Uber erupted onto the global stage in the early 2010s as the most aggressive of a new breed of digital disrupters, overturning traditional service models with an economic model underpinned by innovative technology. In Uber's case it was to transform the established taxi-hailing business with an easy-to-use app that seamlessly connected riders with drivers anywhere in the world. Founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp first began testing the service in 2010 in San Francisco. After several refinements, and multiple injections of investment capital, Uber launched officially in that city and in New York the following year. A full global roll-out began in 2012, starting in Paris, and by mid-2018, Uber's taxi service was active in more than 700 cities worldwide. There are also a number of spin-off services including carpool shared rides, bicycle messengers and UberEats restaurant deliveries. The company surpassed 1 billion rides at the beginning of 2016, and then 2 billion rides only six months later. By late 2018, the cumulative total was over 10bn and rising at a rate of around 14m per day. The company has also invested heavily in partnerships with auto manufacturers to explore the introduction of self-driving cars. More seriously, though, there were a series of ever more bruising run-ins with regulators, rivals, and even the company's own investors, prompted in part by Uber's aggressive, male-dominated workplace culture which usually chose to ride roughshod over any perceived opposition. These problems reached crisis point during the second half of 2016 as a result of damaging allegations of sexual and verbal harassment, the abrupt resignation or dismissal of several senior managers, and Uber's forced withdrawal from several key markets as a result of competitive pressure or regulatory bans. Mid-2017, Uber's private equity backers demanded that co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick step down from the company. His successor Dara Khosrowshahi spent much of his first six months fighting fires in multiple global markets, as he began to prepare the business for an IPO, now set for 2019. Uber's revenues have continued to soar, though growth as slowed a little. Gross bookings have grown fivefold in three years, topping $50bn in 2018. Net revenues jumped 43% that year to $11.3bn; while net losses reduced from $4.5bn in 2017 to $370m, though that figure included large gains from the sale of its operations in Russia and SE Asia to rivals. Operating losses were still over $3.0bn.
Capsule checked 18th February 2019
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Who are the competitors of Uber? Uber's main rival in North America is Lyft; international rivals include Yandex in Russia, Didi in China, Grab in other Asian markets, MyTaxi in Europe, Gett and Addison Lee in the UK and Ola in India. See Services Sector index for other companies
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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:
Adbrands Daily Update 26th Mar 2019: After a year or more in which Uber has focused mainly at divesting more marginal international subsidiaries, the company reversed its strategy with a sizeable acquisition. It announced the purchase of Dubai-based ride hailer Careem. At a price tag of $3.1bn, it is Uber's biggest ever acquisition, as well as the biggest ever deal for any Middle Eastern tech company. Careem is currently active in 84 cities in about 15 countries in the Middle East. It will continue to operate side-by-side with existing Uber operations in the region.
Adbrands Weekly Update 27th Sep 2018: Ads of the Week "See You Soon". Uber's global rehabilitation drive continues with this fine spot from Australian indie Special Group. It's a clever move to dispense with all of the hype or trickery that has marked many of the company's previous ads (however good they may have been) and simply focus on the human factor. An excellent selection of well-conceived vignettes too. And what a gorgeous opening shot. As if to underline the power of the everyday approach, see how the only vignette that rings a little false is the hipster executive in the fast lift. That one smacks too much of the old Uber.
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Sep 2018: Uber unveiled a new logo (in lower-case instead of its all-caps predecessor) and appointed Rebecca Messina as global chief marketing officer. She has spent the past two years as CMO of spirits company Beam Suntory, and before that was at Coca-Cola for almost 20 years.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Aug 2018: Toyota is investing $500m in a new partnership with Uber, whereby the latter's driverless technology will be combined with the Japanese company's own safety software and implanted in a fleet of Toyota minivans. These will then operate as part of the Uber ride-hailing service, though they will not be owned by Uber itself. Currently, Uber owns its own fleet of self-driving Volvo cars, but it has been moving away from this business model after one of its cars killed a pedestrian earlier this year. Uber also faces more stringent regulatory oversight as an operator of taxi services than as merely a technology provider. "I think there's going to be very large, multi-billion-dollar businesses to be built on fleet operations," said Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of business development for strategic initiatives, but this is no longer part of Uber's own strategy. "Over time, Uber will transition from the business model we have with Volvo, where we are owning and operating our fleet, to this kind of partnership, where Uber is the technology provider."
Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Jun 2018: Uber won a temporary reprieve from regulators in London. The ride-hailing service had its license to operate revoked last year by Transport for London for a catalogue of misdemeanours and a "lack of corporate responsibility". That reflected the devil-may-care attitude Uber practised in all its global operations under founder Travis Kalanick's management team. However, Uber now has a new team and a new CEO, who has spent much of his first year in office putting out the fires started under his predecessor. With its existing license due to expire this summer, Uber spent two days in an appeal court this week apologising to TfL, and promising to improve its standards. It was rewarded with a limited term license to continue; just 15 months on probation instead of the standard five years. That will give regulators the opportunity to monitor progress and assess whether the company has indeed changed its ways.
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