These days, everybody's betting on Uber. In the firm's seven years of existence, it has attracted nearly $15 billion dollars in funding via a nearly-unprecedented 14 rounds of investment. While Uber's management have made it intentionally difficult for small investors to own shares of the company, big investors are betting on Uber in droves. All this led Quartz's Steve LeVine to wonder — What if they're wrong? Can somebody make the opposite bet? Is it even possible to short Uber? [Spoiler: Basically, no.]. Earlier this year, Uber announced its expansion into subprime lending, and on Thursday, announced that it had lost $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016.
What it's like to work for the new on-demand economy.
To understand how the $60bn company is taking over the world, you need to stop thinking about cars. (sllongreadTheGrauniad)
How the “sharing economy” has turned San Francisco into a dystopia for the working class. Oh, Canada! I’m writing you from Berkeley, California to warn you about this thing called “the sharing economy.” Since no one is really sharing anything, many of us prefer the term “the exploitation economy,” but due to its prevalence many in the Bay Area simply think of it as “the economy.” Whatever you want to call it, the basic idea is that customers can outsource all the work or chores they don’t want to do to somebody else in their area. [more inside]
Liss-Riordan is tired of hearing that labor laws should adapt to accommodate upstart tech companies, not the other way around: "Why should we tear apart laws that have been put in place over decades to help a $50 billion company like Uber at the expense of workers who are trying to pay their rent and feed their families?" -- Meet "Sledgehammer Shannon," the labor rights lawyer who took on Starbucks and FedEx, and now, Uber, in defense of their workers.
The rating game: How Uber and its peers turned us into horrible bosses. Josh Dzieza writes about how customer rating systems for "sharing economy" on-demand services like Uber, Airbnb and Taskrabbit has made already tenuous employment even more precarious. "We’re not just working for money," an Uber driver told me. "We’re working for ratings, but ratings have no value. Ratings serve only to prevent you from getting fired. Only bad things can happen to you. We’re scurrying like rats after these things with no value." [more inside]
Uber would like to buy your robotics department Today’s early-stage inquiry — so-called basic research, the Level 1 work, where scientists are still puzzling over fundamental questions — is financed almost exclusively by the federal government. It’s too far out, too speculative, to attract much investment; it isn’t clear if anyone will make any money on it. This wasn’t always the case.
New Uber Service Sounds Suspiciously Like a Bus — New Uber "Smart Routes" feature offers passengers fare discounts in exchange for pick-ups along predetermined high-ridership routes. Rather than trying to compete with public transit, FiveThirtyEight points out that Uber and public transit can complement each other. Meanwhile, the yellow cab industry is trying to fight back against Uber with an Uber-like smartphone app for NYC passengers.
"Leading technology companies are increasingly soliciting their users to take political action on their behalf to defend controversial business models from regulation, support new programs, and promote their moral values in active political battles." Matt Stempeck explores the implications [alt link] of Uber and Facebook (among others) turning their users into lobbyists for the companies.
Lawrence Schall, the President of Oglethorpe University, decided to learn more about Uber by becoming a driver in his free time. He writes: "I wanted to understand the sharing economy. Instead, I got schooled in the failures of Atlanta's public transit system. . . . I assumed the people who used Uber fell into three basic categories: young people (including lots of students at my own university) responsibly avoiding drinking and driving on nights out, business people who had switched to Uber for a faster response and lower cost, and folks like me who occasionally used Uber to avoid the hassles of traffic, parking or just because it’s the cool new thing to do. Yet in my dozen-plus Uber forays thus far, I’ve encountered no one who fits those categories." [more inside]
Disruption’s Tragic Flaw The case of Uber shows why European companies should not follow the example of their American competitors too closely. It pays to take the needs of customers and contractors into account.
After months of trying to investigate what it's like to be an UberX driver, Emily Guendelsberger of the Philadelphia City Paper decided to become one herself. She also picked up some tricks on how to do it along the way.
Meet the lawyer taking on Uber and the rest of the on-demand economy. Shannon Liss-Riordan has filed lawsuits against five of the largest "sharing economy" start-ups (Uber, Lyft, Homejoy, Postmates, and Caviar), contending that they pay the people who supply the equipment and manpower that power their businesses like independent contractors, while burdening them with the work expectations of employees. Previously.
...And Crafted The Best Seed Portfolio Ever
But his track record is also flecked with broken friendships and hard feelings. While he keeps a relatively low media profile–this story marks the first time he’s cooperating for a major story–his big mouth, incessant name-dropping and blunt elbows cause eyes to roll. “He’s got a bit of a hero complex,” says a peer who knows him well. “He’s an amazing investor, but that’s not enough–he has to do this heroic stuff.” At Google he crashed every meeting he could and then wouldn’t shut up. Twitter eventually had to pass a rule, driven in part by Sacca, barring nonemployees from showing up at all-staff meetings. He and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, once close friends, now barely speak, despite Sacca’s major stake in the company.
The Shut-In Economy The dream of on-demand, delivery everything is splitting tech-centered cities into two new classes: shut-ins and servants.
Uber and Airbnb monetize the desperation of people in the post-crisis economy while sounding generous—and evoke a fantasy of community in an atomized population. [more inside]
Full of assumptions, still thought-provoking article about self-driving cars by writer Zach Kanter, How Uber’s Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs and Reshape the Economy by 2025. [more inside]
Blake Ross details the ways in which the Nevada Taxicab Authority is fighting back against unscrupulous taxi drivers and out-innovating Uber & Lyft in the process.
Ben Smith of Buzzfeed reports: Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt On Journalists [more inside]
Silicon Valley's Contract Worker Problem Earlier this year, I hired a house cleaner. I wouldn't have done so normally, but my place was a mess, I was busy at work, and I saw an offer on Facebook that looked too good to be true — a San Francisco start-up called Homejoy was offering home cleanings in the Bay Area for $19. (Not $19 per room or $19 per hour. Just $19.) So I booked an appointment through Homejoy's website, and a day later, a young man showed up at my door. [more inside]
"Using contractors it calls "brand ambassadors," Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection. The effort, which Uber appears to be rolling out nationally, has already resulted in thousands of canceled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for its rival to gain a foothold in new markets. Uber calls the program "SLOG," and it’s a previously unreported aspect of the company’s ruthless efforts to undermine its competitors."
In capital cities across Europe, taxi drivers took to the streets without passengers Wednesday afternoon. They slowed to a snail's pace in what Parisians called "Operation Escargot." Horns blared around Trafalgar Square in London. In Berlin, taxis massed at the Central Station. All to protest the smartphone app Uber. [more inside]
On Monday, Toronto received over 100mm of rainfall, leading to severe flooding, power outages, and hundreds of thousands of stranded drivers and transit users. Uber, a startup that matches taxis with passengers, instituted "surge pricing" - did they break the cardinal "don't be an asshole" rule?
Heyride, an Austin startup that is revolutionizing the way you get around town, received a cease-and-desist from the City of Austin. This follows Uber's forced NYC shutdown last month, along with California sending cease-and-desists to Lyft, Sidecar, and Tickengo. Paul Carr links these disruptive technologies to Metafilter fave author Ayn Rand (previous thread); it's not the first time he's taken on the nerds. Wharton and Wired weigh in.
Travis Shrugged: The creepy, dangerous ideology behind Silicon Valley’s "Cult of Disruption"
Almost all the everyday complaints about cabs trace back to this regulatory cocktail. Drivers won’t take you to the outer reaches of your metropolitan area? The regulated fares won’t let them charge you more to recover the cost of dead-heading back without a return customer. Cabs are poorly maintained? Blame restricted competition, and the inability to charge for better quality. Cabbies drive like maniacs? With high fixed costs for cars and gas, and no way to increase their earnings except by finding another fare, is it any wonder that they try to get from place to place as fast as possible? Uber makes its money at least in part by alleviating these inefficiencies. In most places, “black car” or livery services are regulated differently, and more lightly, than taxis are. Though Uber has good reason not to say so, it’s basically turning livery services into cabs. The company is one step further removed from regulation, because it doesn’t run cars itself; it funnels passengers to existing services. “We’re sort of like an efficient lead-generation system for limo companies,” says Kalanick, “but with math involved.” - Megan McArdle analyses taxi regulation in the US and the taxi startup, Uber
Ubersuper is the place where Stefan Sicher shares inspiration and has fun. It has lead me to Soviet Propaganda Posters, Generating Art from Computer Games, Bruce Mozert's Underwater Photos, a cool stop motion video and much more.
ePimps tell your tales! Uber and So New Media have a special request for all the "eLovas" of the world. Have you got an eLove story to share? And is this funny, or a commentary on the lengths to which people will reach for love?