Uber and Lyft reportedly in big hurry to go public…
by Mike Beggs
Who will go public first, Uber or Lyft?
That’s a matter of huge speculation within the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, and well beyond.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the company remains on track for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the fall of 2019, and has no intentions of selling its autonomous car research arm to raise capital. What’s more, at a media event in August, he said he’s not concerned that Lyft might go public first, because he expected, “enough demand for both companies.”
“Historically, there has been plenty of funding, for Uber, for Lyft, and we don’t think that’s going to change,” he added. “This is an enormous market we’re going after.”
But on August 31, The New York Post observed that, “Lyft is racing to beat Uber to an IPO”, targeting next March or April. Lyft has hired IPO advisor Class V Group to help facilitate the process, and, according to Bloomberg, had planned to accept pitches from the banks as soon as September.
Should Lyft get there first, The Post suggests, it would, “amplify Uber’s problems”.
While at one point Uber was valued at $70 billion, it’s value is, reportedly, being questioned, after a rash of scandals, boycotts, law suits, criminal probes, fines, serious safety and labour issues, and other concerns, dating back to ousted founder Travis Kalanick’s reign.
However, Khosrowshahi said his vision for taking Uber public includes turning cash flow positive.
Meanwhile in Singapore, on September 24 TODAY reported that the nation’s Competition watchdog has fined Uber and Grab a total of $13 million over its “anti-competitive” merger.
On March 26, the market-leading Grab announced it would purchase Uber’s Southeast Asia operations, and would integrate Uber’s ridesharing and food delivery business into its own. Uber assumed a 27.5 percent stake in Grab.
But after a month-long review, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore has concluded that Uber would not have left the market if not for the deal, and that riders and drivers have since been complaining about the increased fares and commissions.
On September 5, Uber rolled out yet another new safety measure to protect passengers and drivers, in the face of ongoing flak.
A software feature called “Ride Check” now flags long, unexpected stops during a route. Uber then sends a text to the driver and rider to check if the stop was requested. And if there’s still cause for concern, the driver or rider can press an emergency button in the app.
“We want you to know when you get in that car, whether you’re a rider or a driver, that Uber’s got your back,” Khosrowshahi stated.
Uber has added a number of other safety measures over the past year. But the world’s largest ridesharing company can’t seem to escape the negative headlines concerning its drivers and safety standards.
For instance, in Singapore an Uber driver has just been convicted of killing a passenger -- after dozing from fatigue, losing control of his car, and ramming heavily into a tree in an incident last July.
TODAY reports that the 31-year-old passenger was headed for church on Sunday morning, but never made it, his 23-year-old driver admitting to fatigue after starting work at 10 p.m. the night before.
The driver was sentenced to four weeks imprisonment, and five years disqualification from driving.
Meanwhile, a horrified New York mother alleges an Uber driver took her son, who suffers from an intellectual disability, on a circuitous, pricey ride.
The 10-mile ride should have cost around $16. But the price came out to $89, and took nearly two hours to complete, leaving the young man knowing something was wrong but afraid to speak up.
“It’s the biggest fear of any parent of a typical child, and when your child has special needs, it’s a big fear,” his mother told NBC News.
She alleges the driver took advantage of someone who has special needs. She claims she had a hard time getting through to Uber to report the incident, and then received no update on whether the driver would be reprimanded.
“Look, every company can have a bad apple, but you really vet people as much as possible, and when something goes wrong you need to be able to address it,” she told NBC.
Uber management deemed the incident “upsetting” and said the driver has been suspended from the app, pending an investigation.
Meanwhile , from Las Vegas comes news of a female passenger who was forced to make a dramatic escape from a fake Uber.
According to an ABC News report, the woman realized she was in trouble when her real Uber driver called asking where she was, shortly after the ride commenced. She took a spread profile of the driver, startling him when her flash went off.
“He started cursing, ‘Give me your wallet, give me your purse, give me everything.’ Once he did rob me, he continued to drive away with me. I only got out because I jumped out,” she told ABC.
She broke her wrist and ankle in the fall.
Such concerns prompted San Francisco authorities to warn Uber and Lyft passengers about getting in the wrong car.
The City launched a public safety campaign in September, following a number of recent assaults. As part of the “Rideshare With Care” campaign, riders are encouraged to verify the license plate number, the car’s make and model and colour through the rideshare app, and confirm the driver’s name before giving your name.
Meanwhile, with Back To School time heightening the safety concerns about teens hopping into Uber and Lyft cars, NBC Today’s Jeff Rossen filed an undercover report entitled, “Are Your Uber and Lyft Driver Putting Your Kids in Danger?”
He noted this presents an ongoing worry to those busy parents who rely on ridesharing companies to drive their children around, and that kids across the country are downloading and using these apps.
He cited the glaring number of cases of ridesharing drivers harassing, or even assaulting riders – including one driver in Florida, who pled guilty to molesting a teen boy.
“These kids are alone with a stranger in a moving car, helpless if something goes wrong,” Rossen reported.
In his nationwide report, Rossen had a 15-year-old girl see how many ridesharing drivers would pick her up, after she asked, “Is it okay if I’m 15?”
All six Uber and Lyft drivers said, ‘Yes’.
And while both companies warn their drivers not to pick up underage children, Rossen noted, “When signing up for Uber and Lyft, they don’t ask for your age anywhere.”
Taxi interests around the world allege the more relaxed regulations placed on ridesharing companies, and their less stringent background checks, have resulted in a more dangerous environment for passengers, and drivers alike.
For instance, in Tallahassee a woman traveling in an Uber in late September jumped out the window of the moving car, after the driver ignored her pleas to be let out. The female driver faces felony charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment, the Tallahassee Observer reports.
In Grand Haven, Michigan, a male passenger was caught on camera asking the Uber driver for sexual favours. The female driver said she was still in shock the day after the incident.
And in a high-profile case, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ star quarterback Jameis Winston is being sued by an Uber driver over an alleged groping incident, USA Today reported on September 18.
The female driver’s solicitors allege that on March 13, 2018, Winston sat in the passenger seat and, “placed his fingers between her legs, and pressed them firmly against her vagina, over her yoga pants”, as they sat in the drive-through of a fast food restaurant in the early hours.
The NFL suspended Winston for three games over the incident.