Global Investor

Uber uncool

Meera Siva | Updated on November 24, 2014

Taxi service faces questions about culture



Ride sharing service Uber found itself with a flat tyre on the wrong side of town last week. It started as an off-the-record rant by an employee to unearth information on journalists who view the company unfavourably. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apologised, but the employee was let off without any penalty. Nor did Uber investor Ashton Kutcher’s tweet, “what is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?”, help the company.

Privacy concerns

Even those who may empathise with Kutcher’s sentiments regarding the media, worry about Uber’s general disregard for user privacy. Sample this. Venture capitalist Peter Sims’ cab ride was tracked with the company’s famous “God view” tool and displayed live in a road show. Other issues include not ensuring the safety of women passengers and unethical attempts to scuttle its competitor Lyft. Kalanick took some flak for a misogynistic ad campaign and his infamous ‘boober’ comment. These have raised questions about the company’s culture, where employees are evaluated on ‘fierceness’ and ‘super pumpedness’.

Critics, however, hand it to the start-up for its bold moves in challenging well-entrenched taxi services and gaining market share. But with operations currently on in 128 cities spanning 37 countries and creating 20,000 new jobs every month — jobs that reportedly pay cab drivers $90,000 a year in New York — analysts feel Kalanick and his team must ‘grow up’.

Well-funded

Issues aside, Uber enjoys a smooth ride on the financing front. It raised $1.4 billion at a post funding valuation of $18.4 billion in June 2014. The company receives 20 per cent share of the ride fare and gross booking numbers for 2013, based on data from Tech Crunch, stood at around $1 billion. This gives a price to earnings multiple of a hefty 90 times.

Published on November 23, 2014

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