TMT Blog: Uber brings chaos, convenience and kittens…

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As Londoners eagerly await (dread!!) the impending traffic chaos expected today, thanks to the planned taxi cab union protests against app-based minicab provider Uber (for its contentious use of a taximeter)…..I can’t help but think what life would be without the smartphone conveniences I’ve become accustomed too.

Uber’s business model is focussed on smartphone technology and the ever increasing need for “instant gratification” by consumers after years of being spoiled by the Internet age.  Several big players are now experimenting with how to solve the problem of real-world instant gratification – from taxi hire (Uber) and dinner plans (just-eat) through to the “within the hour” delivery, by human and robotic couriers, of anything from nail varnish to a widescreen TV (Amazon Prime Air and ebay Now Valets).

The real question however, is just how scalable are these offerings outside the major cities and are they financially sustainable long-term?  The large corporates seem to think so. With Uber attracting $258m investment from Google Ventures in 2013 and current suggestions of a $10bn valuation from its next round of funding despite being established for less than 5 years.  Just-eat’s recent IPO attracted a valuation of over £1.5bn and both Amazon and ebay (two of the largest online marketplaces) are continually competing to provide the fastest delivery service (including ebay’s recent acquisition of Shutl).

This trend is presenting an opportunity for new tech and app based companies to not only gain traction quickly in the market but also attract significant interest and investment from large corporates and private equity.  That said, Uber’s current valuation might not hold should our black cab drivers get their way…

On October 29, 2013 (National Cat Day in America. I know, I thought that too), Uber offered a limited time kitten delivery service. In addition to their car services, Uber allowed users to select a “Kitten!” delivery button. This service cost $20 and included 15 minutes of playtime with the kittens.

I’ll bet all of their investors are having kittens too as they wait to see the fall-out.