Categories
Journalism Tech

Uber Partner Picks Up $1.5 Billion From SoftBank

2019 03 08grab

That’s the headline on a story out Wednesday that I wrote with my colleague Saurabh Chaturvedi. It begins:

SINGAPORE—Southeast Asian ride-hailing company Grab Holdings Inc. has raised $1.46 billion in fresh funding from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp., which it will use to fuel its expansion beyond transportation services.

That brings the total from Grab’s latest fundraising round, over the past year, to more than $4.5 billion, the company said Wednesday. The SoftBank investment is through the conglomerate’s Vision Fund, which has stakes in some of the world’s most valuable tech companies.

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Categories
Book Notes Tech

Book Notes: ‘The Upstarts,’ by Brad Stone

the_upstarts_cover

From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited recently after many years.

These posts are meant to help me remember what I’ve learned, and to point out titles I think are worth consulting. They’re neither formal book reviews nor comprehensive book summaries, but I hope you find them useful.

For previous postings, see my Book Notes category.

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World

Published: 2017
ISBN: 0316388394
Amazon link

Brief Summary

A detailed account of how Uber and Airbnb – two startups that launched around the same time and took advantage of similar new technological trends – upended the taxi and hotel industries.

My Notes

  • This is the second book I’ve read by journalist and author Brad Stone. The first was “The Everything Store,” which I loved and wrote about in an earlier Books Notes entry. That book is the definitive account of how Jeff Bezos made Amazon into a global behemoth.

    “The Upstarts” focuses not on one company, but two: Uber and Airbnb. (I began reading this book in preparation for interviewing Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, last month.)

  • Both Uber and Airbnb benefited from shifting technological trends. As Stone writes, both emerged just as the iPhone and the concept of apps was beginning to take hold; Facebook was growing quickly and encouraging people to “establish their identities online;” Google Maps was emerging and could be integrated by third party apps; and broadband web use was soaring, Stone notes.

  • Both “own little in the way of physical assets.”

  • Founders of both startups lacked lofty ambitions like Google (“organize the world’s information”) or Facebook (“make the world more open and connected”).

    Rather, “Camp, Kalanick and their friends wanted to ride around San Francisco in Style. Chesky and his cohorts were looking for a way to make some extra cash when a conference came to town.”

  • Beyond noting the two startups’ similarities, the book takes a straightforward approach to recounting of how both grew rapidly, encountered challenges, and then overcame them.

    The brash, ambitions, entrepreneurial, math whiz Kalanick was just what Uber needed to grow at a breakneck pace and vanquish rivals. But his personal shortfalls, Stone writes, later got the company into trouble.

    At Airbnb*, Chesky and his co-founders placed an overarching emphasis on the notion of community; they, too, faced some obstacles on their way to success.

    *The original name of the site was Airbedandbreakfast.com, which was later shortened to Airbnb. For some reason I’d always thought the name was “bnb,” for “bed and breakfast,” with an “Air” appended to it.

  • As with “The Everything Store,” which I read to better understand Amazon, I recommend “The Upstarts” if you’d like a better grasp on Uber and Airbnb, and how their early days and culture inform their current activities.

Categories
Journalism Tech

Uber Wants You to Catch the Bus or Train—if They Can Drive You There

2019 02 01 uber transport

That’s the headline on a story out Wed. that I wrote with my colleague Mike Cherney. It begins:

Uber Technologies Inc., fresh from disrupting the taxi industry and leaping into food delivery, is devising a new business strategy ahead of its anticipated public offering: ferrying passengers to and from mass-transit systems.

Last year, the ride-sharing giant created an internal team with a focus on partnerships with local transit officials, a shift for a company that previously had run-ins with regulators as it expanded around the globe. The move comes as Uber seeks to evolve from being primarily a taxi-like service to a wider transportation platform, offering options like electric bikes and scooters—and eventually public bus and train tickets.

The approach could generate significant revenue for Uber, if the company can convince customers to take more Uber trips to and from bus stops or train stations. Finding new revenue is crucial for the cash-burning giant, which has said it doesn’t expect to be profitable for at least three years and faces increasing competition as it plans for an IPO this year.

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Categories
Journalism Tech

Uber CEO Says Market Turmoil Won’t Derail IPO Plans

2019 01 14uberceo

That’s the headline on my latest story, out Tuesday and in Wednesdsay’s print WSJ. It begins:

Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said market turbulence in the U.S. would be unlikely to affect the ride-hailing titan’s plans for a public listing.

“Any company that’s going public would like to do it in a positive, stable market,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said in an interview Tuesday in Singapore. But the startup is large and flexible enough to go public in almost any market, he said. “We’ll do it when we’re ready, and, hopefully, the markets will be in a good state."

Mr. Khosrowshahi said Uber was internally on track to list this year, having previously said he expected to seek a debut in the second half of 2019 in what would be one of the biggest public offerings planned for the year. The company is also keeping an eye out for a possible debut by rival U.S. firm Lyft Inc., which has indicated it plans to seek an IPO this year and filed confidentially with the SEC the same day Uber did.

“The good news is that we’ve got a strong balance sheet so we don’t need to go public this year,” he said. “It’s a desire,” he said, but “if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen. “I’d be disappointed and I think our shareholders would be disappointed but the company would be just fine."

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Categories
Journalism

Uber Agrees in Principle to Exit Southeast Asia for Stake in Rival

2018 03 10traffic

That’s the headline of my newest story, which I wrote with my colleagues Greg Bensinger and Julie Steinberg. It ran late Thursday, and begins:

Uber Technologies Inc. has reached an agreement in principle to sell most of its Southeast Asia operations to local rival Grab Inc., ending a costly fight for market share in the fast-growing region, according to people familiar with the matter.

In exchange for its operations in Southeast Asia, Uber would gain a roughly 30% stake in Grab, these people said. The two companies are still hashing out the final terms of the pact, the people said, cautioning any deal would be subject to regulatory scrutiny. One of the people said Uber’s stake in Grab could wind up being smaller.

Uber was spending some $200 million annually to take on Grab and another upstart in the region, GoJek, two of the people said. Go-Jek, a motorcycle-taxi service based in Indonesia, recently raised more than $1 billion in funding from KKR & Co. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., among others.

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