I’m deeply cynical about so-called disruptive businesses: the AirBnbs, the Deliveroos, the Ubers. I don’t think there’s anything particularly admirable about using VC money to undercut and destroy the competition or trying to evade the regulations designed to protect the people who use the service or the people who do the work. But I was still surprised by this piece on Uber, which makes it clear that the firm is even worse, and in even worse shape, than I thought it was.
Uber was never going to be profitable. Never. It lured drivers and riders into cars by subsidizing rides with billions and billions of dollars from the Saudi royal family, keeping up the con-artist’s ever-shifting patter about how all of this would some day stand on its own.
According to Cory Doctorow, Uber is “a dazzle op that keeps new money flowing in, convincing people that a pile of shit this big must have a pony beneath it.” But there is no pony.
From the start, Uber’s “blitzscaling” strategy involved breaking local taxi laws (incurring potentially unlimited civil liability) while losing (lots of) money on every ride. They flushed billions and billions and billions of dollars down the drain.
But they had billions to burn.