We dig into whether Uber is a ponzi scheme of ambition, CB Insights’ first board game, the hot new sector called regtech, how you can take credit for our research to impress your boss, and more.
The most hated man in America
Looks like Martin Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, and the man once referred to as “the most hated man in America” is free on bail pending charges of federal securities fraud.
And based on a recent filing uncovered by CB Insights, it looks like he’s been working on launching a new company — Godel Systems, Inc which has raised a $50k convertible note.
Details on the company are scant beyond a mention on Shkreli’s github page. Two other individuals are named on the filing including Akeel Mithani, a personal investor per his LinkedIn, and Kevin Mulleady, a former portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley.
A month ago, I’d wondered if autonomous vehicles were actually going to be a good thing for Uber and many of you responded saying Uber would be the platform and we (autonomous vehicle owners) would rent out our cars during the day to let them drive for Uber.
It was a sci-fi picture of the future that would require autonomous vehicles to be good enough to navigate urban environments and also require us to be willing to rent out our owned autonomous vehicles to Uber when we don’t need them. In short, it required a lot of things to go just right for Uber’s vision of the future to come true. Let’s assume for a second that this all happens. What is the timing on this becoming possible? Next 5 years? Seems unlikely.
But it’s certainly a seductive picture of the future.
And then yesterday, there was an article about Uber hiring an ex-NASA engineer to build flying cars. (see blurb)
It reminded me of a conversation I had at The Innovation Summit breakfast for auto ecosystem executives at which I asked if Uber was a ponzi scheme of ambition.
It led to some impassioned opinions.
Let me explain.
When Uber came out, it was going to disrupt the taxi industry.
And then it was taxis, last mile logistics, vehicle ownership and autonomous driving.
And then it was taxis, last mile logistics, vehicle ownership, autonomous driving and trucking (with Otto acquisition).
And then it was taxis, last mile logistics, vehicle ownership, autonomous driving, trucking (with Otto acquisition) and drones.
And now it’s all the above + flying cars.
I might have the order wrong but all are forays by Uber into markets that paint a picture of an ever larger total addressable market (TAM). This coupled with Uber’s uninhibited ambition gets investors excited.
And they, the investors, keep ponying up cash.
But the reality is that Uber doesn’t even dominate the first industry it attacked — taxis. Their playbook didn’t work in China. They don’t dominate in India and there are well capitalized competitors in southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America, etc.
Yet despite not owning their first market, they continue to paint a picture of their ambition with their efforts in various adjacent areas.
It certainly is an alluring narrative and has aided in the company’s rapid ascent and investment treasure chest. But at some point, the performance will have to match the promise. Or at least one would think so.
Or can the narrative of an ever-increasing market opportunity be spun aka the ponzi scheme of ambition to keep Uber’s coffers filled and investors happy?
I thought the breakfast led to interesting conversation so wanted to share more widely. Many folks pointed to Amazon as being similar but they are a tough comp and their expansion was often into adjacent areas in the beginning (from books into other retail categories).
Of course, many at the breakfast thought the idea was “misguided” which is a nice way of saying they think I’m stupid. I don’t deny that I may be 🙂
A lot of our clients love our market maps. We do too.
Now, you can find the companies that make up a market map directly on CB Insights as part of a Collection. And the best part is you can clone the Collection to make it your own. (it’s akin to forking on Github if you’re familiar)
So in essence, we build a market map, you clone it and then share it with colleagues and pretend like you made it on your own to impress your colleagues.
No hard feelings if you do this. Heck, we encourage this.
Find one you like, hit Clone and then watch the praise and promotions roll in. A sampling of the market collections available are below.
You can also collaborate and invite folks outside of your subscription to a Collection. It’s time to move your market mapping and innovation efforts out of Excel and Powerpoint.
Awww yeah: A game for terrible tech people
At our hack day in the fall, one of the teams developed Cards Against Silicon Valley. Yes — it’s clearly a rip off of Cards Against Humanity except with more unicorns, soylent and Peter Thiel references.
It turned out to be pretty fun so we decided to make it available to other terrible tech people.