Or Uber Lame-O?
Some think that Uber is the ultimate disrupter. A poster child for the digital age. Turning old, tired models upside down and bouncing them on their heads before throwing them away. And at a valuation of $18.2 billion ... after a money raise (big by start-up standards) of $1.5 billion US you know that it's the investment community looking at an IPO that takes the "alles" approach.
On the flip side is a growing group made up of drivers, potential drivers, the general public and probably some socially conscious investors who are beginning to get the Lame-o vibe. Versus the do-no-wrong boosters, the concerned audience is starting to twitch at the way Uber seems to be handling criticism with the kind of entitlement that comes from the belief that as an enfant terrible in Silicon Valley one can say or do what one likes, as there are no real consequences. After all Uber is a high-tech/high-flying start-up -- it's part of the culture. They are pushing, driving hard, changing the status quo -- eggs have to be broken.
Having just left my Uber ride, I'd say Uber Good... Uber Useful... Uber Love It!
And I have used Uber all over the world.
The interface is in a stratosphere that for me includes Waze and precious few others -- I get a car when all else has failed; neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor hail seem to keep them from showing up -- so long as I am willing to pay the "hazard" premium; and so far the drivers have been nice and the cars clean.
That being said, most do complain about the company -- but hold that thought.
As I read through the litany of complaints about Uber and as I listen to the concerns about their future, I divide them into two buckets: One is basic behavior, call it culture if you will. And the second is business model. Either one is a killer -- but together it's a perfect storm of potential destruction.
Start with behavior. We live in a world where we increasingly seem to be giving more and more value to values -- as in, I want to know that the company I buy from gives back; it's important to me to know that customer privacy is respected; critical to my choice of business "partners" are companies that behave in an ethical and moral fashion; I won't do business with companies that exploit their workers... you get the drift. By the way, I imagine that the exploitive factories of the Industrial Revolution made the same sort of argument: We are changing the future.
Sadly for us and for Uber there is no lack of Lame-o role models who, despite the occasional wrist slap, seem to prosper and flourish. And to be fair to Silicon Valley many are from old, established enterprises that span the spectrum, from finance to manufacturing to services -- high-tech is not a lone definer or even necessary genetic marker of bad corporate behavior.
Business model is a different issue. As I have written many times we are too easy, way too easy on digital start-ups, as Wall Street pursues the next behemoth IPO with outsized valuations... and we allow Digibabble to cloud rational discussion and intelligent analysis as short-term profits are harvested by a precious few.
If you have ever stood in the cold and shivered as an hour passed by while the "be there in 5 minutes" promise turned out to be a lie -- "the car is right there" -- or dripped in a drenching rain as yellow cab after yellow cab passed you by, you know just how great the Uber service and interface is. And for the most part it's your call whether to accept the higher price or not for "combat service" -- pay-to-play is fair in my book.
The issue is that ultimately Uber will be regulated; drivers will be better monitored, paid and benefited, and pricing will be under pressure as other services get more competitive and as consumers get pickier about who they ride with -- shivering and dripping aside.
In the end technology will catch up here -- it's only applied technology, after all -- and service and reputation will drive success and the future.
But in the eyes of many they are stars, celebs: It's okay -- different set of rules, standards, bar of judgment.
Or there is: Look around -- athletes and other celebs and companies still get away with murder, and rape, both physically and metaphorically, but less and less, and more and more are being called to task.
Uber can be great or Uber will go under. Time will tell. But looking back, the last entitled "Uber Alles" didn't last that long.
Bottom line: I'd posit that Uber is at the nexus of the ethical model and the business model, and they do intersect -- listen:
"To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity." - Douglas Adams
And there you have it -- while Uber is being outed by many in the digital media community and protected by many in the investment world, ultimately it is us, the users, who will give it a future.
And there is the lesson: If you want to differentiate, to stand out, you can play the type A game that some still think is the new economy way to success (old, overplayed and tired), or you can use the same energy, drive, smarts and passion, and add integrity, ethics, sincerity. It might take a little more time but I'm ready to bet it goes further and lasts longer.
Let's see where Uber ends up on its current trajectory.
But we might as well start with this week's news that customers are deleting the company's on-demand taxi app after Emil Michael, Uber's SVP of Business, suggested spying on its critics.
Good behavior trumps good technology... What do you think?