Uber Technologies Inc (US)

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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-2017, Uber's taxi service was active in more than 630 cities worldwide. The company surpassed 1 billion rides at the beginning of 2016, and then 2 billion rides only six months later. There are also a number of spin-off services including carpool shared rides, bicycle messengers and restaurant deliveries. The company has also invested heavily in partnerships with auto manufacturers to explore the introduction of self-driving cars. More seriously, though, there have also been 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 began to reach 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 is faced with a number of key challenges as he attempts to prepare the business for a likely IPO in 2018 or 2019. Yet Uber's revenues continue to soar. Gross bookings doubled in 2016 to over $20bn, while net revenues hit $6.5bn. The group reported a net loss of $2.8bn. Adbrands doesn't offer a business profile for this company but subscribers may access account assignments and contact information. The searchable account assignments database is available to full subscribers to Adbrands.net premium services. Click here to access Adbrands account assignments (subscribers only); or see here for information on how to subscribe.

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Capsule checked 27th September 2017

Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 4th Jan 2018: Uber agreed to sell a 17.5% stake to a consortium of investors led by Japanese telecoms group Softbank, also owner of US mobile operator Sprint. The $9bn purchase values Uber at around $48bn, a significant discount to the $70bn price used in its last fund-raising round. Softbank will end up with 15% of equity, with the remaining shares split between its various investment partners. The deal also involves several changes to Uber's corporate governance, including the elimination of "super-voting" shares held by some early investors as well as by founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick.

Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Dec 2017: You've got to feel sorry for Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who must spend literally every day of the week cleaning up some mess or other left behind by his predecessor, founder Travis Kalanick. He has now hired former Orbitz CEO Barney Harford as chief operating officer to help him manage the sprawling business. There are already multiple different lawsuits in progress, and yet new skeletons keep falling out of cupboards. The latest such revelation comes in advance of a case set to go to trial in the New Year. Google has accused the ride-hailing company of stealing trade secrets from its self-driving cars unit Waymo. Uber denies the allegations, but Google has now gained possession of an immensely damaging letter written by a former security employee, Richard Jacobs, which alleges that Uber set up inhouse teams in 2016 "expressly for the purpose of acquiring trade secrets" from competitors around the globe. According to Jacobs, Uber employees impersonated drivers to gain access to chat groups and monitor conversations, also illegally recorded phone calls, and followed executives from rival companies to hotels and meeting spaces, and secretly wiretapped them there. Uber's former head of security denies the allegations, but his integrity is already in question, since he was implicated in another scandal last month in which it was revealed Uber had paid off hackers to keep quiet details of a major data breach. Meanwhile, a European court has ruled that Uber is in indeed a taxi company not, as it had argued, merely a technology provider for independent drivers. As it result it must abide by the same regulations as all other taxi and mini-cab operators with regard to passenger safety and driver training.

Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd November 2017: There was good news and bad news from Uber this week. First, the good news. In a major escalation of its push into self-driving vehicles, Uber sealed a deal with Volvo to purchase up to 24,000 fully autonomous XC90 SUVs between 2009 and 2021 at a cost of over $1bn. The two companies are already running pilots in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Tempe, Arizona with around 200 cars, each carrying a human back-up driver who can take over in case of an emergency. However, the new contract is for adapted fully driverless cars. The arrangement raises a big question about Uber's future strategy, since it implies a shift from its current business model in which it doesn't actually own its own fleet but sub-contracts to independent drivers. The Volvo deal is non-exclusive, allowing both partners to sign up with additional partners. Volvo is thought to be negotiating with at least one other potential service. "Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for autonomous drive, ride-sharing service providers globally," said CEO Hakan Samuelsson.

That bold step forward by Uber was almost immediately followed by yet another reminder of the ride hailing company's murky past, which new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is struggling to put firmly behind him. Uber admitted this week that it suffered a data breach a year ago in which personal details - names, addresses, etc, but not financial information - for some 50m riders and 7m drivers was stolen. Uber is hardly alone in having suffered such a raid. However, rather more seriously, instead of immediately informing its customers, its drivers and the authorities as soon as it discovered the breach, it now admits it chose to keep the whole thing secret for a year. It also managed to track down the hackers and paid them $100,000 in return for a promise to delete the data they stole and keep quiet about the whole thing. CEO Khosrowshahi dismissed Uber's chief security officer and his deputy for the cover-up as soon as he was told about it. But it serves as yet another example of the ways in which Uber customarily stretched the limits of the law under founder Travis Kalanick. Who knows what else is lurking in the closet? "None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it," said Khosrowshahi. "While I can't erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes." Khosrowshahi has spent most of the his first two months as CEO simply cleaning up one mess after another. As Bloomberg commented, "His role so far looks less like a turnaround artist and more like chief apology officer on behalf of his predecessor."

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Nov 2017: Ads of the Week: "Let's Unlock Cities". MDC's Forsman & Bodenfors is behind this superb campaign for Uber in Malaysia and other Asia Pacific markets. The idea is just delightful, but even more impressive is the execution. We'd love to know how much of the film is "real", as it were, and how much is digitally manipulated. The scale of some shots is actually quite breath-taking, like one of those Spencer Tunick photographs but with people all wearing cardboard boxes rather nothing at all. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 28th Sep 2017: In a shock development, London's transport regulator said it would not renew Uber's license to offer cab services in the city, on concerns it was not "fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license". Transport For London referred specifically to "potential public safety and security" issues, including Uber's lax track record on reporting or dealing with "serious criminal offences" committed by its drivers, and the use of "greyballing" software that automatically cancels rides booked by users Uber has identified as transport regulators or rival operators. London is now Uber's busiest city in Europe, with more than 40,000 drivers on its books and 3.5m registered passengers. However, the city's black cab operators have for years campaigned against the company's expansion, which has driven down ride prices to rock bottom levels, threatening the livelihood of many established drivers. The current license expires next week, but Uber will be able to continue to operate until any appeals are exhausted. It is possible that the company will be able to win back its license if it can guarantee solutions to TfL's specific concerns.

Uber's initial response was one of anger and outrage. It vowed to fight the TfL decision in court and launched a petition against the ban which has so far attracted almost 815,000 signatures. However new worldwide CEO Dara Khosrowshahi later adopted a more conciliatory stance, acknowledging the firm's responsibility to be "a better partner in every city we operate in... That doesn't mean abandoning our principles - we will vigorously appeal TfL's decision - but rather building trust through our actions and our behaviour. In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningful contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line." Meanwhile, US rival Lyft is said to be in talks to launch its own service in London to mop up the fallout from any Uber closure.

The authority's actions have quickly become a political football. Several Labour politicians, including the Mayor of London, have voiced their support for TfL's decision, while it has been opposed most vocally by Conservative MPs. Several commentators have also cast the ban as yet another test of a post-Brexit Britain's attitude towards Big Business. However, London is by no means alone. Separately this week, Uber said it would voluntarily suspend operations in Canadian city Montreal and the province of Quebec rather than submit to new government regulations. These include a minimum training period for drivers raised from 20 hours to 35 hours, in line with all other licensed taxi drivers; mandatory annual vehicle inspections and background checks made by the police rather than by private firms.

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