in both size and influence. The mainstay of Gotham's transportation industry, consisting of more than 13,000 yellow cabs, it transports more than 600,000 passengers per day, according to city data. A medallion, which grants the right to operate a cab, can run for more than $1 million at auctions, making them a powerful political constituency.

"They don't want to go away. They have a lot of lobbyists," Tusk said. "They have a lot of money and they are trying to use that to preempt and punish Uber wherever they can."

Just weeks ago, Uber sparred with New York City, which wanted to cap the growth of Uber and other for-hire vehicles through April 2016.

After Uber launched a public relations campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the company reached an agreement in July. After a fierce battle, the cap proposal has been tabled. Instead, a study will be conducted on the impact for-hire vehicles have on traffic, air quality, noise and public health.

The yellow taxis on the road in the city are capped near 13,500, with 63,000 for-hire vehicles, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Meanwhile, the taxi industry took issue with Tusk's characterizations.

"Uber uses the symbol of a powerful taxicab lobby thwarting its interests as a pretext to conduct illegal and unsafe operations. Cities, not taxi companies, make rules to keep people safe and protect their communities," said Dave Sutton, spokesperson for the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association's public safety campaign "Who's Driving You?"

New York Taxi Workers Alliance President Bhairavi Desai said the industry, which has a quarter of a million workers across the country, would not just "go away." She called Tusk's statement "as arrogant as it is ignorant and self-serving."

"And yes, with $50 billion and one-third more lobbyists than Wal-Mart, poor Uber is disadvantaged at fighting a regulated industry—ranging from driver co-ops to 15-car franchises to 150 medallions in NYC—it seeks to wipe out and replace with investor money and driverless cars," she added.

—CNBC's Kerima Greene and Kate Rogers contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Bhairavi Desai as a male.