Tag Archives: ridesharing

Uber’s perpetual second chance

Last week, Uber sent an email to customers linking to the results of its investigation and the next steps for the company:

After a report of inexcusable workplace harassment surfaced earlier this year, our board and senior leadership took immediate action. They asked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and experts from the law firm Covington & Burling to conduct a thorough investigation. After four months of review, this week they released their report, which you can read here.

People always deserve a second chance. Companies, not so much. I see no reason to use Uber again, especially when there are now many ride-sharing apps that are just as good.

Uber had a strong brand, and now they’ve undermined it. Uber had the best user experience, and now most ride-sharing apps have matched it.

Uber is still in more cities, but that’s less of an advantage than I first assumed. Austin went without Uber and Lyft for a year and the city’s roads didn’t descend into chaos. It was fine.

Maybe ride-sharing is a winner-take-all market as Ben Thompson has convincingly argued. But maybe ride-sharing is just one commodity feature in the future of transportation, and as these services are integrated into larger platforms like Apple Maps and Google Maps, Uber’s dominance will fade just as their differentiation has faded. (On the extreme side of this, some competition to Uber such as RideAustin already treat the infrastructure as nothing special, operating as a non-profit to serve drivers and riders.)

It may seem foolish to bet against a company with billions of dollars in revenue, but Uber has little competitive advantage in software to show for the huge investment and current loses. They have more drivers, but with frequent turnover, how loyal are those drivers? I took a ride with Fasten and my driver thought that signing up and driving with Fasten was so similar to Uber that perhaps Uber was even secretly running it.

Uber reminds me of the Trump campaign and administration: mistake after mistake, and they get away with it. But at some point the second chances have run out, and the problems will stick and have real consequences, taking the whole thing down.

Companies are not always built to last. Sometimes it’s unfair — products that never find the right customers despite the founders’ best intentions. But sometimes companies deserve to fail — mismanagement, bad products, and toxic culture.

Companies fail all the time. I hope everyone at Uber is ready with a new job when it’s Uber’s turn.

Lyft short film

Uber has been in the news lately, and not in a good way. I’m taking a short trip this week and decided to more actively look for ride-sharing alternatives. I’ll be trying Fasten in Austin and Lyft elsewhere.

One nice discovery in this search: Lyft produced a wonderful animated short film called June. It’s directed by John Kahrs, who as I blogged about a few years ago did Paperman at Disney.

I’m still annoyed that Lyft joined with Uber to first actively campaign against regulations in Austin and then ultimately left the city. But Lyft funding a film like this makes me feel better about supporting the company. There’s also a behind-the-scenes video.