Uber isn’t Woke

Uber has gotten a lot of flak for alleged sexism in the workplace, but according to its Diversity Report, 15.4% of Uber tech employees are women. That’s about on par with Facebook, and Facebook has been the best place to work in the country for four years running, according to BusinessInsider and Glassdoor.

Uber is the only one getting ripped on because it’s simply not woke. Here’s Lyft President John Zimmer in a recent interview about competing with Uber:

We’re woke. Our community is woke, and the U.S. population is woke… We’re not the nice guys, we’re a better boyfriend.

Statements like this make me wish I had Lyft installed on my phone, because I really want to #deleteLyft right now. If Uber’s company culture is considered hostile to women, I suspect that Lyft’s culture is hostile to anyone over the age of twelve.

Lyft employees doing woke stuff.

For all the lip service Silicon Valley pays to Diversity Issues, the industry has a very peculiar way of defining its goal. Diversity in Silicon Valley means having equal representation from women who think the same way you do, people of every color who think the same way you do, each of the LGBTTQQIAAP gender identities who think the same way you do, and so on.

Despite Lyft’s claims of wokeness, Verge says that Lyft is Not actually Woke, because Peter Thiel is an investor and Carl Icahn is a board member. Thiel and Icahn are advisors to the Trump administration — Guilty by transitive property #NotWoke.

It sure is hard to be woke.

Unionizing Against Uber

When I became a UPS employee, I had to pay a $35 fee to join the Teamsters Union. I wasn’t employed long enough to even recuperate my union fee, but that is a story for another day.

At UPS, the drivers, loaders, and dockworkers all work for the labor union. Only the managers and supervisors actually work for UPS, Inc. The unions formed because laborers need to organize to wrest their fair share from greedy corporations. Those aren’t my words; that’s in the Teamsters’ Mission Statement.

Last week, I met a former UPS supervisor.

“Those Teamsters were the worst,” he said. “They knew which boxes had iPhones and shit from the packaging, and would hide them behind fake walls and steal them. I had to break up several theft rings.”

I guess this was part of the Union’s mission to wrest their fair share from greedy corporations.

Uber drivers united
Uber drivers united

This past weekend, with the help of Teamsters, Uber drivers banded together to form their own labor union.

Uber was supposed to be a neutral platform, a portal to a liberated marketplace unimpeded by the taxicab tyranny. Uber even calls its drivers “partners”. Partners with no equity.

Uber drivers work for themselves, but only in the sense that Uber does not provide a commercial insurance policy and drivers are legally culpable in the event of an accident.

Uber does help with things like financing luxury vehicles. A large proportion of Uber drivers are former taxi drivers with scant savings. They can’t afford the towncars needed to drive for UberBLACK.

uber fi2

At the SHARE conference, a Lyft representative described how Lyft was empowering underserved consumers by providing them with access to vehicle financing (but only for luxury SUVs). Clearly what underprivileged consumers need are Ford Explorers and Cadillac Escalades so they can get their kids to school like ballers.

Finance a Lyft-branded Explorer today!
Finance a Lyft-branded Explorer today!

To qualify for Uber’s financing program, the driver must have an active signed “Payment Deduction Authorization Agreement” and must make 90% of their monthly payment from Uber earnings. As a result, supposedly self-employed drivers lock themselves into 5 years of indentured servitude to the tune of $50k.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

In other news, Uber is now valued at $10 billion.

How Public Pensions are Subsidizing Hipster Lifestyles

lyft crash

I am a Lyft driver. Last week, I got an email from co-founder John Zimmer proclaiming that Lyft would no longer take commissions. Lyft has officially become a nonprofit startup.

lyft zero commission

This message came right after Lyft closed a $250 million Series D, which pretty much dwarfs the pocket change they were collecting from my rides.

This $250 million is effectively bankrolling discounted rides in Lyft’s flagship cities, where subsidized public transportation is probably least needed.

Whom do we have to thank for this public service?

Lyft backer Andreessen Horowitz… has gotten investments from the Imperial County, California, Employee Retirement System and the University of Michigan.

VC money is raised not just from the 1% but also institutional coffers such as public pension funds, foundations endowments, family offices, and corporate pension funds.

This money is funneled into trendy startups, who in turn provide ridiculously cheap services to hipsters in SF and NY.

It’s a kind of benevolent Ponzi scheme, one that results in a lot of very cool services being provided at or below cost to a select group of urban consumers, and a lot of traditional businesses being forced to paddle hard to stay afloat. The profitless start-up model should worry us about the future of commerce and competition, even as we take advantage of its gifts.

See Also:
The Problem With Profitless Start-ups –NY Mag

Crowdsourcing an Efficient Market

Public hotel chains including Hilton, Marriott, and Wyndham are now implementing franchise growth strategies to ramp up a pipeline of new hotels and rooms in response to the strong recovery in the travel industry.

This recovery has been underway since 2009.

Source: Tourism Economics
Source: Tourism Economics

Industry disruptors like Airbnb and HomeAway spent the last five years eating the hotel industry’s lunch while hotel chains were still loading their muskets.

Construction takes time, and hotels can’t move that quickly. Crowdsourcing provides a highly-liquid, dynamic supply. Travelers don’t have to wait half a decade for Airbnb hosts to build new rooms to meet their needs. In times of low demand, hosts take their rooms off the market while hotel chains go through bankruptcy and consolidation.

Source: American Hotel & Lodging Association
Average Hotel Room Occupancy Rates. Source: American Hotel & Lodging Association

People have made noise about Uber’s surge pricing and Lyft’s Prime Time price increases, but this is how the principle of supply and demand works. How much would someone have to pay you to schlep passengers on New Years’ Eve? Or in the aftermath of a hurricane?


By providing higher incentive to drivers during times when they would probably rather be doing other stuff, supply increases to match the number of passengers needing rides. With a potentially limitless source of drivers, we quickly find an efficient market.

Regulations that cap prices or artificially limit supply enforce an inefficient market where supply and demand never meet.

Cities like San Francisco and NYC are finally issuing more taxi medallions for the first time in years. At the same time, GDP data show that prices for traveler accommodations are falling, and we’ll soon see a glut of empty hotel rooms. It’s hard to create an efficient market when moving at Gatling-gun pace.