Uber: An empire in the making?
The case study is set in early December 2014. Uber has just completed a round of funding and as a result has an eye-watering valuation of US$41 billion. The case initially explains the service Uber offered to its riders and then gives an overview of the origins and early growth of the company, as well as some insights into the influence of co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, on the company culture. The following section outlines the characteristics of the traditional taxi industry, which was initially Uber’s primary competitor. Details of Uber’s disruptive business model are implicit in the case but the components are not spelled out to the reader. Rather, the intention is to draw this out in small group or plenary discussions through the assignment questions. The case goes on to review more recent growth, outlining some of the PR issues the company has faced with respect to aggressive business practices and questions around its data privacy policies. A possible softening of management’s approach is suggested in the final section.
Participants gain insights into which components of Uber’s business model were instrumental in disrupting an established and protectionist industry globally. They will also see how the model was continually evolving. Although Uber initially clearly operated in one closely defined sector, its future strategic direction lay in broader, diverse activities and markets. Participants will consider the strategic options for companies facing a new entrant that is re-inventing the rules of engagement.
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