Seven eyebrow-raising admissions from Uber's IPO filing


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Fist pumping to financial freedom.

Image: Mustafa Yalcin / Anadolu Agency / Getty

So Uber is finally going public

The ride-hail company perhaps best known for sketchy business practices and a culture of sexual harassment released on April 11 a lengthy prospectus detailing its plan to get that money. The document, required by the Securities and Exchange Commission and written for the benefit of potential investors, serves as a compendium of the company’s hopes, dreams, and fears. 

It’s quite the read. However, at 285 pages (not including the index), you have better things to do than attempt to parse this beast of a document. Thankfully, we’ve done a bit of that for you. 

So here, in no particular order, are 7 of the more eyebrow-raising admissions we found in the document. 

1. Uber may never be profitable

We have incurred significant losses since inception, including in the United States and other major markets. We expect our operating expenses to increase significantly in the foreseeable future, and we may not achieve profitability.

In case you were wondering, even Uber admits that it may never turn a profit. As in never. The company tells potential investors that it has “incurred significant losses since inception,” and that, as of December 31, 2018, it has an accumulated deficit of $7.9 billion. 

2. Everything is fucked if Uber drivers get classified as employees

Our business would be adversely affected if Drivers were classified as employees instead of independent contractors.

A key element to Uber’s success has been its ability to treat its drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. Were that to no longer be the case, Uber warns, it would be required to “fundamentally change” its business model and potentially pay “employee benefits, social security contributions, taxes, and penalties.”

Oh no, the horror. 

3. Dara Khosrowshahi may not be able to fix Uber’s awful reputation

Our workplace culture and forward-leaning approach created operational, compliance, and cultural challenges, and a failure to address these challenges would adversely impact our business, financial condition, operating results, and prospects.

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was brought on following the untimely departure of Uber co-founder and then CEO Travis Kalanick following a seemingly never-ending series of scandals. Khosrowshahi even alluded to that fact in a letter at the top of the prospectus, noting that “in getting from point A to point B we didn’t get everything right.”

The company is aware that Khosrowshahi can only do so much, and warns potential investors that “changes in our company’s cultural norms and composition of our leadership team […] may not be successful” in righting the negative-perception ship. Who could have guessed. 

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick making sure that dome stays safe.

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick making sure that dome stays safe.

Image: MONEY SHARMA / AFP / Getty

4. So, uh, self-driving Ubers might just be an unprofitable distraction

We are making substantial investments in new offerings and technologies, and expect to increase such investments in the future. These new ventures are inherently risky, and we may never realize any expected benefits from them.

Uber has poured tons of money into developing self-driving cars, and the company admits that the entire thing may end up not only being unprofitable, but a distraction to boot. 

In a section discussing new tech such as autonomous vehicles and e-bikes, Uber cops to the fact that the they could simply “distract management from current operations, and will divert capital and other resources from our more established products, offerings and technologies.”

5. Uber knows its brand stinks

Challenges related to our culture and workplace practices and negative publicity we experience have in the past led to significant attrition and made it more difficult to attract high-quality employees.

It turns out that even Uber employees got fed up with the company’s bullshit. The prospectus admits that, in the past, “culture and workplace practices” both made it hard to recruit new talent and encouraged people to head toward the exits. Specifically, “during the third quarter of 2018, annualized attrition among employees was near peak levels.”

This lingering stick, notes Uber, could be a problem going forward. 

6. Uber can’t guarantee its Jump e-bikes aren’t faulty 

Further, dockless e-bike and e-scooter maintenance, whether performed or facilitated by us, is difficult to ensure, and improper maintenance could lead to serious rider injury or death. 

Jump dockless e-bikes, owned by Uber, are by definition scattered across the cities where they operate. And, sometimes, the big red bikes break down or are vandalized. Uber admits that even when it is the one doing the fixing, it’s almost impossible to guarantee the rides are repaired correctly. 

So maybe wear a helmet?

7. Background checks for Uber Eats drivers are more lax

Further, the qualification and background check standards for Uber Eats Drivers are generally less extensive than those conducted for Ridesharing Drivers.

Do you know who’s delivering your Uber Eats? Presumably, Uber does as the company conducts background checks on its drivers. However, the checks its runs on Uber Eats drivers aren’t as extensive as the checks run on its ride-hail drivers. 

So make sure to tip, and, uh, consider putting in your neighbor’s address as a drop-off location.

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