Earnings

Uber earnings: The high cost of multitasking in a pandemic

Uber earnings: The high cost of multitasking in a pandemic
  • Q1 revenue: $3.54 billion (+14% YoY, vs. $3.5 billion expected)
  • Q1 loss: $2.9 billion (Up 190% YoY from loss of $1 billion in Q1 2019)
  • Guidance: Uber withdrew its full-year guidance in mid-April, just months after CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told investors that the company was poised to hit profitability by Q4 2020. He's now aiming to shave $1 billion off spending this year.

The big number: Gross bookings for Uber's two main businesses — ride-hailing and food delivery — grew to a combined $15.8 billion in the first quarter, up 8% year-over-year despite a major slowdown in rides during the COVID-19 crisis. Whether these two parts of the whole can continue to work in equilibrium, versus one dragging the other down, will be key to Uber's long-term prospects. The company's stock was up after hours on the earnings news, after rising more than 11% on news of an investment deal with Lime scooters.

People are talking: "We're taking a hard look at our overall cost structure and our other bets to ensure our core business of rides and eats emerges stronger than ever," Khosrowshahi said on Thursday's earnings call. "Reaching profitability remains a strategic priority for us. We believe the disruption caused by COVID-19 will impact our timeline by a matter of quarters and not years."

Opportunities: With the ride-hailing market decimated by shelter-in-place orders, Uber's hopes for short-term growth now hinge on food and grocery delivery. "The big opportunity that we thought Eats was just got bigger," Khosrowshahi said. Uber Eats revenue was up 54% year-over-year, and the company is accelerating efforts to add products from grocery and convenience stores to its delivery options. Khosrowshahi emphasized the company's global scale and recent acquisition of Latin America grocery delivery startup Cornershop. In a thinly veiled jab at rival Lyft, he said Uber's diversification is now its biggest asset: "We believe we have a structural advantage. Rides-only players were substantially impacted." The Lime deal backed up this posturing, with Uber announcing it was leading a $170 million funding round while merging its Jump bike rental and scooter business into the electric scooter company.

Threats: Uber's ability to get back on track financially will depend on the depth of ride-hailing's decline amid social distancing. In a bid to slow the bleeding, Uber cut 3,700 jobs this week and announced a spending freeze on expansion projects in Dallas, Chicago and Mexico City. Still, Khosrowshahi predicted that "pre-COVID usage will build back steadily" after seeing early data from reopened markets like Hong Kong, Texas and Georgia, where rides have rebounded to 40% to 70% of pre-crisis levels. In the meantime, Khosrowshahi said the company is "working through" plans for both drivers and riders to wear protective equipment like masks, and is continuing long-term R&D work on automation with its Advanced Technologies Group.

The power struggle: Can Uber keep doing it all? And who will actually do the varied legwork required on the ground? Like Lyft and other gig companies, Uber is in the middle of a contentious regulatory battle over pay and employment benefits for contract workers — a fight poised to come to a head with a $90 million California ballot effort to roll back new protections under state law AB 5. There's also the question of how far Uber Eats will go to compete with grocery-focused gig economy companies like Instacart, potentially pitting the political allies directly against one another in a tumultuous business climate.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

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Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

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FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

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Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

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