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.

AAPL, The Giving Tree

GivingTreeAAPL copy

Apple has raised less money in its entire 4-decade lifespan than most of today’s startups.

In 1980, Apple (AAPL) raised $97M in an IPO. In 1997, Apple received a $150M investment from Microsoft. Apple hasn’t seen a dime of outside investment beyond that. The AAPL shares in your Roth IRA? You bought that from a secondary trader on NASDAQ, who bought them from someone else who paid Apple 0.4% of your purchase price.

With only $247M in outside investment, Apple bootstrapped itself to become the second most profitable company in America (behind Exxon Mobil). To be fair, $247M was a lot of money back then. But Uber and Box and their billion-dollar rounds can’t even touch that.

What more, AAPL has given so much more than it’s received. To date, it has issued $21.8B in cash dividends and spent $52.8B on buybacks.

Why is Apple so generous to shareholders who have given it so little? It’s not AAPL’s job to prop up Carl Icahn’s net worth, or to provide for everyone’s retirement fund.

Apple only cares about its share price because its board and employees receive some compensation in stock options, and share prices can lead to more favorable terms for debt financing*. Also I guess they don’t want to look like a cheap acquihire target for Yahoo or Facebook or something.

Disclosure: I am long AAPL.

*Apple issued $12B in corporate bonds this year. They have $151B in cash, but it’s cheaper for them to borrow money at low interest rates than to pay taxes to bring the cash back from overseas.

See Also:
Why Do Companies Care About Their Stock Prices? –Investopedia

Uber: Then and Now

Uber is now worth $17B. It was only 3 years ago that their ride count was in the tens of thousands and people weren’t sure if they were even worth $50 million.


Uber v1.0. Is that a flip phone? So baller.
Grampa Kalanick uses a flip phone in 2011. So baller.




See Also:
Huge Vote Of Confidence: Uber Raises $11 Million From Benchmark Capital –TechCrunch, Feb 2011
Uber raises $1.2B at a record-breaking $17B valuation –VentureBeat, 2 days ago

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.

The Rationale Behind On-Demand Mobile Uber for Everything

on-demand mobile

It started with information. In a time when humans had to schlep to the library and look up references in a card catalog, search engines delivered the world’s knowledge with the click of a button.

Then came entertainment. Remember when we had to drive to Blockbuster, or at least to the RedBox kiosk outside of Safeway? Netflix condensed the process to three taps.

blockbuster closing

Last summer, I had a conversation with an investor who urged Barnacle to move into the local food delivery market. We need an Uber for food, he said.

There were (and still are) tons of startups scrapping to do just that. Doordash, Seamless, Postmates

None of them are very good, he said. Deliveries can take upwards of 30 minutes in the city. I ordered a sandwich and by the time it arrived the fries were all soggy.

Oh, the humanity.

Around the same time, all sorts of instant-gratification startups were closing rounds of fundraising. Uber for flower delivery, Uber for dog walking, Uber for dirty laundry. Things were looking a little ridiculous. Are startup founders soiling themselves at such inopportune times that they need on-demand dry-cleaning?

"Thanks for coming on such short notice, I just regurgitated all over my wedding dress and need this--wait a minute--Are you... flexing??"
“Thanks for coming on such short notice, I just regurgitated all over my wedding dress and need this–wait a minute–Are you… flexing??

The interesting thing is that these startups aren’t just catering to the criminally lazy. They’re collapsing entire value chains into a mobile app. On-demand mobile services deliver full-stack experiences that combine everything from discovery to confirmation to payment to fulfillment.


Consumers have grown inured to many sources of friction: Searching for price comparisons, checking for business hours, aligning our own availability, putting on pants, and scheduling for a completion time. It isn’t until we experience something truly delightful, mobile, and on-demand, that we realize just how unpleasant the old practice really was. Full-stack services distill a series of thoughts and decisions into just one.

Our ancestors had to get off the couch and stab a mastodon to death before they could eat dinner. I’m sure even they would agree that there’s something magical about having a chicken tikka masala delivered with three taps.

See Also:
Uberification of the US Service Economy –Schlaf Notes