Executive view: Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber Technologies, was interviewed by editor in chief Arnie Weissmann for his thoughts on what 2019 might bring:

There's a disconnect that we observe between our businesses today and what the capital markets are anticipating, broadly speaking. By all accounts, the consumer today is healthy and continues to spend, but clearly the markets, combined with the interest rate environment, are indicating an expectation that a slowdown is ahead.

Dara Khosrowshahi
Dara Khosrowshahi

But we don't observe that in our business. While we haven't been through too many cycles, our business is somewhat recession resistant; our ability to tap into driver supply can be at odds with strong economies and low unemployment, which makes it harder to recruit drivers. Our biggest challenge is to bring more driver partners onto the platform in the U.S., where unemployment is at the lowest it's been for the last 10 years.

There are a number of countries where for various reasons -- most of them regulatory -- we haven't yet established service at scale. But with our new approach and dialogue with governments, we're starting to make headway. Top on my list are Germany, where we're expanding the number of cities in which we operate, and Japan, where we're looking to establish a taxi-friendly model, which is different from our historical approach.

Our ultimate competition is car ownership, and we are essentially solving every use-case that might have entailed a car through our on-demand services.

Mobility is our service, and trying to eliminate car ownership is both a tall task and a giant opportunity. We're adding businesses such as Eats and bikes and scooters. Eats is over 50% of the overall business, our fastest-growing scale business, growing at over 100% on a year-on-year basis. We're constantly looking at adjacencies, but at this point I want the team to focus on the core, which is restaurant delivery in under 30 minutes, every single time.

We [recently] announced the launch of Uber Bus in Egypt. In the developing world, millions of riders take minibuses that carry 15 or fewer people. It's a cash business, and often the quality and safety are not where they need to be.
Uber Bus extends Uber Pool technology to the next level, where we can get 15 people into a vehicle. We may have you walk a couple of blocks or wait a couple of minutes. When we talk about Uber being available to anyone anywhere, this is a key component.

Essentially, we're going down the line into any way you want to get from A to B. Through Uber Elevate, we're developing vertical takeoff and landing vehicles -- we believe they'll be electric -- designed for intracity transport. We think it's just a matter of time before you'll be able to take an air taxi to the airport instead of waiting an hour and a half in traffic.

We hope to be back on the road [soon with autonomous vehicles], back to training our robot drivers. 2018 was a tough year, but the team has taken the opportunity to refocus on how we develop product. And in 2019, we hope to have some miles on the road and robot drivers that are continuing to learn and, hopefully, to be a complement to our networks going forward.

Airport pickup and drop-off is a segment that's near and dear to my heart. It has the potential for significant improvement as it relates to our service, particularly in terms of scheduled pickups. We have upped our investment in our airport product, and hopefully you will see a radically improved product in 2019 and beyond.

We've had Uber for Business for about four years, and we think that's another category that has real potential. I think we can improve our sales processes and continue to improve the product in terms of how it integrates into corporate expense environments.

We also have Uber Freight, where we're looking to bring our technology to the freight brokerage business. We think that can create lots and lots of efficiencies and, ultimately, a better experience for shippers.

[Regarding recent legislation establishing a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers in New York], we certainly haven't seen eye-to-eye with New York City in some areas, but overall, I think that our relationships with governments and cities continue to get better. We're constantly in dialog with local governments, city mayors. We are the ultimate local company, and we are helping global economies.

Our potential IPO is just one step in the development journey of our company. A ton of people have worked incredibly hard to get us here, and we do feel that an IPO sometime in 2019 is an appropriate next step for the capitalization of the company. 

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