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 Uber Eats 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 its IPO, which finally took place in 2019. Uber's revenues have continued to soar, though growth has slowed. Gross bookings have grown sixfold in four years, topping $65bn in 2019. Net revenues rose 26% to $14.1bn, but losses spiralled to $8.5bn as a result of a huge payout in stock-based compensation.
Capsule checked 22nd January 2021
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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
Marketer Moves 19th Aug 2021: New global marketing director at Uber. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Feb 2021: "Your Uber Awaits". The end-of-lockdown ad carnival continues. Uber has more to gain than many from the lifting of stay at home restrictions, and Mother is here to help with the festivities. British ads really seem to specialise in these acutely observational collages: all those details of a life lived within four walls. An American-made campaign for the same concept would go for something broader and less abstract - people not things. A fine campaign. But what are you doing here sitting here watching it? You should be out there rediscovering your social life.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Feb 2021: Uber is continuing to expand its range of services through acquisition. This week, it agreed terms for the purchase of US alcohol delivery service Drizly for $1.1bn in stock and cash. Home delivery of booze purchased online accounted for only 1% of total alcohol sales in the US in 2019, but the pandemic has caused a sharp upsurge. Industry monitor IWSR estimates sales jumped by 80% during 2020 and could hit 7% of volumes by 2024. Drizly connects consumers to nearby retailers who offer delivery of alcohol, and drivers are provided with smartphones that can scan an identity document and determine its validity.
Adbrands Daily Update 8th Dec 2020: Uber is quitting a direct role in self-driving cars with the sale of its loss-making autonomous vehicle division to smaller specialist Aurora Innovation. Most of the 1,200 staff in Uber's self-driving division will transfer to Aurora, tripling the size of that company. Uber will also invest $400m in the combined business in return for a 26% shareholding. Uber had originally conceived self-driving cars as the core of its future strategy, but that business has suffered several setbacks, not least when one of its cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Utah in 2018. The company has divested several of its less lucrative sidelines in recent years in a bid to break into profit for the first time.
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Sep 2020: Uber got a full pardon from regulators in London, for now at least. Transport for London agreed to award a new 18-month license to operate after a judge found that the company had resolved the various safety and regulatory issues that had threatened to lead to a full ban.
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Sep 2020: "Tonight I'll Be Eating...". Mark Hamill takes on Sir Patrick Stewart in a battle of sci-fi royalty! Australian indie agency Special Group somehow managed to persuade the two knights of fantasy entertainment to poke fun at themselves in this deliciously absurd campaign for Uber Eats Down Under. The renowned stars of Star Wars, Star Trek Next Gen and X-Men regale us with descriptions of the meals they just ordered for delivery while battling one another in unusual sports. This is a concept that could run and run.
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