For me the most striking lesson Uber teaches is the “never-ending-growth” path. Start out as a black car company, see an opportunity to shift capital and operational costs onto owner-drivers. That’s actually quite clever: build an app and take a percentage of each fare while avoiding incurring massive costs. But then…. scale scale scale! Rule the world! And so Uber uses VC funds to subsidize riders, resulting in (naturally) more riders which then require more VC funds to subsidize. But you can’t pitch a VC with a story that says “give me more cash to throw away.” Instead you say “give me more cash so we can build on our success and dominate the market with flying cars and meal delivery and….”
None of this is profitable, of course, but the VCs have now bought into a Grand Vision. Elon Musk does the same thing. Keep moving the goal-posts to grander and grander world-dominating concepts and ignore practical realities like ultimate profitability. Who cares if we’re now incurring vast capital expenditures and huge unknown liabilities? Vision is all!
But why stop there? Why not… merge two huge white elephants?
Uber combining with Tesla would be the greatest merger in history, in terms of spuriousness. How about Uber-For-Space? FBRs lifting self-driving Teslas into low Earth orbit to deliver subsidized passengers from LA to Sydney for only $300. Now there’s something we can raise another $100 billion for…