Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Well, that pretty much just lays it out in the open

From a characteristically good LA Times article by Sam Dean
“Profitability in the first three-to-five years is not the focus,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush. “The focus is on doubling down on growth and further expanding this Uber economy over coming years.”

The company is just getting started, the thinking goes, and its core ride-hailing service, Uber Eats food delivery business and Uber Freight shipping logistics division are poised to take over many times their current market across the world.

“As someone who’s covered technology for 20 years, I could count on one hand the stories that are potentially transformational on the consumer enterprise side,” Ives said. “Uber has the blueprint to be what I view as the Amazon in transportation.”

Once Uber reaches that world-eating scale, the believers say, it will have such reach into drivers’ and riders’ lives that it can start tightening the economics, and introduce more profitable subscription models or, eventually, self-driving cars, and fend off any competition from other deep-pocketed tech giants.

Ives sees Lyft, which only operates in North America and hews closer to its core ride-hailing product than the expanding Uber, as a less enticing investment precisely because it has said it plans to work to reduce losses.

“A major strategic mistake that Lyft made was putting their back against the wall talking about the path to profitability in the next few years,” Ives said. “Ultimately with Uber, either you believe or you don’t.

A few points.

1. We're talking about a world-wide monopoly. Among the other difficulties facing this plan, it requires a certain degree of buy-in from the various governments involved. This is a big stumbling block in Europe and an almost insurmountable obstacle in China.

2. Putting aside the unlikeliness of pulling this off, the phrase "tightening the economics, and introduce more profitable subscription models" is a pretty way of saying "take advantage of the monopoly and start gouging."

3. It's a bit off topic but there are few meaningful parallels between Amazon and Uber business models. The name is evoked here strictly for its magical power.

4. And perhaps my favorite part. Lyft's mistake was even thinking about paths to profitability. That shows a lack of faith, and for all magical thinking, faith is essential. If it works for the Great Pumpkin...

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