A brief history of Uber’s bumpy road to an IPO
It’s been nine years since UberCab made its first appearance on the WordPress pages of this website. In the ensuing years, the startup has grown from an upstart looking to upend the taxi cab cartels, to a juggernaut that has its hands in every form of transportation and logistics service it can think of.
In the process, Uber has done some things that might give (and in fact has given) some shareholders pause.
Uber achieved many firsts, let's look back:
1. broke a ton of laws
2. killed someone with an AI-powered robot
3. executive threatened reporters
4. can only realize its current valuation by firing all its drivers, replacing them with computers
Happy Uber IPO day!!
— Christopher Mims 🎆 (@mims) May 10, 2019
From its first pitch deck to this historic public offering, TechCrunch has covered the über startup that has defined the post-financial-crisis era of consumer venture investing.
Here are some of the things that shouldn’t get swept into the dustbin of Uber’s history as the company makes its debut as a public company.
- In 2014 Uber used a tool called “God View” to track the movements of passengers and shared those details publicly.At the time, the company was worth a cool $18.2 billion, and was already on the road to success (an almost pre-ordained journey given the company’s investors and capitalization), but even then, it could not get out of the way of its darker impulses.
Uber’s God View Shows The Privacy Wars Are Revving Up
- A former executive of the company, Emil Michael, suggested that Uber should investigate journalists who were critical of the company and its business practices (including PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy).
Uber CEO Says Exec’s Threats To Journalists “Showed A Lack Of Humanity” But Doesn’t Fire Him
- From 2014 to 2016, the company used a software program codenamed “Hell” to illegally monitor the location and movement of Lyft drivers. It was a tactic that opened Uber up to a criminal investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
FBI probes Uber’s use of software to target rival Lyft
- As it expanded internationally, Uber came under fire for lax hiring practices for its drivers. In India, the company was banned in New Delhi, after a convicted sex offender was arrested on suspicion of raping a female passenger.
Uber Banned In New Delhi In Latest Twist Following Alleged Passenger Rape
- Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission opened an investigation into the company for gender discrimination around hiring and salaries for women at the company. Uber’s problems with harassment were famously documented by former employee Susan Fowler in a blog post that helped spur a reckoning for the tech sector.
Uber is being investigated for gender discrimination in a federal probe
- Uber has been forced to pay fines for its inability to keep passenger and driver information private. The company has agreed to 20 years of privacy audits and has paid a fine to settle a case that was opened by the Federal Trade Commission dating back to 2017.
Uber expands privacy settlement with FTC
- While Uber was not found to be criminally liable in the death of an Arizona pedestrian that was struck and killed by a self-driving car from the company’s fleet, it remains the only company with an autonomous vehicle involved in the death of a pedestrian.
Prosecutors find Uber not criminally liable in 2018 Arizona self-driving crash that killed a pedestrian
- Beyond its problems with federal regulators, Uber has also had problems adhering to local laws. In Colorado, Uber was fined nearly $10 million for not adhering to the state’s requirements regarding background checks of its drivers.
Uber fined $8.9M in Colorado for driver screening failures
- Uber was also sued by other companies. Notably, it was involved in a lengthy and messy trade secret dispute with Alphabet’s onetime self-driving car unit, Waymo. That was for picking up former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski and some know-how that the former Alphabet exec allegedly acquired improperly before heading out the door.
These are the arguments that define the Uber-Waymo lawsuit
- Uber even had dueling lawsuits going between and among its executives and major shareholders. When Travis Kalanick was ousted by the Uber board, the decision reverberated through its boardroom. As part of that battle for control, Benchmark, an early investor in Uber sued the company’s founder and former chief executive, Travis Kalanick for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
Benchmark sues former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
- Uber’s chief people officer, Liane Hornsey was forced to resign following a previously unreported investigation into her alleged systematic dismissals of racial discrimination complaints within Uber.
Uber’s chief people officer is out following racial discrimination investigation
- Lawsuits against the company not only dealt with its treatment of gender and race issues, but also for accessibility problems with the ride-hailing service. The company was sued for allegedly violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.
Uber gets sued over lack of services available to people with disabilities
- The ride-hailing service also isn’t free from legal woes in international markets. Earlier this year, the company paid around $3 million to settle charges that Uber had violated local laws by operating in the country illegally.
Uber pays $2.6M to settle historical charges it violated Dutch taxi laws
- Finally, the company’s lax driver screening policies have led to multiple reports of assault by drivers of Uber passengers. Uber recently ended the policy of forcing those women to engage in mandatory arbitration proceedings to adjudicate those claims.
Uber ends policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual assault claims
- Not even the drivers who form the core of Uber’s service are happy with the company. On the eve of its public offering, a strike in cities across the country brought their complaints squarely in front of the company’s executive team right before the public offering, which was set to make them millions.
Uber and Lyft drivers are striking ahead of Uber’s IPO