Having settled a potential crippling lawsuit and scored a fresh infusion of cash from new backer SoftBank, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi seems to have righted the ship.
Hey now faces a challenge not unlike movie mogul. And it's a challenge.
Uber has announced the deals to rent bikes and cars through its app, partnerships with cities to integrate.
At a Goldman Sachs conference in San Francisco in February, Khosrowshahi defined Uber's business as getting people “from point A to point B”.
Even when you've got to go, Uber is there. Literally. Uber has offered drivers a restroom-finding app.
Defining Uber's mission as moving people, however broadly, is disingenuous: Khosrowshahi recently claimed UberEats would soon be the “largest food-delivery company in the world”. He's still touting Uber Freight, despite the departure of the Uber's head. And he's still pushing ahead with the development of self-driving vehicles, despite a fatal collision in Arizona.
Uber did not respond to a request for comment. But Khosrowshahi made the case at the Goldman conference for expansion: “Cars are to us what books are to Amazon.”
Indeed. Amazon expanded from books to CDs to DVDs and electronics – and then, category by category, the world.
Or could you be to Uber what was Internet search was to Yahoo? The search pioneer, eager to seize ground in the early 2000s as rival portals faltered, slapped its brand on everything from Web auctions to plane tickets. In 2004, an in-house directory detailed no fewer than 111 Yahoo-branded properties.
“I've heard our strategy described as spreading the peanut butter through the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world,” Brad Garlinghouse, then a Yahoo executive, wrote in a 2006 memo. “The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and so we focus on nothing in particular.”
Semel, who came in as Yahoo's CEO after the dotcom crash, was gone months after Garlinghouse's memo, dubbed the ” Peanut Butter Manifesto “, found its way to the Wall Street Journal. But the overgrowth took years to hack through, and more focused rivals like Facebook and Google kept stealing Yahoo's share of the online ad market. Marissa Mayer, hired as CEO in 2012 to clean up the mess, trimmed things back to a tidy. But 28 things are still a lot to keep track of.
Garlinghouse, now CEO of cryptocurrency startup Ripple, declined to weigh in on his manifesto's application to Uber today. But in 2013, he published a follow-up of sorts on LinkedIn. “If a business has to be told that it needs more focus, accountability and decisiveness, there is a bigger problem at hand,” he wrote.
Uber's never had a problem with decisiveness; if anything, under former CEO Travis Kalanick, it had an excess of it. What it lacks is profit. It has raised US $ 17.3bil (RM67.84bil) and spent US $ 10.7bil (RM41.96bil), according to Bloomberg, only to generate a loss of US $ 4.5bil (RM17.63bil) last year.
Khosrowshahi has vowed to take Uber public next year. There are two ways to sell investors on your company: profit or potential. Silicon Valley has long been leaned on by the latter when raising funds. And Khosrowshahi's latest moves to attach. They read, rather, as the kind of frenetic spreading of bets that landed.
In Uber's defense, some might say Khosrowshahi's kingdom of motion is a more manageable realm than Yahoo's Internet empire ever was. Yet many – including some Uber backers – have argued the opposite, that transportation is a bigger opportunity than the Internet. Harder, too, to put on the road.
But even as it branches out, Uber must vie with an aggressive competitor in its core ride-hailing business. Lyft gained market share in 2017, threatening Uber's hold on the market in key cities including San Francisco and Austin. Peanut butter makes for a tasty lunch.
Before a crowd of bankers at the February conference, Khosrowshahi expressed some discomfort of overseeing a money-losing business after running Expedia, the solidly profitable online travel agency. Uber could turn a profit, he said, if it shed some of its newer businesses.
That's a classic Silicon Valley move: the monetization of maybe. Maybe UberEats will pay off. Maybe Uber Freight will. Maybe it's all moot when robot taxis take over! With enough maybes, investors will not have to worry about prosaic matters like Lyft stealing away riders and drivers.
To date, Uber has sold shares to savvy insiders, venture capitalists and private equity funds, who as of February, valued the company at US $ 72mil (RM282.36mil). But when it sets out to sell, the potential investors will have to ask themselves.
Is Uber the next Amazon?
Or just a used jar of peanut butter? – The San Francisco Chronicle / Tribune News Service