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Is Uber a Social Impact company?

A lot of people love to hate uber because of their aggresive tactics, but the fact of the matter is that they are creating 20K new driver jobs/month and the media uberX driver income in NYC is $90K/year. Feels to me like they do way more good than harm and I'd consider them a social impact company. They are having a much bigger impact than say a non-profit trying to create jobs.

Do you have to have set out to have a major social mission to be considered a social impact company?


52 Replies

Devin Thorpe
2
0
Devin Thorpe Entrepreneur
Journalist | Author | Speaker
Lydia, Most of us working in the social impact space would argue that intentionality is important. The intention to do good not only drives the effort to cause the positive change, but also drives efforts to measure that impact. Absent the intention to do good, the measures usually aren't in place to protect and expand the impact, only leaving standard profit and business performance measures. Of course, you are right that Uber is creating all kinds of social impacts, including the environmental benefits of taking cars off the road. -ddt
Ed Jeffers
1
0
Ed Jeffers Entrepreneur
MD at EDGE +
Agree, However in smaller markets like Sydney they are killing the taxi drivers income. Our taxi guys are independent business people and pay upwards of 500K for a license to operate and are the primary income provider for their families. Uber is programmatically wiping these guys out and not replacing the licensing fee or the regulations around the responsibilities of transporting people. I agree that the taxi industry needed a wake up but taking them out is over the top. Think about how many fares it takes to pay the license fee of 500K which by the way is controlled by the government. The chances are these people are going to end up on the dole at the expense of the taxpayer. Not sure that qualifies as a social minded company. Ed Jeffers Regards, Ed Jeffers 0404 835 176
Steven Schkolne
2
1
Steven Schkolne Entrepreneur
Computer Scientist on a Mission
1) what is the retention? they are onboarding 20k new drivers/month. how many quit? last i heard the turnover with uber was substantial

2) 90k in income is very different than 90k in profit. i read another article by uber, about the hourly rate of their drivers. guess what -- it's higher than that of a cab driver! guess what what -- they don't include fuel, vehicle maintenance, cost of vehicle, or anything else like that in their number..... if you factor that in, you're getting close to minimum wage which, well, they're not so proud of.

so, please, let's take uber's press releases with a grain of salt. thank you.
Steve Simitzis
0
0
Steve Simitzis Advisor
Founder and CEO at Treat
An important piece of the puzzle (and I have no data either way) is if they're reducing CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by reducing our reliance on cars.
John Battelle
5
0
John Battelle Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder, EIC, CEO, NewCo
I'd say that intentionality of the company is one important measure, but so is effect. Uber didn't set out to create these new jobs, but the fact that those jobs are created is arguably a positive. A positive impact also doesn't have to be measured only by the impact on one class of participant in the company's products and services. IE, the people using uber are positively impacted by its use, and i'd wager that's how they most measure themselves.
Of course, there are strong negatives as well. Depending on your point of view, uber can be seen as a destroyer of safe union jobs, which society has fought to create over centuries. Then again, taxi unions are reportedly corrupt and deeply unresponsive to consumers. And on it goes.
This is a great, healthy debate for us to have. Uber exists because it can exist, it's pure capitalism. As a society we have to decided how to handle the issues it rasies - in its 1099 economy, what rights do workers have? Is there an app to address that?
Josh Benjamin
0
0
Josh Benjamin Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder of Lifechime | Authentic Human Being
What happens when you take away the job creation stat?

Human drivers really hurt their margins, and their mission is to optimize for economic efficiency.
Michael Brill
0
0
Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
Nobody's making $90K and it's a race to the bottom where Uber drivers will net minimum wage because the truth is that driving a car around takes the same skill as manning a fry station.

More importantly, in 5 years Uber will be destroying jobs faster than it ever created them. Driverless cars + centralized routing systems means zero driver jobs and probably 50%-80% fewer cars. The net of this is the loss of tens of millions of jobs and the decimation of the traditional auto industry. So if you want to measure Uber by jobs created, you'd better be prepared to become a hater.

OTOH, Uber (as a proxy for the many companies that are working on autonomous vehicles, new vehicle configurations, planning/optimization systems, etc.) will create marked improvements for billions of people by lowering transportation costs and reducing transportation's impact on the environment. Seems quite likely that will create far more value than it destroys.

I wonder if ten years from now companies will even have the luxury of determining whether they're a "social impact" company or whether rapid technological evolution really calls the shots. That is, even if Uber wanted to be a <cough> good-hearted company, it simply couldn't because it would be destroyed by another company more aggressively pushing the technology.

To me, Uber isn't about taxi drivers; it's about the role of humans in a world that doesn't really need them so much.


David Schwartz
2
0
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
I have mixed feelings about this. First, I've been driving for Uber and Lyft for several months to help pay my bills. As far as I'm concerned, they are the absolute BEST "home-based business opportunity" in America today! It costs nothing to get started with them as long as you have a car that meets their criteria and is in good repair. (Well, it'll cost you $20 for a vehicle inspection.) They take 20% off the top and pay you weekly via direct deposit. You can work whenever you want, for as long as you want, wherever you want (ie., they don't typically limit you beyond the state, except in the NE).

I also drove with the local taxi company for 2 days before I realized it was a great way to lose my shirt (among other things). It's hard to have pity on the cab companies when most of their drivers aren't even pulling down minimum wage driving 70+ hours a week. The biggie here is a privately-held company and they don't report their profits publicly, but I can assure you they're every bit as profitable as Uber AND every bit as ruthless when it comes to screwing their drivers.

The biggest difference between a cab company and Uber is that the cab company has to invest millions of dollars to double the number of cars they have on the road, while Uber simply needs to recruit more drivers -- which is minimal cost outlay on their part. They have been creating trouble for themselves lately by cutting fares needlessly in markets where they could have easily raised them (like sun-belt cities in the winter that benefit from huge surges of snow-birds). This has angered drivers and many have just refused to drive until the fares go back up (if they ever do).

Also, while cab companies have had decades to work on improving their customer service, create efficiencies in their business model, and generally evolve beyond the same rut they've been in for 50 years, they haven't done much more than the minimum needed to keep things running. Barely.

They love to complain that ridesharing companies are stealing their business, but 9 out of 10 of my riders say you couldn't pay them to take a regular taxi. Women especially hate taking them because there are so many foreign men from Islamic countries who have horrible attitudes towards women and they don't realize how condescending and threatening they come across to typical American women (at least in my neck of the woods).

Before Uber, people's choices when going out drinking were: (1) stay home and invite their friends over instead; (2) get a friend to drive them; (3) drive themselves and risk a DUI.

After Uber/Lyft, they have a fourth choice: (4) take Uber/Lyft!

Where is "call a cab" in that mix? Most of my riders say, "forgetaboutit!" It was never an option except in "emergencies" when they had no other choices. Cabbies and cab companies are slitting their own throats with their horrible customer service and attitudes. They have no one to blame but themselves, IMHO.

That said, I agree with a couple of earlier comments. By 2030, private vehicle ownership will be waning, as the majority of trips will be provided by driverless vehicles owned by others (my favorite target for this ownership is municipalities, but that remains to be seen).

In the mean time, ridesharing services are disrupting the personal transportation arena in the same way that automation has been and continues to replace factory workers. Yes, this is a "social impact", but it's part of a larger trend to replace unskilled jobs with automation.

In the short term, ridesharing companies are providing a refuge for unemployed and under-employed people who are having a challenging time finding work in their own fields.
David Schwartz
0
0
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
Here's an interesting report that Uber commissioned.

http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-driver-data-report-2015-1

Aleksandra Czajka
0
4
Aleksandra Czajka Entrepreneur
Freelance Senior Software Engineer, Developer, Web Developer, Programmer - Full Stack
Doubt any company that makes rapping easier is a good social impact company...

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/12/17/uber-driver-accused-rape-kidnapping-customer/KYnOQczKFqggfbnri2FpGL/story.html

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/04/more-bad-news-for-uber-driver-arrested-in-los-angeles-rape-case.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/29/uber-india-rape_n_6575266.html

http://abc7chicago.com/news/uber-x-driver-accused-of-rape-shared-profile-with-wife-/455063/
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