Noah J Nelson on Friday, Jun. 6th
In the world of start-ups no name is more polarizing than Uber. The car service “disruptor,” which has become the poster child of the so-called “sharing economy” has drawn the ire of pundits and regulators alike as it seeks to redefine urban ground transportation.
It has also drawn boatloads of cash. Today Uber announced a funding round of $1.2 billion against a massive $17 billion valuation. The Street believes in Uber, despite a string of nasty regulatory battles and a string of lurid reports about the actions of some of its drivers.
And Uber? Uber totally believes in itself:
Uber is changing the fabric of these cities. At our current rate, Uber is responsible for directly creating 20,000 new jobs per month and powering billions in economic impact in cities around the world – while also improving the environment, reducing DUI rates and fueling urban economic development.
Of course, that 20,000 doesn’t run the math on how many taxi drivers Uber puts out of business or flips. Nor does it cop to the fact that the service built out its infrastructure on the back of a long standing rivalry between cabbies and black town car drivers. It also fails to mention the Uber ambition of adding driverless cars to its fleet.
The environmental claims are a bit of a head-scratcher. Does the company have hard data that shows the amount of driving that Uber contractors do prowling for surge pricing time fares doesn’t negate the positive environmental effect that running a taxi service has.
That assumes, of course, that there are some environmental benefits to having Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar (that’s still around, I think) clogging up the arteries of New York, San Francisco and LA along with traditional taxis, busses, and private vehicles.
Look: the long-term vision of a world where fewer people own cars and we lower the incidences of DUIs along with the environmental damage that comes from autos is a great one. But that vision doesn’t necessarily follow from a mercenary corporation whose CEO enjoys verbal spats with people on social media.