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 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.

Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Sep 2017: In the latest salvo in the industry-wide media transparency war, ridehailing service Uber issued a lawsuit against mobile media agency Fetch, a unit of Dentsu Aegis Network, alleging the company misrepresented the effectiveness of its mobile ads, failed to curb ad fraud and didn't pass on rebates it had negotiated with different mobile ad networks. The relationship between the two companies broke down earlier this year after Uber stopped paying Fetch's invoices. “With Fetch, we learned the age-old lesson ‘buyer beware’ the hard way,” said Uber. "Fetch was running a wild west of online advertising fraud, allowing Uber ads on websites we wanted nothing to do with, and fraudulently claiming credit for app downloads that happened without a customer ever clicking on an ad.” Uber is seeking around $40m in damages. For its part, Fetch strongly denies the allegations, which are, it said, "unsubstantiated, completely without merit, and purposefully inflammatory so as to draw attention away from Uber's unprofessional behaviour and failure to pay suppliers."

Adbrands Weekly Update 31st Aug 2017: Uber's board selected Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as their new CEO, taking over from founder Travis Kalanick, who stepped down in June following pressure from major investors. Other even more prestigious names had been in the running. As late as last Friday, GE's Jeffrey Immelt and HPE's Meg Whitman were also among the finalists for the position. However, Khosrowshahi's experience in both travel and technology won the day against those two better-known executives. Board members were also no doubt influenced by the fact that he has presided over a sevenfold increase in Expedia's market cap since he led its spin-off from IAC in 2005. In his first address to Uber managers, Khosrowshahi said that he aims to take Uber public within the next 18 to 36 months. Meanwhile, Expedia promoted operations and finance chief Mark Okerstrom to succeed him as CEO. Kosrowshahi will remain a director of the travel firm.

Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Jul 2017: Uber effectively threw in the towel in its prolonged battle in Russia with local rival Yandex.Taxi, a subsidiary of that country's dominant search engine Yandex. The two companies have been fierce competitors for the past three years in Russia and five neighbouring markets including Georgia and Belarus, and Uber said the battle had cost it as much $170m in costs and fare-cuts. Yandex remains the local leader, delivering almost 24m rides to users in June, a little over twice Uber's local total. As a result, the US company has agreed to merge its existing operations in the region into a newly created joint venture 59%-controlled by Yandex. Almost a year ago, Uber also withdrew from China, selling its local business there to competitor Didi Chuxing. "Combining Yandex’s local expertise in search, maps and navigation with our leading global experience in ride-sharing will enable us to build the best local services and provide a credible alternative to car ownership across the region," said Uber EMEA leader Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Jun 2017: Only a few days after taking an indefinite leave of absence from the ridehailing giant he founded, Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO of Uber in the wake of pressure from several institutional shareholders. The New York Times had access to a statement from Kalanick in which he told employees "I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight." Kalanick will remain a director of the company as well as its controlling shareholder. The WSJ suggested that the new CEO, whoever it ends up being, faces one very significant challenge. "The hard truth is that Uber may be more taxi company than tech giant.... Even if it fixes all of its current problems, it's increasingly unlikely that it can live up to the inflated expectations that come with the nearly $70bn valuation that have made it the world's most valuable startup." 

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