A group of professional Barcelona taxi drivers have channeled their angst against Uber onto the entire Barcelona startup community by threatening violence at a now-cancelled startup event hosted by Startup Party and Iniciador.
Startup Party is a young, but rapidly growing offline community that hosts monthly informal gatherings and social events for Barcelona’s entrepreneurial crowd. With 1.042 members in their Meetup group, it’s not unusual for hundreds of startup enthusiasts to attend their monthly events.
Last night, Startup Party and longstanding Spanish entrepreneurial organization Iniciador were all set to collaborate on an evening of talks, networking and mid-summer drinks to celebrate the Barcelona startup community. Biel McMillan, the Managing Director of an innovative executive coaching firm was to present on the keys of growing a company during an economic crisis, to be followed by good music and drinks on the terrace of the Pullman Hotel next to the beach by Barcelona’s Olympic Port.
Within the event page (since removed) was a coupon for 2 free rides to the event provided by Uber, the global ridesharing and transportation app.
On Wednesday, July 22, Hotel Pullman received a notice from the Mossos d’Esquadra and the Guardia Urbana de Barcelona, that threats were made by a group of taxi drivers who intended to cripple the event by blocking the road and shooting pyrotechnics against the hotel.
Later that day, Hotel Pullman management notified Startup Party that they would no longer host their event.
In response, and quick improvising the day before the 300-person event, the Startup Party team moved the event to B Hotel across town in Plaça Espanya. However, within hours the threats of violence shifted to the new venue and the B Hotel management team, seeking to avoid confrontation, canceled the event.
This is not the first time the taxi ‘militia’ has threatened protests against a hotel or tech related event due to a perceived partnership with Uber. Last month, Mashable’s Social Media Day at the W Hotel was forced by the venue to drop Uber executive Alex Czarnecki from their speaker list or they would cancel the event. The W Hotel had received word they would face a city-wide boycott by the Barcelona taxis and, for a fairly-remote beach location, they could not risk losing that mode of transportation for their guests.
The escalating tension between the Barcelona taxis and the increasing Uber presence has reached a boiling point. We understand that technology is disrupting traditional business models and all sides must be carefully examined to keep a fair and honest playing field, however this kind of behavior by the taxi drivers is absolutely unacceptable. More than 300 people attending the event, in addition to the hotel guests and random passerby, would have been at risk as attacks were planned on Uber drivers as they dropped off their passengers and fireworks were to be shot at the hotel.
Furthermore, beyond the incomprehensible threat of violence, the act of protesting Uber by not working is counterintuitive, and quite frankly, laughable in its irony. What better way to convince normal taxi users to switch to Uber than by not being able to find taxis because they’re too busy protesting?