Uber’s Rise And Fall In One Map

How Uber won and lost the world

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You can watch the rise and fall of Uber in this GIF. From 2010, Uber black spreads across the globe. Then in 2014 Europe starts to go grey as regulation kicks in. Then Asia goes white as the company goes into full retreat. The investors manage to get their money out in time, and the public markets are stuck with this rapidly declining turd. It’s a hell of a ride.

2010 — UberCab

UberCab was dreamt of in 2008, launched in 2009 and carried its first passenger (in San Francisco) in 2010. It was and is magic. Push a button and get a ride.

Uber hit that startup sweet spot — a product that both masses and Venture Capitalists could actually use. America was also an ideal market— a country with widening inequality, where people wanted to have servants but didn’t want to call it that.

Uber lets people have drivers and be drivers without looking at either the economic or social problems too closely. Just push a button, get a ride.

2011 — Uber

In 2011, UberCab changed its name to Uber, to avoid regulation. This was more than a name change, it was (and is) core to Uber’s being. Uber’s two core innovations were actually not technical. The first was to break economic laws, and the other was to break labor laws. The secret sauce was how they got away with it for so long.

Economic Laws

I took some remedial business school and the first thing they taught us was about fixed and variable costs. A gun is a fixed cost. Bullets are variable.

No firm will sell below their variable cost, in this case, the cost of a ride. Otherwise, you’re just selling a dollar for 50 cents. I was taught this as essentially a law. Uber broke that law — subsidizing both the rider and the driver — and saw explosive growth. They continually lost money on a unit basis, pricing…

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Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at www.indi.ca, or just email me at indi@indi.ca.