For a company that over the past year has been shifting paradigms like there was no tomorrow, Uber in the new year promises more of the same fireworks that the San Francisco-based gig-economy icon has been shooting off since it first launched in the Spring of 2009.
Just Google-news the ride-sharing startup and you’ll see headlines like these:
That’s more controversial news in one week than most companies engender in an entire year.
Expect more of the same in 2016, as Uber, with a value estimated anywhere from $50 to $70 billion, muscles its way into new markets, expands in existing ones, and goes mano a mano with organized labor, city governments, transportation regulators and, of course, taxi drivers across the planet. Beyond all that noise, of course, is the biggest question of all: Will Uber go public in 2016?
As analysts at Zacks point out here, it’s a good bet:
An upcoming IPO for Uber would be massive, as the company is currently valued at an amazing $51 billion after a total of seven rounds of funding worth $7.4 billion since its launch. And thanks to Uber’s structure—a unique combination of transportation company, mobile Internet company, and real world engineering—the company has been touted as one of the best future IPO candidates.
Uber joins a varied list of companies with potential high profile tech IPOs in 2016. Airbnb, a room rental service, is worth an estimated $25.5 billion. Snapchat, the popular photo and video sharing app, is also seen as a hot IPO prospect. The reported value of the company is an estimated $16 billion.
Meanwhile, Uber will keep expanding at a blistering pace. The company recently announced plans to bring 300 jobs to one New Jersey city while news stories, like this one in Business Insider, talked about the continual talent drain from companies like Google as Uber beefs up its front-line staff with tech pros. That post added that “a quick LinkedIn search reveals more than 300 Xooglers now at Uber. Uber declined to comment on the story.”
Finally, as Mashable points out, Uber may also play the part of a pawn in the presidential race, as it serves as a fine symbol of the controversial “gig economy” and all the passion that that inspires from all sides:
It seems everyone is weighing in on the issue of innovation changing the way Americans work, and Republicans and Democrats are divided along party lines as to where they stand on Uber. While Republicans are coming out strongly in favor of the ride-share app, Democrats are hedging their bets and trying to reconcile the nature of how the app works with their fight to protect workers’ rights.
The “gig economy” means that workers function as independent contractors, not full-time staff of a particular company, and therefore don’t get the same kinds of benefits, such as health care, overtime, or sick leave, that employers of non-independent contractor employees are required to provide. Due in part to the independent contractor distinction of its workers, Uber has become a point of controversy in some American cities that are attempting to regulate the company’s business practices.
And, of course, there’s more: Uber is expected to continue its work on driverless vehicles, building upon its collaboration with Carnegie Mellon to launch the Uber Advanced Technology Center. It will push further into its partnership deal with Dutch satellite navigation company TomTom to provide maps and traffic updates to drivers in 300 cities. And it will move more and more people over water in places like Miami and Istanbul with UberBOAT.
Photo by Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group