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 its IPO, which finally took place in 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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Adbrands Daily Update 25th Nov 2019: Uber's license to operate in London has been revoked following a long-running dispute with local authority Transport for London. The company will be allowed to continue service during an appeal, but TfL's decision puts considerable further pressure on Uber to resolve multiple outstanding issues of passenger safety and security. TfL originally declined to renew Uber's license in Sept 2017, but agreed to a probationary continuation pending changes in Uber's systems."Uber has made a number of positive changes and improvements to its culture, leadership and systems" since then, said the regulator. "However, TfL has identified a pattern of failures by the company including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.... TfL does not have confidence that similar issues will not reoccur in the future which has led it to conclude that the company is not fit and proper at this time." As some issues of safety were resolved by Uber, other loopholes have appeared, not least one which allowed unlicensed drivers to upload their photos to approved drivers' accounts. As a result, TfL has discovered that in recent months more than 14,000 passenger journeys were taken by uninsured drivers. "Safety is our absolute top priority," said TfL. "While we recognise Uber has made improvements, it is unacceptable that Uber has allowed passengers to get into minicabs with drivers who are potentially unlicensed and uninsured."
Adbrands Daily Update 9th May 2019: Uber's disappointing IPO - its shares are still trading below the issue price of $45 - has prompted a further overhaul of the senior management team. COO Barney Harford and CMO Rebecca Messina are both leaving the company. Harford was recruited by Dara Khosrowshahi in 2017 from Expedia, but the CEO will now take over hands-on control of daily operations. Messina joined the company less than a year ago from Beam Suntory. Marketing responsibility will transfer to the company's communications and policies team under Jill Hazelbaker.
Adbrands Daily Update 13th May 2019: Uber got off to a disappointing start as a quoted company. After repeatedly lowering the expected price of its offering, Uber stock finally came to market last Thursday at a price of $45 per share. However, on the first day of trading the price immediately fell below that level, ending the day at $41.57. That represented one of the ten worst-ever first day performances for any sizeable IPO. The stock later fell below $40 before recovering. "One day isn't going to measure our success or failure," said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. "You can't control the week in which you went public. We had a situation with the president and China that created a lot of volatility and uncertainty. What's important is that we got our deal done. We raised over $8bn in primary capital, which is going to be an important engine to grow." Rival Lyft, which floated in March, also fell back after an initial surge and is currently trading 30% below offer price. For the record, Facebook too got off to a bad start after its 2012 IPO, falling below offer price on the second day and remaining there for more than a year. It currently trades at five times its offer price.
Adbrands Social Media 30th Apr 2019: "Safety Never Stops". Uber is working hard to give its brand reputation a last polish before it launches its IPO, due any day now. Here's a likeable new pan-European campaign from 72andSunny Amsterdam which highlights the company's comparatively newfound awareness of safety concerns. (There's nothing like being banned from the streets of one of Europe's biggest cities to focus minds!) Borrowing the format of an airline safety video is a great idea, executed with wit and style.
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.
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