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Uber - it's a bit like Marmite

Lee Woodcock | 11 Feb 2016 | Comments

As the saying goes about Marmite (and Marmite’s own branding!) you either “Love it or hate it” and it strikes me that Uber also falls into the same category! That said, I am left wondering why?

The investment Uber received in such a short period is stunning - as shown in the graphics below, so they must be doing something right, as I’m sure investors will have carried out their due diligence.

Uber timeline

Uber value

I’m certainly an Uber convert too! In fact, on my first visit to Dubai they provided an indispensable service on a couple of occasions. Despite that, I had cause to complain, yet within minutes of my email I had received a response and a full refund, so I can't fault their customer service.

Their rapid globalisation (over 375 cities at the time of writing this) and service diversification such as UberPool, personal and business profiles with expense reporting, UberRush and UberEats – all demonstrate aspects of growth and innovation that most emerging Intelligent Mobility organisations would be envious of.

Yet, despite the apparent business success, they tend to receive negative press coverage… although some of this may be of their own making (i.e. kid’s toys to pacify drunk passengers). There have been some serious allegations regarding passenger safety and city authorities around the world continue to question and challenge the Uber model.

There have been arguments over drivers (or are they contractors?) and their remuneration, including examples where unions have backed legal action against the company. Traditional taxi drivers have caused gridlock in protests over Uber, with demonstrations in London and Paris in 2015 and 2016. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole lot more that I haven't got time to write about!

So, why the “Love it or hate it” question for Uber? Surely we need this kind of technology and business model innovation for Intelligent Mobility to thrive? Isn't Uber’s growth just a reality of a commercial landscape, where either you innovate or die?

I would love to hear your view. Do you “love them or hate them” and why?

My prediction for 2016 for Uber isn't exactly ground breaking. They will continue to grow both geographically and by diversifying their service offerings. However, we may see ‘counter innovation’ from SMEs in cities that offer local services for local people that are focused on doing social good for all sectors of society. These two models will co-exist, perhaps not happily, but market forces will come in to play and we’ll see demand drive adoption and further innovation.

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