Uber has recently received a 3.5 billion dollar investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, potentially solidifying Uber’s position as the biggest venture-backed company in the world. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia was established in 1972 and provides financing to productive commercial products which are strategically significant to the development of the Saudi Arabian economy. At present, the Public Investment Fund has funded numerous projects in important sectors of the Saudi Arabian economy, including petroleum refineries, petrochemical industries, pipelines and transportation, energy, minerals, water desalination and infrastructural facilities. Its recent investment in Uber may signal towards larger changes within the country including the ways in which people may access transport to get around cities.
Uber is a San Francisco-based company which was founded in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick. The company received $200,000 in seed funding the same year and in 2010 the company raised $1.25 million in additional funding. The idea began as an app to request premium black cars in a few metropolitan areas, however the company is now changing the logistical fabric of cities around the world. Furthermore, Uber offers a new, flexible way for people to earn money by working as a driver on the side. Through the app, drivers may work as much or as little as they want and they may create their own schedule. It also offers the opportunity to meet new people and engage in social interactions. Both drivers and passengers rate each other on their experiences and this creates a score which is monitored by management, as drivers need to maintain an average score of 4.5. The Android, iOS and Windows Phone app connects riders and drivers using their phone’s GPS capabilities, letting both parties know one another’s location and removing the question of when the ride intends to arrive. In addition to this, the tech company also processes all payments involved, charging the passenger’s credit card so is completely cash free.
Uber currently operates in almost all continents including all over North America, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. There are different levels of service available through Uber, for example UberX which runs everyday cars and is minium-cost. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Uber Lux offers a top-of-the-line option with rides available in expensive cars such as Porsches. The Uber app continues to be updated, and a recent feature has been added called uberPOOL which may offer a peace of mind by guaranteeing an arrival time in advance. In addition to this, Uber are currently developing a new addition to the original app called UberEATS. This add-on intends to deliver food from local restaurants in 10 minutes or earlier and is rolled out in several cities in America. If sharing with more than one person, the cost may be split using the Fare Split Feature, which exists to make paying easier for both parties.
As a fast-growing start-up company, Uber continues to grow and aims to create new concepts to support entrepreneurs. According to a recent press release, Uber has created a program called StartupBus which intends to bring together smart, passionate people with the goal of kick starting sustainable new businesses in the course of three days. The program intends to focus on transportation and support entrepreneurs to use the Uber Development Platform to bring their ideas to life. As well as this, Uber have recently recruited Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, to the executive board. Uber may continue to change and create new features to increase its popularity, as well as teaming up with other technology firms to leverage their experience and knowledge. For example, Uber intends to integrate their app with Facebook Messenger in order to increase synchronicity and popularity.
How might Uber revitalise local economies?