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Uber, the everything app

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Good morning! Uber’s ambitions of being the “Amazon of transportation” isn’t just about rides anymore. I’m David Pierce, and I haven’t watched “Super Pumped” yet. But I did just start “Ozark,” and I’m obsessed.

Uber’s big ambitions

Uber wants to be a super app. The company has never been particularly shy about those ambitions, for what it’s worth: Dara Khosrowshahi has been saying he wants to build “the Amazon of transportation” for a few years now, planning to be as ubiquitous for getting around as Amazon is for shopping.

Explore is the next phase of Uber’s super app plans.

  • It launched the feature yesterday as a new tab in the Uber app. You can use it to get quick rides to your typical destinations; personalized suggestions; and offers for stuff to do and eat, and more.
  • “Places an Uber can take you” is sort of the unifying theme here, but it’s a much broader play at being the app you open to see what’s going on around you.

Uber’s really not a rides company anymore. It hasn’t been for some time, actually. It now makes more money moving food and goods around through Uber Eats than it does shuttling people through the ride-hailing service. (Turns out everything’s easier when you’re transporting cheeseburgers instead of humans.)

  • Eats generated $13.4 billion in gross bookings and $2.42 billion in revenue for Uber in the last quarter of 2021, compared to $11.3 billion and 2.28 billion for ride-hailing.
  • Just like Amazon was known for being a bookseller long after that stopped being its core business, Uber will be synonymous with ride-hailing for much longer than it actually depends on that business.
  • And as Eats grows, Uber’s turning into a shopping destination of its own. Uber had a Valentine’s Day hub for last-minute purchases, sells Goop products through an integrated store and ships from grocery stores and flower shops all over.
  • Even Eats isn’t a broad enough brand anymore, which is why Uber had to run a whole Super Bowl ad about the things you can buy on Uber Eats that you don’t actually eat.
  • And you can see where this is headed: Uber’s already playing with Prime-style subscriptions, working on its own payment systems, getting into freight and more. Connecting stuff and people is a big job, and Uber's trying to bring as much of it in-house as possible.

What Uber really wants to win is local. It has always aspired to be a sort of connective tissue for cities: You can use the Uber app to get around via car or bus or train or scooter, or you can buy anything you want from your favorite local shop and have it all brought right to your house. When Khosrowshahi says “Amazon of transportation,” he doesn’t mean the company that offers you lots of taxis; he means the way that absolutely everything moves and the logistics powerhouse underneath.

But this won’t be easy. For one thing, stuff delivery is a hugely competitive and quickly commoditizing space, as DoorDash and GoPuff and Just Eat Takeaway and countless others try to get you a toothbrush and a bag of Fritos faster.

  • And there’s still a business model flaw here, as Uber tries to find a way to make money without price-gouging either the people who make the food and goods or the people who buy them. Uber’s business is booming, but it’s still not profitable. And plenty of restaurants and stores would rather not be involved.
  • Airbnb is an interesting comparison, too. It built a huge business out of helping people find a place to stay, then rolled out Experiences to give them stuff to do on the same platform. But Experiences never quite caught on the same way.

It’s really all about the home screen. Uber needs to be ubiquitous to win the delivery wars, so it’s trying to train users to open its app many times a day. That’s why Uber Eats isn’t a separate app anymore, and why Explore is built in as well. Uber wants to be a habit, not a utility. And that may have started with rides, but it ends with Explore.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

On the calendar

So you decided to go multicloud. Now what?

It’s never been easier to use multiple cloud providers for modern tech infrastructure needs, but should you use multiple cloud providers? A panel of experts will explain the arguments for and against multicloud computing and how businesses should think about their options as the market evolves. Join us at 10 a.m. PT today. RSVP here.

A MESSAGE FROM MODERN TREASURY

Payment operations can drain time and energy from Finance, Product, and Engineering teams that would otherwise drive growth and deliver greater value to customers. Unsurprisingly, 86% of leaders are now prioritizing improvements to their payment operations. Download our report to learn the costliest payment-related challenges and how fast-moving companies are solving them.

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People are talking

In the State of the Union, President Biden talked about online privacy, chips, and keeping kids safe online:

  • “We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit."

Biden also talked up electric vehicles, but didn't mention Tesla, and Elon Musk is not thrilled:

  • "Tesla has created over 50,000 US jobs building electric vehicles & is investing more than double GM + Ford combined."

Tim Cook told Apple employees the company will match donations to Ukraine, and may continue to take action in the country:

  • "This moment calls for unity, it calls for courage, and it reminds us that we must never lose sight of the humanity we all share."

LinkedIn’s Camilla Han-He thinks more employers will accept career breaks:

  • “We started seeing these trends even before the pandemic.”

Allowing longer videos could hurt TikTok’s reputation for short-form video, Skai’s Margo Kahnrose said:

  • “What do you like TikTok for? It's going to be harder to answer that question.”

Making moves

Taro Shimada will replace Satoshi Tsunakawa as Toshiba’s new CEO. Shimada is taking over as Toshiba plans to split into two companies.

Amee Parekh is the new SVP of HR at Hims & Hers Health. Parekh previously led HR for Uber Eats U.S. and Canada.

Morgan McKenney joined the Provenance Blockchain Foundation as CEO. McKenney is a former Citi exec.

Instagram rolled out auto-generated captions on videos. The captions can be turned on or off.

In other news

Apple halted product sales in Russia. The company also limited Apple Pay in the country and disabled traffic and live incidents in Apple Maps in Ukraine.

Google and Apple both booted RT and Sputnik from their app stores. Apple banned the Russian state-run media organizations in all countries outside of Russia, while Google did so only for countries around Europe.

Meta is offering encrypted DMs in Russia and Ukraine. The company will also demote Facebook posts by Russian state media outlets and Facebook posts that include links to Russian state media.

Google is on an audio hardware spending spree. The company has acquired at least four startups and teams in the space over the past 15 months, suggesting a bigger push into audio.

China has new rules for tech companies’ algorithms. Chinese tech companies need to tell users if they’re using algorithms to push content to them, among other rules against generating fake news and exploiting gig workers.

Chinese social media platforms are trying to stop fake news about Ukraine. Platforms like Douyin and Weibo are taking down posts and suspending accounts that spread misinformation.

David Boggs died last month. Boggs was an electrical engineer and computer scientist who helped create Ethernet.

How much do you pay for paper towels?

Consumers once thought that shopping online would offer more transparency when it came to prices, giving everyone an opportunity to shop around and find better deals. But in reality, no one knows what anything really costs anymore, The New York Times reported.

Take paper towels, for example: Last year, a 12-roll pack of Bounty sold for around $30. By April, it fell to $23. In October, it bounced back up to $35, and last week it was around $28. The volatility of online product prices shows how no one really knows whether they’re finding the best deal, or whether they’re even buying the best product to begin with. And, just to compare, at the time of this writing, a 12-pack of paper towels is $33.

A MESSAGE FROM MODERN TREASURY

Scaling a company that moves money isn’t easy. Bad process, software, or luck can lead to costly errors, and worse, distract from your main priorities. Yet, many companies still struggle to build scalable payment infrastructure. Download our report to learn the main barriers companies face upgrading their payment operations.

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