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From: FUBHO6/23/2017 8:45:24 AM
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Source: over 1,000 Uber employees sign letter to board demanding that Travis Kalanick return “in an operational role” because he's “critical” to future success — More than one thousand current Uber employees have signed a letter to the company's board of directors …

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From: Glenn Petersen7/13/2017 9:18:52 AM
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Uber merges its Russian ride-sharing service with Yandex:

Uber, Yandex combine ridesharing and UberEATS in Russian markets in a $3.72B JV

by Ingrid Lunden ( @ingridlunden)
TechCrunch
July 13, 2017



As Uber continues to work through a huge amount of internal management turmoil, the company is also consolidating and rationalising more of its international business. Today, the company announced that it will be combining its rides-on-demand business and UberEATS, its food ordering and delivery business, in Russia and neighboring markets with Yandex.Taxi, the ridesharing business built up by the Russian search giant over several years and the current leader in the market, in what will be a separate, joint venture valued at $3.72 billion.

The deal — which will cover operations in Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Georgia — is expected to close in Q4 of this year and has already been approved by the boards of both companies. It’s a substantial operation. Currently it covers 35 million trips each month across 127 cities, with the bulk of those coming from the Yandex.Taxi part of the JV; Uber was only in 21 cities.

“This combination greatly enhances Yandex’s ability to offer better quality service to our riders and drivers, to quickly expand our services to new regions, and to build a sustainable business,” says Tigran Khudaverdyan, CEO of Yandex.Taxi, in a statement. “The combined companies currently perform over 35 million rides a month while growing over 400% year-over-year. Since founding Yandex.Taxi in 2011, we have connected tens of millions of riders and drivers tobecome the largest and most trusted ridesharing business in Russia and neighboring countries. We are excited to expand on this foundation in collaboration with Uber.” Khudaverdyan will become the CEO of the combined company.

The companies are also each putting money into the deal: Uber is putting in $225 million and Yandex $100 million, giving Yandex a 59.3 share and Uber a 36.6 percent share, with 4.1 percent owned by employees of the company, on a fully diluted basis.

Today, in the conference call, the companies said that one strong option will be for the new business to eventually go public: Yandex is publicly-traded, while Uber remains private.

This is a huge move and follows Uber bundling its international business in China last year, where it sold its Uber China operation to Didi, ending several years of bitter and very expensive competition.

The same can be said for the Russian market, where Yandex has been the market leader but has been in fierce competition to hold on to that position, with Uber equally spending big — as it has done in other markets — to stay in the game and dominate.

Given changes in the business at home — namely CEO Travis Kalanick resigning amid a host of scandals involving sexual harassment and other bad management practices — the company appears to be having a wider thinking of its overall strategy.

Some have already started to question whether the company can live up to its $68 billion valuation in the wake of all of its problems, and in the meantime, a number of regional rivals continue to raise funding in a bid to position themselves as credible alternatives in a rapidly evolving market for mass transportation.

Uber says that it has to date invested about $170 million to build and expand its business, which is now active in 21

As shareholders in our company, all of us should be incredibly excited about this next stage. Over the last three years we have invested around $170 million in the Russian-speaking territories alone to build and expand our business to 21 cities in the region.

“Not only is this partnership good news for our two companies, it’s also great for riders, drivers and cities across the region. This deal is a testament to our exceptional growth in the region and helps Uber continue to build a sustainable global business,” says Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Head of Uber in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

It’s been noted many times before that Uber’s strength is not just in terms of providing cheap rides but in how it has been building a large and powerful logistics business. That in effect means that the company has to invest great amounts not just in customer acquisition and marketing, but tech R&D. In markets where it is still a smaller player, that can prove to be costly.

Yandex is at an advantage because it already had an extensive maps service — like its US counterpart, Google — and it will be contributing that IP to this operation.

“NewCo will draw on the strengths of Yandex, the search, maps and navigation leader in the region, and Uber, the global ridesharing leader, to develop a fast-growing, sustainable business that best serves the needs of riders, drivers and cities,” Yandex said in a statement.

After the closing of the transaction, consumers will be able to use both Yandex and Uber apps while the driver-side apps will be integrated. This will give the whole service a much larger pool of drivers (presuming there wasn’t already a lot of overlap), as well as passengers. There are more details of how the companies compare now in the presentation below:

techcrunch.com

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From: Glenn Petersen7/22/2017 10:55:42 PM
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Rover hits a roadblock in NYC:

NYC law that makes dog-sitting illegal without kennel license triggers rage from pet lovers

Pet lovers rage over law that bans dog-sitting without license

BY Erin Durkin
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, July 20, 2017, 5:00 AM

Pet lovers are barking mad over a little-known city rule that makes dog-sitting illegal in New York.

Health Department rules ban anyone from taking money to care for an animal outside a licensed kennel — and the department has warned a popular pet-sitting app that its users are breaking the law.

“The laws are antiquated,” said Chad Bacon, 29, a dog sitter in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the app Rover. “If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized.”

Bacon, a former zookeeper and wildlife researcher, signed up for the app to help make ends meet while he was between jobs, but did enough business that he now makes his living from it full-time.

“I was looking at it as a way to pay bills in the meantime,” he said. “It’s become a full-time job.”

The health code bans boarding, feeding and grooming animals for a fee without a kennel license — and says those licenses can’t be issued for private homes.



New Yorkers could be fined for taking money to care for pets without a kennel license. But critics of the city law are hoping to get it changed. (Mark Lennihan/AP)
_________________________________

Rover hopes to get the law overturned, potentially setting up another tech battle like the city’s clashes with Uber and Airbnb.

Health Department general counsel Thomas Merrill sent a letter last October to DogVacay.com, which has since been bought by Rover, warning that its users were breaking the law and asking the company to require sitters to confirm they have a license before joining up. The app has not done so.

No full-scale crackdown followed, but at least two apartment residents were slapped with violations in November and December for caring for pets without a permit. Fines start at $1,000.

“If you’ve got a 14-year-old getting paid to feed your cats, that’s against the law right now,” said Rover’s general counsel John Lapham. “Most places right now continue to make it easier to watch children than animals, and that doesn’t make any sense.”

The company has 95,000 pet owners registered in the city, and 9,000 sitters, who brought in $4.1 million over the last year.

Pooch owners often find it cheaper and easier than sending their dog to a kennel, while others prefer to have their pet in someone’s home rather than kept in a cage for much of the day, Lapham said. “You [are telling] the middle class you can’t own dogs unless you can pop in your Range Rover and drive to Connecticut for a boarding facility,” he said.



Chad Bacon works as a dog sitter in New York. He used an app called "Rover" that city officials say is breaking the law. (Courtesy Chad Bacon)
_______________________________

Health Department spokesman Julien Martinez said the ban is justified by public health concerns.

“To ensure the health and safety of pets and reduce risks to public health, the NYC Health Code requires certain businesses to obtain a Health Department permit and comply with necessary regulations – this includes animal boarding facilities and kennels,” he said. “We also conduct inspections of these facilities to make sure animals would be secure and safe.”

But City Council health committee chair Corey Johnson said he was shocked to find out pet-sitting was illegal, and plans to draft legislation to allow it.

“It’s so crazy,” said Johnson (D-Manhattan). “There are millions of cats and dogs in New York City, and people I think believe they can pet sit or have someone pet sit for them. To have a law on the books that says that’s illegal is antiquated and not practical.”
Cheryl Smart, 30, of Williamsburg, said she was nervous at first about using the app to find someone to care for her lab mix while she travels, so she checked out the sitter’s home in advance and her canine companion ended up loving the stays.

“It’s up to the owner to go and make sure that it’s safe,” she said. “The moment you hand the leash over to someone else, that’s a responsibility, that’s your choice as a pet owner.”


nydailynews.com

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (561)7/22/2017 11:00:58 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 605
 
Rover raised $65 million for pet sitting

by Katie Roof ( @Katie_Roof)
TechCrunch
July 13, 2017



Finding temporary housing for your dog should be as easy as renting an Airbnb. That’s the idea behind Rover, which raised $65 million to expand its pet sitting and dog-walking businesses.

The Seattle-based company got a significant vote of confidence from Spark Capital, which is leading the round and additional capital from existing investors including Menlo Ventures, Foundry Group, and Technology Crossover Ventures. Megan Quinn, a partner at Spark, is joining the board.

Dog boarding is a “massively untapped market,” said Quinn. “Rover is already the largest pet services marketplace in the world.”

They bought out DogVacay earlier this year, eliminating their biggest competitor. The two businesses were very similar and they have since integrated the websites. Rover CEO Aaron Easterly hopes that the DogVacay acquisition will help Rover expand internationally, especially since DogVacay was already dominant in Canada.

Rover’s site matches pet owners and pet sitters, and they take a roughly 22% cut of the transaction. They’ve introduced “Rover Go,” a premium service for sitters, which helps them photograph their house and build a better online profile. They also do background checks and offer insurance.

While it’s primarily a marketplace for dogs, Rover allows cats and other caged animals. They plan to use the funding to expand into the pet health and grooming categories and further expand their new dog walking business. “Our walking business is growing phenomenally,” said Easterly, explaining he wasn’t concerned about taking on startup Wag.

According to the American Pet Products Association, pet spending has grown every year since 1994 and reached almost $67 billion in the U.S. last year. This is partly what fueled the largest e-commerce acquisition ever, Chewy.com, a site for pet products.

Venture capitalists have taken note and have also invested in activity tracker Whistle, which was acquired by Mars. CB Insights found that funding of pet startups has increased over the past five years.

As for Rover, when asked about future plans, Easterly was optimistic that the six-year-old company will eventually be traded on the public markets. An IPO is “the most likely outcome by far,” he said.

techcrunch.com

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From: Glenn Petersen7/25/2017 8:11:10 PM
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Priceline, Expedia boost home-rental inventory as race with Airbnb heats up

Riley McDermid Digital ProducerSan Francisco Business Times
Jul 25, 2017, 7:27am PDT

Travel booking giants Expedia and Priceline have boosted their home-rental inventory as they attempt to catch up with San Francisco-based Airbnb, which currently dominates the home-sharing space.

Airbnb has about a 15 percent share of the global room market, larger than Priceline's 9 percent share or Expedia's 12 percent slice, research from the Susquehanna International Group show.



But both travel sites are boosting their share of home-rentals because they want visitors to have as many options as possible — while still grabbing part of a market projected to grow 8 percent in 2017 to $34 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Vacation rentals are at the very early stages of being wired up on a global basis,” said Expedia Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi told the Journal. “To the extent that you as an e-commerce player can wire up these fragmented marketplaces, you can add significant value to both the supplier and also to consumers.”

To that end, Expedia's Booking.com has revved its home-rental inventory to 2.5 million listings in the last year, a 50 percent increase, while Expedia's HomeAway Inc. saw its online vacation rentals leap 48 percent during the first quarter, the Journal reports.

“For a very, very long time people have wanted to have this type of product,” Priceline Group CEO Glenn Fogel told the paper. “It’s not so much that people have changed. I believe technology has enabled this type of rental property to be so much easier for people to find.”

bizjournals.com

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From: Glenn Petersen7/26/2017 10:40:53 AM
   of 605
 
The global ride-hailing industry has its own Game of Thrones:

SoftBank Boosts Bet on Ride Hailing With Play for Stake in Uber

By Greg Bensinger and Joann S. Lublin
The Wall Street Journal
Updated July 25, 2017 6:41 p.m. ET



A SoftBank investment in Uber would muddy the mix of global alliances in the global ride-hailing business since the Japanese tech investor already own stakes in the three largest Asian ride-hailing companies. Photo: Eric Gay/Associated Press
________________________________________

SoftBank Group Corp. 9984 0.28% is angling for a piece of Uber Technologies Inc., a move that would further the grand ambitions of the tech investor’s founder and muddy the mix of alliances in the global ride-hailing business.

The Japanese technology company has approached San Francisco-based Uber about a multibillion-dollar stake, people familiar with the matter said. Talks between the companies are described as preliminary and one-sided, and any deal would likely be on hold until Uber hires a new chief executive, which isn’t expected for weeks, the people said.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son has sought to seize hold of cornerstone technologies he expects to dictate how humans interact with the world for decades to come. As early adopters of self-driving technology, ride-hailing firms are central to Mr. Son’s strategy to accelerate a robotic revolution and generate value from his varied investments in semiconductors, networks, cybersecurity and deep learning.

Softbank is a big investor in the three largest Asian ride-hailing companies: Singapore’s GrabTaxi Holdings Pte., India’s Ola and China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co. On Monday, SoftBank said that it and Didi would lead a $2.5 billion fundraising round in Grab, giving the startup more ammunition in its battle against Uber across Southeast Asia.

Spokesmen from both Uber and SoftBank declined to comment.

While it is rare for SoftBank to hedge its investments, an offer could mean the company hopes Uber combines its operations with Grab and Ola, as it did last year with Didi. Such a merger would give SoftBank a formidable share of the Asian market.

Uber, which is struggling with management challenges at home and strong competition from rivals overseas, has shown a willingness to retreat from costly battles around the world. Earlier this month, it said it plans to combine its operations with Russian rival Yandex.Taxi, owned by Yandex NV.

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick relinquished his role as chief executive last month after investors demanded he step down. His resignation followed a number of scandals as well as an investigation into sexual harassment and sexism at the company. Mr. Kalanick remains on the board.

A massive capital injection wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Uber, which has raised more money—about $15 billion in equity and debt funding—than any other private company backed by venture capital. Uber has had to tap increasingly larger sources of capital to support its breakneck global expansion and fight fierce price wars around the U.S. The company’s losses last year totaled more than $3 billion, though it still had about $7 billion in cash on its balance sheet.

A year ago Uber turned to the Middle East for its biggest single capital infusion, a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s main investment fund, the Public Investment Fund. That deal handed an Uber board seat to Yasir Al Rumayyan, the managing director of PIF who also now sits on the board of SoftBank. The Saudi sovereign-wealth fund is the lead investor in SoftBank’s new $93 billion fund that is already starting to shower startups with hundreds of millions of dollars in capital.

With the Vision Fund, Mr. Son is likely to wield extensive influence on Silicon Valley and beyond through significant bets in areas such as robotics and deep learning, as artificial intelligence surpasses human capabilities. He has turned SoftBank into one of Japan’s biggest companies by making sizable investments in telecommunications, e-commerce and technology, including an early investment in Chinese internet company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. , a gamble on U.S. telecommunications company Sprint Corp. and a buyout of U.K. Microchip designer ARM Holdings PLC.

“Many more changes are coming—I am so excited, even sleeping is a waste of time,” Mr. Son, 59, said at an event for SoftBank’s corporate clients and partners on Thursday. He compared SoftBank’s role to that of the landed elites played to enable the industrial revolution. “We want to be the gentry of the IT revolution.”

SoftBank’s big wagers have tended to greatly inflate startup valuations. The newest investment in Grab, which operates private-car, taxi, motorcycle and carpool bookings across seven countries in Asia, would value the startup at more than $6 billion, according to a person familiar with the situation. That is double the valuation from less than year ago and would make Grab the most valuable startup in Southeast Asia. SoftBank’s $5 billion investment in Didi last year catapulted the Chinese startup’s valuation to $50 billion from $33 billion.

Bloomberg News earlier reported SoftBank’s potential interest in buying shares of Uber.

Write to Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com, Joann S. Lublin at joann.lublin@wsj.com and Liza Lin at Liza.Lin@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 26, 2017, print edition as 'SoftBank in Talks For Stake in Uber.'

wsj.com

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From: TimF8/22/2017 10:42:46 AM
3 Recommendations   of 605
 
Uber drivers gang up to cause surge pricing, research says
By Cara McGoogan
2 August 2017

Uber drivers team up in gangs to force higher prices before they pick up passengers, research has revealed.

Researchers at the University of Warwick found Uber drivers in London and New York have been tricking the app into thinking there is a shortage of cars in order to raise surge prices.

According to the study. drivers manipulate Uber's algorithm by logging out of the app at the same time, making it think that there is a shortage of cars.

Uber raises its fare prices when there is a high demand for vehicles and a short supply of drivers available. Fares are known to increase during peak times such as rush hour, during public events and late at night. Surge pricing can boost the cost of rides to multiple times the normal rate.

The study said drivers have been coordinating forced surge pricing, after interviews with drivers in London and New York, and research on online forums such as Uberpeople.net. In a post on the website for drivers, seen by the researchers, one person said: "Guys, stay logged off until surge. Less supply high demand = surge."


Responding to fears that Uber might discover that its drivers are manipulating its algorithm, the driver said: "They already know cos it happens every week."

...

It is not clear how much impact the trick has had on prices. Uber denied that the practice is widespread.

Uber said: "This behaviour is neither widespread or permissible on the Uber app, and we have a number of technical safeguards in place to prevent it from happening."

The ride-hailing company has come under fire in the past over its surge pricing, which has rocketed during events including tube strikes, but been suspended during taxi strikes.

Separate research at Northeastern University has previously found passengers can game surge pricing with simple tricks such as waiting five minutes or crossing the road.

telegraph.co.uk

schneier.com

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To: TimF who wrote (565)8/24/2017 8:05:12 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 605
 
Humans versus algorithms. A short term edge for the humans. It won't last.

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From: Glenn Petersen8/24/2017 8:14:51 AM
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Uber is still a mess financially. Meg Whitman is still in the running for the CEO position. I personally think that she would be a good choice. Adult supervision. If Lfyt were smart, they would accelerate their IPO timetable and get the jump on Uber.

Exclusive: Inside Uber's financials

Lazaro Gamio / Axios
August 23, 2017

Uber's gross bookings were up 17% in the second quarter, the number of trips taken rose 150% in the past year and its adjusted loss fell, according to numbers provided to Axios by the company. Uber drivers have earned $50 million in tips since the program started in late June.

Why it matters: Uber spent most of the quarter under the cloud of a well-publicized internal investigation into sexual harassment and other unsavory aspects of company culture, and ended it with the forced resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick. The ride-hail giant's core business, however, appears to have kept humming along.

The numbers:
  • Gross bookings rose 17% in the second quarter to $8.7 billion (and doubled from a year earlier).
  • Adjusted net revenue was $1.75 billion in Q2 vs $1.5 billion in Q1 and around $800 million in Q2 2016.
  • Adjusted net loss fell almost 9% quarter-over-quarter to $645 million and over 14% year-over-year.
    • The $645 million is adjusted EBIT, while Uber's Q2 EBITDA loss was $534 million (down from $598 million in Q1). Uber's global ride-share business was margin positive last quarter, which is a flip from Q1.
  • Global trips increased 150% year-over-year, including 90% growth in developed markets and over 250% growth in developing markets. This excludes China, which Uber exited last summer in exchange for an equity stake in Didi Chuxing. It includes Russia, where Uber's recently-announced partnership with Yandex has yet to be approved by local regulators.
  • Revenue note: Uber is no longer reporting unadjusted net revenue to its investors, due to new guidance from the SEC.
  • Uber had $6.6 billion in cash at quarter's end, down from around $7.2 billion at the end of Q1.
  • Uber drivers have earned around $50 million in tips between when the program was rolled out in select markets on June 20 and the beginning of this week. For context, Lyft reported a similar $50 million figure for a 2.5 month period ending in the middle of this past June, but that was for a longer time period and for all of its markets (Lyft originally launched tipping nearly five years ago, generating over $250 million to date).

Recruiting tool: A booming top-line and shrinking (albeit still sizable) losses are why Uber, despite its myriad of problems, remains attractive to blue-chip CEO candidates like former General Electric boss Jeff Immelt. But...
What to watch: Uber still had a CEO for most of Q2, and its board had not yet erupted into the open warfare seen in Q3. Expect Immelt and others to dive deep into still-unreleased results for July and August.

axios.com

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (567)8/27/2017 6:56:57 PM
From: Sr K
   of 605
 
on WSJ

Meg Whitman a Leading Candidate to Run Uber as Immelt Drops Out

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO made presentation to Uber board Saturday, despite public denials of interest in the job.

The search for Uber’s next chief executive was upended over the weekend as GE Chairman Jeff Immelt dropped out of the race and Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman appeared to be back in the running.

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