Please Answer these 2 Questions from the attached Case Study-Uber.

1)  Uber is notoriously aggressive in its business tactics. It frequently operates without getting regulatory approval and it often ignores legal concerns; consequently, the company has become a lightning rod for criticism. Should Uber be taking more of a “tiptoe” approach when it enters new markets?(1 page is enough)

2)  In its relative short life span, Uber has attracted a lot of media attention. Why is this? What is it about the Uber business model that is both compelling and polarizing? In addition, why has Uber managed to achieve such a high valuation? What are the pros and cons of a high valuation? ( 1 page is enough)

Notes: Please Create one word doc for both questions and highlight these 2 question-answers in PPT also(Main Points highlight in PPT)

Rev. May 2, 2016

This case was prepared by Virginia Weiler, Marketing Instructor, University of Southern Indiana; Paul Farris, Landmark Communications Professor of
Business Administration, Darden School of Business; Gerry Yemen, Senior Researcher, Darden School of Business; and Kusum Ailawadi, Professor of
Marketing, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College. Copyright  2014 by the University of Virginia Darden School Foundation, Charlottesville,
VA. All rights reserved. To order copies, send an e-mail to [email protected] No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of the Darden
School Foundation.

Uber Pricing Strategies and Marketing Communications

By late March 2016, Uber Technologies, Inc., an e-hail ride-sharing company, was on a roll, rapidly
expanding service to untapped markets worldwide and gaining new, enthusiastic customers, as well as a few
vocal and visible detractors. Some of its critics were focused on Uber’s practice of “surge pricing,” a tactic that
increased rates sharply in times of higher demand for car service. Other groups that disliked the company
included competing taxi and limo services, which argued that inadequate driver screening and training
endangered consumers and made for unfair competition in the highly regulated industry. In addition, some city
governments enacted regulations to limit the number of cars on the road that ride-sharing companies could
offer, and others completely banned the service.

Aside from monetizing private cars into ride-sharing services offered around the globe, Uber slowly added
a delivery service (UberRUSH) and eventually created an application program interface (API) enabling an Uber
button to be added to other organizations’ apps (e.g., Facebook, retailers, florists) for delivery options through
UberRUSH and UberEATS for food products.

While Uber explored growth in new markets, competitors in its core space were working hard to take
market share. Lyft, Uber’s major U.S. ride-share rival, had raised $1 billion in capital and was investing some of
it toward discounts and increased marketing efforts while expanding in major cities across the country.

As Uber’s dominance grew, would striking a balance between becoming ever more present internationally,
positioning itself in new service markets, and turning a profit in its home market and competency be the firm’s
next major business challenge?

Taxi and Limousine Industry

In 2014, the American taxicab and limousine market was enormous, employing close to 233,700 drivers
nationally who earned an average annual salary of $23,210.1 The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there
would be a 13% increase in the number of drivers between 2014 and 2024 (more than twice the average total
of all occupations). Major cities such as Chicago, Illinois, and New York City, New York, controlled the industry
through the use of medallions. New York City alone had 13,437 yellow cabs licensed through the medallion
system, as well as 32,000 limousine and livery (call-ahead) vehicles. The number of taxi medallions was fixed,
and those sold on the open market could fetch more than $1 million. The New York City Taxi & Limousine

1 United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs,”

material-moving/taxi-drivers-and-chauffeurs.htm (accessed Mar. 31, 2016).

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Commission calculated a medallion’s annual return on investment as close to 20%. Many cities used the
medallion system as a way to ensure income for the medallion owner.2

Taxis were either hailed on the street or sent out after a passenger called a central dispatcher. Livery car
service was prearranged; the cars generally could not be hailed on the street, protecting taxis from competition.
There was usually a waiting period between the call for a car and passenger pickup, in some cases up to an

By and large, taxis were regulated at the municipal level and livery services were regulated by state agencies.
One method employed by regulatory agencies to ensure that vehicles hailed on the street were licensed was to
standardize their appearance. Taxis had a distinctive look (e.g., mustard yellow in New York City) and were
required to indicate clearly whether or not they were in service. Other taxi and livery regulations included a set
number of vehicle inspections per year, requirements for the location of a taxi service’s dispatch
station/business operations, and whether or not customers could be solicited and cars assigned to customers
for pickup.4

Taxicabs charged passengers based on time and distance, which were calculated by a taximeter prominently
displayed inside the vehicle. Taximeters calculated fares based on a highly regulated and standardized fare
schedule (e.g., $3.50 per mile for the first five miles and $5.00 per mile thereafter). Livery vehicles had no
taximeters, and fares were usually based on time, or rough distance with a predetermined minimum price that
was agreed on in advance. In general, livery vehicles were not allowed to charge based on time plus distance.

When an alternative ride-share option started to develop in the mid-2000s, the International Association
of Transportation Regulators, a trade group representing taxicab and livery drivers, took notice. In July 2013,
they called for the prohibition of what it called “bogus” and “rogue” ride-sharing services in the name of public
safety. In a press release, the association claimed it was protecting the public from unlicensed drivers who could
be drug users or criminals. In effect, the trade group called for a ban on mobile applications (apps) that would
allow people to make ride arrangements via smartphone.

Taxi and rental-car usage started to dip—but it was unclear whether ride sharing was responsible (see
Exhibit 1 for business traveler data). And unrestricted New York City taxi medallions dropped in price from
$1 million in 2014 to as low as $400,000 in 20165— only 19 independent unrestricted medallions had been sold
in New York City during 2015.6 Yet it seemed that when regulatory agencies failed to protect the industry in
New York City, the response was “if you can’t beat ’em…join ’em.” In the fall of 2015, the New York City
Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) launched a pilot called Alternative Technology, which was a
partnership between the organization and tech companies to test products in New York City cabs. One system
was GPS-based taximeters and the other an alternative technology system (ATS) that provided driver payments
through credit-, debit-, and prepaid-card payment systems (through an e-hail app); driver authentication and
text messaging; trip data collection; passenger notifications that included visual accessibility features; automatic
vehicle location systems; and driver, medallion owner, and agent reporting.7

2 Steve Chapman, “Ride-Sharing vs. the Taxi Industry,” Chicago Tribune, February 20, 2014.
3 David Hoyt and Steven Callander, “Uber: 21st Century Technology Confronts 20th Century Regulation,” Stanford Graduate School of Business

case study no. P81 (Stanford, CA: Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2012): 2.
4 Hoyt and Callander, 2–3, 5.
5, (accessed Apr. 27, 2016).
6 Author calculations based on data from the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, (accessed Apr. 27, 2016).
7 New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, “Memorandum of Understanding: Terms and Conditions for Taxi and Limousine Commission

Authorization,” (accessed Mar. 22, 2016).

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Uber Background

Uber Technologies, Inc., originally called UberCabs, was founded in 2009 by tech start-up veterans Garrett
Camp and Travis Kalanick and headquartered in San Francisco. Uber began as a private luxury car service
catering to Silicon Valley’s top executives. In those days, someone in need of a ride had to e-mail Kalanick for
a code that would give them access to the app. Kalanick had recognized the potential profit in empty limousine
seats and idling taxis. In 2010, watching cars traverse San Francisco, Kalanick was convinced that the concept
of technology bringing drivers and passengers together efficiently could scale globally. By 2010, Kalanick had
executed an aggressive growth strategy.

Uber’s cofounders had very different roles within the company. Camp, a serial entrepreneur who
cofounded StumbleUpon in 2002, acted mostly as a silent partner. From Uber, he went on to another start-up,
Expa, which developed new consumer products, systems, and services. The public face and voice of Uber
clearly belonged to its other cofounder. Kalanick grew up in Northridge, California. He attended UCLA, but
dropped out to develop his first start-up, Scour, a file-sharing program. In 2000, Scour was sued for a quarter
of a trillion dollars by the Motion Picture Association of America, for copyright infringement.8 Subsequently,
Scour filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Kalanick’s next venture, Red Swoosh, a peer-to-peer
networking site, was bought by Akamai Technologies in 2007 for $15 million.9

Kalanick was personally involved in efforts to overcome regulatory agencies’ resistance to Uber’s expansion
in a number of cities. Indeed, he was described as a “brawler” who relished a good fight, whether it be on
Twitter with a competitor’s CEO or with the entrenched taxi and limousine governmental bodies he viewed as
a threat to Uber’s growth.10 Uber had encountered significant political headwinds in a number of markets; fierce
resistance came from Portland, Oregon; Paris, France; Miami, Florida; Denver, Colorado; and Washington,
DC. Some states such as California fined the company for regulatory violations. Uber has had legal clashes in
Germany (where it was banned), and in Spain, Colombia, France, Australia, Italy, Denmark, China, and

The company expanded rapidly, and by March 2016, it was operating in 400 cities12 in 65 countries, with
more than 162,000 active driver partners.13 Examples of cities served were Abu Dhabi, the United Arab
Emirates; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Bangalore, India; Bogotá, Columbia; Doha, Qatar; London, England;
Moscow, Russia; New York City; Rome, Italy; Shanghai, China; Tokyo, Japan; and Zürich, Switzerland (see
Exhibit 2 for locations). Kalanick was able to attract influential and high-profile investors whose funding
helped fuel Uber’s rapid expansion. Among those financiers were Ashton Kutcher, Jeff Bezos, and Google’s
investment division, which in August 2013 gave Uber $258 million in capital.14 The company was valued at
$62.5 billion just shy of three years later.15

8 John Borland, “Movie Studios Target Scour with Copyright Lawsuit,” CNET, July 20, 2000,

(accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
9 “Akamai Acquires Red Swoosh,” Akamai Technologies, Inc., press release, April 12, 2007, (accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
10 Marcus Wohlsen, “What Uber Will Do with All That Money from Google,” Wired, January 3, 2014.
11 B. R., “Taxi Services: Unsafe in The Knowledge,” Economist, July 16, 2015,

(accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
12 “Uber Now Available in Abuja, Nigeria,” Premium Herald, March 24, 2016, (accessed Mar. 31, 2016).
13 Emily Badger, “Now We Know How Many Drivers Uber Has—and Have a Better Idea of What They Are Making,” Washington Post, January 22,

14 Wohlsen.
15 Matt Levine, “Uber is Raising More Money from Rich People,” BloombergView, January 15, 2016,

01-15/uber-is-raising-more-money-from-rich-people (accessed Mar. 31, 2016).

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The Uber Product

Uber’s product was a smartphone
app that allowed urban dwellers to hail
vehicles virtually (see Figure 1). Fares
fluctuated, and the company employed
no drivers itself. Instead, Uber served as
an electronic dispatcher as passengers
and drivers connected digitally through
its proprietary software. The app
matched “willing” drivers and “needy”
consumers thusly: a potential passenger,
who had downloaded the Uber app onto
his or her smartphone, put in a request
for a car to take him or her to a specified
location. When the passenger requested a
ride, he or she got access to a driver’s
name, car model, and rating. Based on
that information, the passenger could
accept or decline the ride.

If accepted, the driver usually arrived
within a few minutes. Uber’s short wait
times, facilitated by proprietary algorithms that
directed drivers to locations where customers
were most likely to call, were seen as one of its
significant operational advantages. As one
customer stated, “I found Uber remarkably
convenient, considering chasing down a cab on
a New York City weekend evening can be quite
the task.”16

Uber’s fares were calculated according to
its algorithms—developed by a data-science
team of nuclear physics, computational biology,
and astrophysics PhDs—which helped match
supply with demand. The price for a ride was
higher during times of peak usage. Some
customers were critical of Uber’s policy of
dramatically increasing fares during periods of
peak demand (e.g., rush hour, New Year’s Eve,
Halloween, and inclement weather), a practice
Uber referred to as surge pricing (see Figure 2).
Fares were continually adjusted according to a
mathematical formula and could be as much as

16 Author interview with Uber user A, January 12, 2014.

Figure 1. Uber app showing Black Car option and UberX option.

Source: Author screenshot from Uber mobile app.

Figure 2. Uber surge pricing notice.

Source: Author screenshot from Uber mobile app.

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seven or eight times the normal Uber rate.17 Kalanick defended the surge pricing policy as one that benefited
passengers, since it incentivized drivers to make more pickups. Indeed, scholars had looked at cab driver
behavior and found that many (particularly new drivers) did not finish their entire 12-hour shift if they had hit
their target income before the shift ended.18

One group of passengers, however, launched a class-action lawsuit against Kalanick and was successful in
being granted standing in April 2016. A federal judge agreed with the plaintiffs that Kalanick may have violated
antitrust laws against price fixing by organizing “independent contract” drivers to charge higher prices through
surges—a claim Kalanick said was “unwarranted” and against which he planned to defend himself and win.

Despite Kalanick’s aggressive defense of surge
pricing, Uber lowered some of its rates in January 2014,
although no plans were made to eliminate surge pricing.
While dynamic pricing had been around for some time
in other industries, by 2016, even the storied, service-
oriented Disney Company announced that it would
implement demand pricing during peak hours at its
theme parks.19

Uber charged the customer’s credit card (which was
kept in his or her Uber profile) after a trip was completed
and e-mailed a receipt to the passenger (see Figure 3).
Uber kept 20% of the fare and paid the driver the
remaining 80% via direct deposit; the passenger and
driver never exchanged money directly. In the first half
of 2015, Uber’s gross revenue was estimated to be
$3.63 billion ($2.93 billion the previous year).20 Uber’s
share of that revenue would be approximately
$726 million annually. In a single month during March
2016, Uber made 169 million trips worldwide and 50
million trips in the United States, earning on average
$0.19 per ride.21

Uber Business Model

The ride-sharing platform Uber established meant keeping consumers and drivers connected and satisfied.
In an article on the costs and benefits of the sharing economy, one author said that the sharing economy
“matches people who want to share assets online,” and that “such efficiency gains may come at cost for

17 David Goldstein, “Uber ‘Surge Pricing’ Controversy Is a Cautionary Tale Against Taxi Deregulation,” Stranger, December 20, 2013,
deregulation?oid=18528505&show=comments&sort=desc&display= (accessed Mar. 18, 2014).

18 Colin F. Camerer, “Taxi Drivers and Beauty Contests,” Engineering and Science no. 1 (1997): 11.
19 S. K., “Disney Discovers Peak Pricing,” Economist, February 29, 2016,

discrimination-land (accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
20 Amir Efrati, “Uber’s Losses Grow, But So Do Its Profit Projections,” The Information, January 11, 2016,

losses-grow-but-so-do-its-profit-projections?unlock=aabcb5&token=4c278112edde93bcecd8d27043114b45bb862981 (accessed April 1, 2016).
21 Eric Newcomer, “Lyft is Gaining on Uber as It Spends Big for Growth,” Bloomberg Technology, April 14, 2016,
BBD041416_BIZ&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign (accessed Apr. 1, 2016).

Figure 3. Uber receipt.

Source: Author screenshot from Uber mobile app.

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traditional economy.”22 Uber did not directly employ drivers; rather, it claimed that it simply facilitated the
connection between passengers and drivers, similar to how a website such as Expedia connected passengers
and airlines. Uber did not own a fleet of vehicles, although it had guidelines as to what vehicle types its drivers
could use for each service. For example, UberX vehicles had to be 2000 models or newer (and 2005 models or
newer in some cities), have four doors, seat four passengers with seat belts, and have no cosmetic damage.

Services Uber offered varied worldwide. In most of the markets Uber served, customers could select from
one of five services: UberX, UberXL, UberBlack, UberSUV, and UberTaxi. UberX was the least expensive
option and dispatched drivers in smaller vehicles than those used for the other services. On its website, Uber
claimed that its UberX service (which seated four) was “18% lower than taxi prices.”23 UberXL, the larger
cousin to UberX, was for bigger groups: the vehicles seated six passengers and could be a van. And unlike the
other services, UberX and UberXL utilized both professional and nonprofessional drivers. UberBlack, the
original Uber service, used black town cars; fares for these vehicles were roughly 35% more than for UberX.
Still, it was described as the “poor man’s town car”—it targeted those customers who could not afford a full-
time driver but who wanted more luxurious transportation than a yellow cab or public transit. UberSUV worked
well for large parties and was priced higher than the UberBlack service (see Table 1). UberTaxi allowed
passengers to use the Uber app to hail a regular taxi. Unlike users of the other Uber services, customers using
UberTaxi paid standard taxi rates, plus a booking fee of a dollar or two, and a 29% tip in some cities.24 (See
Exhibit 3 for more Uber services offered in certain geographic areas.)

Table 1. Sample Uber rates in Denver, Colorado, April 2016.

UberX UberXL UberSUV UberBlack
Base fare (start with this fare) $0.75 $3.00 $14.00 $ 7.00
Per mile (under 11 miles) $1.00 $1.85 $ 3.75 $ 3.00
Per minutes (under 11 miles) $0.13 $0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.35
Minimum fare $4.95 $7.95 $25.00 $15.00
Cancelation fee $5.00 $5.00 $10.00 $10.00
Service fee $1.95 $1.95 $ 0.00 $ 0.00
Data source: “Denver Uber Prices,”, (accessed Apr. 25, 2016).

After a ride was completed, the passenger and driver could rate each other on a scale of one to five stars.
Uber drivers had the right to refuse to pick up a passenger whose rating was three stars or lower. One Uber
driver defended this practice by stating that low-rated passengers were “not worth the headache and hassel
[sic].”25 In some cases, passengers whose drivers reported them as particularly poorly behaved had their
accounts suspended.

There were other advantages for Uber drivers—for example, they did not have to provide kickbacks to
human dispatchers to increase the likelihood that the dispatcher would steer fares their way. Drivers were
guaranteed to be paid, because Uber had passengers’ credit card information on file. One Uber driver in San
Francisco noted that when he drove a taxi, he would make about $300 for a 10-hour shift, whereas with Uber,
on a good day, he could make $700. “I hope the new idea will work,” Mohamed Mandour said. “Because then
we will be taking over the whole Bay Area.”26 (See Table 2 for wage comparison.)

22 Georgious Petropoulos, “Uber and the Economic Impact of the Sharing Economy Platform,” Bruegel, February 22, 2016.
23 “Getting More for Less on UberX: UberX—Better, Faster, and Cheaper than a Taxi,” Uber Newsroom, November 20, 2013, (accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
24 “UberX vs. UberSelect vs. UberTaxi vs. UberBlack,” Techboomers, (accessed Apr.

1, 2016).
25 “While You’re Rating Uber, Uber Is Rating You (and It Could Cost You a Ride),” June 10, 2013,

rating-uber-uber-is-rating-you-and-it-could-cost-you-a-ride (accessed Mar. 18, 2014).
26 Brian X. Chen, “Uber, an App That Summons a Car, Plans a Cheaper Service Using Hybrids,” New York Times, July 1, 2012.

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Table 2. Earnings per hour, Uber and taxi/limo drivers, 2014.

Cities Uber Taxi/Limo
Boston $20.29 $12.92
Chicago $16.20 $11.87
Washington $17.79 $13.10
Los Angeles $17.11 $13.12
New York City $30.35 $15.17
San Francisco $25.77 $13.72
Average for all Uber markets $19.19 $12.90

Data source: Jonathan Hall and Alan Krueger, “An Analysis of the Labor Market for Uber’s Driver-
Partners in the United States,” Princeton University working paper, January 22, 2015,
(accessed Apr. 25, 2016).

Uber had market-specific criteria for its drivers. On its website, an individual interested in driving for Uber
would select the appropriate city, and the requirements for drivers in that market would appear. For example,
in March 2014, if someone interested in driving for Uber in New York City went to the company’s website, he
or she would be presented with two sets of criteria: one for UberBlack (town car) and one for UberTaxi (yellow
cab).27 For UberBlack, the prospective driver had to have “commercial car insurance, a [Transportation Charter
Permit], and an airport permit.” His or her vehicle had to be a black “sedan, crossover SUV, or full-size SUV”
that “comfortably seats 4+ passengers.”28 If an individual was interested in becoming an UberX driver, he or
she had to be “21 years of age or older,” with “an in-state Drivers License (depending on your state),” and “in-
state car insurance” who drove a four-door sedan.29 By the end of 2015, Uber had 162,037 driver partners who
had made more than three passenger trips.30

Conflict and Regulators

Generally, Uber conflicts centered on the municipal taxi and/or state limousine regulatory agency insisting
that Uber was subject to agency authority since Uber was, in effect, operating as a transportation service. These
agencies had strict guidelines about how passengers should contact the service provider, the fare structure, and
the labeling and appearance of vehicles.31 The use of nonlicensed drivers and contentions that Uber’s fare
platform was a high-tech metered service were the basis of many challenges.

Uber countered these regulatory efforts, insisting that it was merely a service that connected drivers and
passengers and was not operating as a transportation company. Therefore, it should not be subject to the rules
and regulations governing taxis and livery cars. Uber’s entry into the San Francisco market represented one of
its earliest victories against regulatory agencies.32

Meanwhile, it was well known that taxi service in Washington, DC, was replete with problems, including
not enough cabs in circulation, unreliable call-ahead service, and a reputation for taking advantage of passengers
unfamiliar with the city.33 Passengers also complained that taxis would refuse to take them to certain parts of

27 For updated requirements, check Uber’s New York City website at (accessed Apr. 29, 2016).
28 “Uber Car Requirements,” I Drive With Uber (blog), (accessed Apr. 28, 2016).
29 (accessed Apr. 28, 2016).
30 Badger.
31 Hoyt and Callander, 2.
32 Hoyt and Callander, 5.
33 Author interview with Uber user B, February 3, 2014.

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the city.34 DC taxicabs, unlike those in New York City, did not accept credit cards. “This is my biggest qualm
with them,” one passenger said. “It is 2014. I do not have cash.”35 Another practice passengers disliked was
when dispatchers managing the taxi line at major destinations (e.g., Union Station) forced them to share cabs
with other passengers they did not know. In this instance, both riders paid the full fare, despite the forced
sharing arrangement.36 As one disgruntled passenger said, “In New York City, you would never be forced to
share a cab but still pay the full fare.”37

These shortcomings made Washington, DC, an attractive location to Uber, and it attempted to enter the
market during the summer of 2012. Uber’s relationship with DC regulators was immediately contentious and
resulted in Uber drivers being targeted in stings by city officials and having their cars impounded.38 Uber
reached out to its users on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and its website and asked for support. The result was
50,000 personal e-mails and 37,000 tweets with the hashtag #UberDCLove being sent to City Council member
Mary Cheh, who had initially opposed Uber’s entry into the DC market.39 Cheh subsequently dropped her

Miami proved to be another market where Uber encountered strong political headwinds. In mid-2013,
Uber ran afoul of Miami-Dade County commissioners, who refused to approve legislation that would allow
Uber to operate in their jurisdiction. Uber continued to operate without adhering to warnings and was then
faced with legislation in some areas that required fingerprinting driver-partners. By 2016, Uber had won its
battle over fingerprinting in several jurisdictions—especially in those markets where Uber threatened to pull
out and citizen backlash was intense.40

The U.S. market wasn’t the only place Uber ran afoul of regulators and legislators. Uber’s unlicensed drivers
in Amsterdam resulted in Dutch court battles, and in 2015, the company decided to pull its service called
UberPOP (similar to UberX in the United States), but continued to offer its licensed-driver services such as
UberBlack and UberLUX in that country.41 In France and Spain, cabbies strongly resisted Uber’s efforts, staging
demonstrations and street closures regularly. Taxi driver trade and union groups successfully stopped Uber’s
unlicensed-driver services from operating in Germany with a court decision. Only UberTaxi and licensed
services continued in certain areas of that county in 2016.

In addition to court battles and political wrangling, Uber was scrutinized on safety issues—often quite
publically. Most of the problems involved drivers arrested for assaults (physical and sexual), drivers making
lewd or racial comments, drunk drivers, or customer complaints about drivers taking longer routes—although
Uber would quickly refund passengers who reported inefficient routes. There were also high-profile news
stories about passengers attacking or harassing Uber drivers. While it was difficult to monitor and compare the
troubles between Uber and regular taxi rides, the United States Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association
started a campaign to track and make public ride-sharing risks and incidents.42

34 Jackie Bensen, “DC Taxicab Passenger Complaints,” August 28, 2013,

Complaints_Washington-DC-221583171.html (accessed Mar. 18, 2014).
35 Author interview with Uber user C, February 4, 2014.
36 Uber user C.
37 Uber user B.
38 Hoyt and Callander, 7.
39 Christine Lagorio-Chafkin, “Resistance Is Futile,” Inc., July/August 2013.
40 Douglas Hanks, “Uber Faces Fingerprinting Fight in Miami-Dade,” Miami Herald, February 25, 2016, (accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
41 “UberPOP Stopt in Nederland,” Uber Newsroom, November 18, 2015,

(accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
42 “Who’s Driving You?” (accessed Apr. 12, 2016).

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Uber had claimed that safety was “built into” all things Uber (i.e., driver background checks, extensive
driver screening, and commercial $1 million insurance policies). In April 2016, Uber settled a California lawsuit
around misrepresentation of its driver background checks, agreeing to pay $10 million and cease using the terms
“safest ride on the road” or “the gold standard” in its marketing.43 Uber also had to refund passengers the
$1 “safe ride fee” it had been charging.44

Market Entry/Employee Recruitment

When it was time to launch service in a new city, Uber executed a consistent strategy.45 Approximately six
weeks before its targeted start date, Uber would send an advance team to the location to recruit already-licensed
drivers. Another team was tasked with community management, which included creating a local social media
groundswell about Uber’s impending entrance into the market and hosting private parties for local influencers
to help create buzz. Local managers oversaw, in effect, two very different businesses—drivers/logistics and
social media/public relations—and Kalanick hired people who could successfully handle both.46

In cities where it was well established, Uber would attempt to hire drivers away from competitors to further
increase its share of the market. In some instances, these recruitment efforts were quite direct. A San Francisco
Lyft driver recounted how, in November 2013, he picked up two attractive women. Something about them
struck him as odd; they were evasive about where they were headed. In short order, they dropped their ruse
and tried to recruit him to drive for UberX. They offered him a $50 gas card for checking out Uber’s
headquarters, a free lunch, and a $500 bonus for picking up 20 passengers and promised that, if he accepted,
Uber would waive its commission for the remainder of the year. As the driver saw it, “How smart is that—
recruiting drivers in their very own car?”47 Another driver-recruitment tool Uber utilized in San Francisco in
2013 was a mobile billboard featuring a pink mustache (Lyft cars’ branding feature) and a razor, urging Lyft
drivers to “Shave the stache.”48

Ride-Sharing Competition

In addition to traditional competitors, another set of Uber challengers was entering the rapidly developing
technology-based personal urban transportation arena. This group—which included the companies Lyft, Hailo,
and Sidecar in the United States—employed a business model that closely resembled Uber’s, with passengers
and drivers connecting via technology rather than a human dispatcher (see Figure 4).

43 “Settlement with District Attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles,” Uber Newsroom, April 7, 2016,

settlement/ (accessed Apr. 12, 2016).
44 Caitlin McGarry, “Uber Has to Refund Those So-Called Safe Ride Fees,” Macworld, February 12, 2016, (accessed Apr. 15, 2016).
45 Lagorio-Chafkin.
46 Hoyt and Callander, 2.
47 Ellen Huet, “Uber, Lyft, Sidecar Put Driver Recruiting in High Gear,” SFGate, January 31, 2014,

Lyft-Sidecar-put-driver-recruiting-in-high-5190676.php (accessed Mar. 17, 2014).
48 Henry Grabar, “Taxi Battle of the Day: Uber vs. Lyft,” Atlantic Cities, May 7, 2013,

economy/2013/05/taxi-ad-battle-day-uber-vs-lyft/5519 (accessed Mar. 17, 2014).

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Page 10 UV6878

Lyft represented the largest of these competitors. It pursued a
differential positioning strategy as the “anti-Uber”49 and offered a
peer-to-peer ride-share service. Lyft did not provide a black-car
service, and as of December 2013, it was estimated to be doing one-
third of Uber’s weekly ride load, although Lyft’s growth rate was
more than double Uber’s at that same time. Estimated net revenues
in 2014 reached $130 million, and by 2015, reached $1 billion in
gross annual revenue.50 Lyft offered a low-tier shared-ride options
called Lyft Line and Plain Lyft, similar to UberX, which seated four,
and Lyft Plus for larger groups that included SUVs.

Lyft’s passengers and its 315,000 drivers connected through a
smartphone app. Passengers were allowed to ride in the front seat
of private vehicles when there were too many passengers for the
backseat, and drivers (who did not hold livery or taxi licenses)
greeted passengers with a fist bump. A distinctive mustache on the
front of a vehicle identified it as part of the Lyft fleet (see Figure 5).

In some markets, Lyft published a structured fare schedule. In others, it asked passengers to give drivers a
donation. And passengers could tip drivers. Unlike Uber, the company did not practice surge pricing in the
beginning, but eventually added “prime time” charges that the company said occurred when demand for drivers
exceeded the number of drivers available. One former Washington, DC, Lyft driver, James Montana, described
his experience:51

49 Carmel Deamicis, “Lyft Introduces Uber-Style Surge Pricing, Urges Us Not to Call It That,” PandoDaily, November 22, 2013, (accessed Mar. 18, 2014).
50 Heather Somerville, “Lyft Executive Says on Track to Hit $1 Billion in Gross Revenue,” Reuters, November 17, 2015,; and Tracey Lien, “Lyft Defies
Predictions by Continuing to Grow as a Rival to Uber,” Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2016,
lyft-growth-20160105-story.html (accessed Apr.15, 2016).

51 Author e-mail correspondence with James Montana, April 9, 2014.

Figure 4. Lyft app.

Source: “Lyft screenshot,” posted to public
domain under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA
4.0) by “Cstockwe,” November 1, 2014,
(accessed Apr. 25, 2016).

Figure 5. Lyft vehicle.

Source: “A Lyft vehicle in Santa Monica, CA,” posted to public domain under Creative
Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) by “Praiselightmedia,” May 13, 2014, (accessed Apr. 26, 2016).

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From my point of view, here’s how it went. A Lyft startup team parachuted into DC with orders to
get Lyft up and running in the city, and build market share as quickly as possible. To accomplish that,
the startup team (1) hired lots of drivers, like me, (2) paid an hourly floor to drivers, either at $15 per
hour or $25 per hour depending on day and time, and (3) kept the price of fares very low.

This price and wage regime lasted for about six months. It was clear even to the most distant and
careless observer (e.g., me) that this regime was a major money loser for Lyft. Lyft sent me weekly pay
statements which listed the amount of money that Lyft took in fees from passengers, and the amount
of money that Lyft was paying me in hourly. Lyft never made money on me, because [it] always paid
out more in hourly than it earned in rider fees. I drove until midnight on New Year’s Eve, and Lyft
lost money on me on that night, too.

From that, I inferred that Lyft was burning lots of venture capital in order to get established in DC. It
couldn’t go on forever, though, so, after six months, Lyft eliminated both elements of the old regime:
Lyft dropped the hourly pay for drivers and, a few months later, Lyft raised prices for riders. By that
time, I had become a Lyft “mentor,” which is Lyft’s way of outsourcing hiring to its own drivers. I
noticed that Lyft was hiring lots of new drivers, presumably to replace those who had dropped out due
to decreases in pay.

I don’t know how this has changed the experience for riders. Anecdotally, I think there are fewer
drivers out there because the passengers report longer wait times. I drive rarely now, because the leisure
is worth more to me than the money.

In January 2014, Uber responded to its Lyft competition by placing social media advertisements depicting
a man and a woman fist-bumping with the headline “Don’t Pay a Premium to Fist Bump.” The caption read,
“Uber costs less than Lyft, guaranteed.”52

Within a year, Lyft had seemingly responded through a brand redesign, shedding the moustache and
replacing it with a Lyft window sticker, redesigning the app, and investing heavily in marketing throughout
major U.S. cities. There were Lyft ads on billboards, at bus stops, and salespeople handing out $50 coupons in
major cities. Lyft was offering new customers discounts of up to half off during the week across the country.
During the month of March 2016, Lyft claimed it made 11 million trips.53 (See Table 3.) By 2016, Lyft had
raised $1 billion in private equity, including $500 million from General Motors. The firm was valued at
$5.5 billion and operated in 190 cities across the United States.54

Table 3. Market share numbers from Lyft and Uber.

Lyft Uber
Austin 45% 55%
Los Angeles 45% 75%
San Francisco 43% 66%

Data source:

52 Cotton Delo, “In Quest for Ride-Sharing Supremacy, Uber Takes on Lyft with Facebook Ads,” January 17, 2014, (accessed Mar. 18, 2014).

54 Eric Newcomer, “GM Invests $500 Million in Lyft,” Bloomberg, January 4, 2016,

invests-500-million-in-lyft-to-bolster-alliance-against-uber?cmpid=BBD041416 (accessed Apr. 15, 2016).

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Page 12 UV6878

Internationally, Uber’s largest competitor was Didi Kuaidi, a ride-sharing company in China. With more
than 1.4 billion rides provided annually and a partnership with Lyft, Didi Kuaidi offered serious competition.55
Throughout Southeast Asia, Grab offered a twist to the usual ride-sharing apps—its technology connected
dispatch companies to passengers. It too had a strategic partnership with Lyft by 2016.

Promotion and Branding

Uber relied on social media for much of its promotional activity. Platforms included Twitter, Facebook,
YouTube, and its own website. The company used campaigns to connect with customers and promote its
brand. Uber’s motto, “Everyone’s Private Driver,” was displayed prominently on its Facebook page and
incorporated into its YouTube promotional videos in the early years.56 The logo was a black “U” that reflected
the motto, according to the company.57 By 2016, Uber had adopted a new motto, “Evolving the Way the World
Moves,” and it changed its logo to a teal-colored square with a circle the middle of the bit-like shape for riders
and a hexagon in the middle for drivers. The colored square on the outside, meant to symbolize a bit (think
bits and atoms), changed to red in China, green in Ireland, and turquoise in India.58 Instead of hiring an agency
to redesign the logo, Kalanick worked on it himself with a team of 12. “I didn’t know any of this stuff,” he said.
“I just knew it was important, and so I wanted it to be good.”59

In addition, Uber utilized creative one-day promotional events. On Valentine’s Day 2013, Uber launched
its “Romance on Demand” service, whereby a customer could order flowers through the Uber app. Uber also
held a one-day ice-cream delivery promotion in cities, including Boston, New York, and Munich,60 and a one-
day Christmas-tree delivery service in December 2014.61 Uber’s promotional activities were not exclusively
social-media based; it also used more established methods to grow its business. For example, new customers
could receive a certain dollar amount off their first Uber ride.

Kalanick used his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, which had more than 63,000 and 115,000
followers, respectively, as of March 2016, to promote Uber. On Facebook, he had posted about Uber’s launches
in the new countries, as well as delivery services such as puppies on demand (UberPUPPIES). He used Twitter
to publicize Uber’s regulatory difficulties in various markets and an account of his stint as an UberX driver.

Uber also used TV and radio spots in select cities across the United States to recruit drivers and defend its
business model and practices. During one campaign in 2015, Uber ran ads on “three radio stations, five
broadcast, and 17 cable systems.”62

55 (accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
56 “Uber: Everyone’s Private Driver,” YouTube video, posted by “Uber,” February 5, 2013,

(accessed Mar. 18, 2014).
57 Kia Kolkalitcheva, “Uber Explains Its Bizarre New Logo,” Fortune, February 2, 2016, (accessed

Apr. 29, 2016).
58 For more information, see Uber, “The Idea at the Core of Who We Are,” February 2, 2016,; and Uber, “A

Local Feel for a Global Brand,” February 2, 2016, (both accessed Apr. 29, 2016).
59 Jessi Hempel, “The Inside Story of Uber’s Radical Rebranding,” Wired, February 2, 2016,

ubers-colorful-redesign/ (accessed Apr. 1, 2016).
60 Alex Baldinger, “Uber Promises Ice Cream Delivery on Friday, but Will Cones Runneth Empty?” Washington Post, July 18, 2013.
61 “O #Ubertree, O #Ubertree,” Uber Newsroom, December 4, 2013, (accessed Mar. 1, 2014).
62 Ken Kurson, “Revealed: Uber’s TV Buy Is Gigantic,” Observer News & Politics, July 22, 2015,

buy-is-gigantic/ (accessed April 19, 2016).

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Page 13 UV6878

The Last Mile: UberEATS and UberRUSH

Although Uber had been running promotional delivery partnerships—from delivering ice cream, Christmas
trees, and puppies to cuddle—since its early days, there seemed to be a shift from marketing to a new market
entry. It started out as a small concept in two single-city markets in Los Angeles, California, and another one
in Barcelona, Spain, wherein Uber facilitated foodies with on-demand food deliveries from their favorite
restaurants. At first, customers would use their Uber ride-sharing app to make arrangements, but a standalone
app, UberEATS, was not far behind. The restaurant delivery quickly expanded to Chicago; New York City;
Houston, Texas; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Toronto, Canada, by March 2016. “UberEATS is like a game-
changer for us,” one restaurateur wrote. “People can get our food within ten minutes.”63

Whether prompted by its success moving items in the food-service industry or not, in 2015, UberRUSH
was launched in New Jersey, and allowed business owners to deliver items to customers, associates, or friends.
UberRUSH started with a $2.25 base fare, plus $1.65 per mile, and had a $5 minimum.64 UberRUSH expanded
to include New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. That service also started with a tab choice on the Uber
ride-share app and then partnered with Shopify,, Nordstrom, and several other businesses by
adding an UberRUSH API to their websites and apps. For example, a United Airlines passenger could check
in for a flight on the United app and then find the closest Uber driver for his or her ride to the airport. Or he
or she could set up a dinner reservation on the OpenTable app and summon Uber without having to leave the
OpenTable app.

As Uber continued its growth with new product offerings in the delivery space, another tech company,
Amazon, would have it on the radar. With its Prime membership offering free two-day delivery service and its
Prime Now Flex app on-demand delivery option, Amazon seemed to have a network similar to Uber’s new
offering. Flex was created in 2015 and offered one-hour delivery within certain geographic areas (14 U.S. cities).
The company had explored the use of drones and even buying its own fleet of jets to get items to customers
faster. The Flex app worked the same way as UberRUSH—drivers picked up parcels at Amazon warehouses
closest to them. Driver requirements included only the use of a midsize or larger sedan. Hourly rates ran
between $18 and $25 dollars and drivers paid for their own gas and insurance.

With both data-driven tech companies moving into the last mile delivery space, had Uber positioned itself
to compete with the likes of Amazon in what was a noncore market for both of them? And what effect, if any,
would sending customers outside of Uber through its integrated apps have on Uber’s core business? In addition,
would Uber’s platform continue to enable it to scale?

63 “UberEATS Now Serving Chicago, NYC,” Uber Newsroom, April 28, 2015,

(accessed Apr. 25, 2016).
64 “Introducing UberRUSH,” Uber Newsroom, February 2, 2015,

for-your-deliveries/ (accessed Apr. 25, 2016).

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Exhibit 1

Uber Pricing Strategies and Marketing Communications

Business Travelers and Percentage of Uber, Taxis, and Rental Cars as Overall Ground Transportation

Q1 2014 Q2 2015
Uber 9% 29%
Taxis 52% 35%
Rental Cars 39% 36%
Data source: “Infographic: Sharing the Road,” Certify, 2015, (accessed Apr. 25, 2016).

Exhibit 2

Uber Pricing Strategies and Marketing Communications

Uber Geographic Markets

North America 195
Central and South America 27
Europe 71
Middle East 11
Africa 11
East Asia 30
South Asia 29
Southeast Asia 14
Australia and New Zealand 13
Data source: “Uber Cities Across the Globe,” Uber website, (accessed Mar. 31, 2016).

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Page 15 UV6878

Exhibit 3

Uber Pricing Strategies and Marketing Communications

Description of Uber Offerings and Promotions as of April 2016




UberTaxi Hail a taxi using Uber app for $2 fee/must pay driver directly
UberPOOL Join other riders to share
UberPEDAL On-demand bike rack option for cyclists in a jam or that last mile
UberMOTO Ride share motorcycles
UberMILITARY Drivers are military servicemembers, servicemember spouses, or veterans
UberFAMILY Vehicles have car seats
UberRUSH On-demand delivery network
UberEATS Have meals or snacks from local restaurants delivered
UberSELECT Drivers pick up riders in BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, or Mercedes
UberDLUX Drivers pick up riders in Rolls-Royce, Bentley, or Maserati
UberCHOPPER Drivers provide rides in helicopters

UberPUPPIES During select times and in select cities, riders can request and have 15

minutes with puppies brought to their location (most puppies were up for

UberKITTENS Shelter kittens brought to rider’s location (most kittens were up for

Zuber Partnership with Disney to turn Uber app into Zootopia
Business Profiles Riders have the option to label a ride a business trip, use a business credit

card, add an expense memo or code, receive a work receipt sent to a work e-
mail address, and get a weekly or monthly travel report

UberICECREAM Drivers deliver ice cream on demand on select days
UberTREE Riders use app to have Christmas tree delivered
UberSANTA Drivers deliver a goodie bag from select café/bakery partners
UberHEALTH Drivers deliver wellness packets** for $10 and administer a free flu shot
UberGIVING Riders can be a secret Santa and pay for gifts delivered to underprivileged

UberMAYO Drivers deliver Mariachi bands, margarita mix, and piñatas
UberCADE Riders can order a black town car with three Uber Secret Service agents and

two Suburbans that flank the town car on President’s Day
UberHELMET Riders can use app to order a bike helmet for a $10 donation to charity
UberRECYCLE Riders can use app to recycle waste on demand via Uber for free
UberCYCLE Riders can request a 20-minute bike ride with pro cyclists
UberASSIST Drivers are trained to help disabled or elderly passengers and load

*Excludes car services, such as UberX, mentioned previously in this case.

**Included in packets: water bottle, tissue, hand sanitizer, lollipop, and recyclable tote bag.

Data source: Created by author from Uber websites.

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