Those of us who have been through dotcom 1.0's boom and bust know that there are patterns here - high stock valuations, no profitability, no real exit strategy, and hope of acquisition. What makes this time a bit different is that the ethics of the businesses are pretty challenged this time around.
With Uber, you get a company that knows it gets a free ride (no pun intended) on the people who sacrifice their personal vehicles' wear and tear that won't be fully covered by the money they receive,
This is true to a certain extent. I don't live in a big city, and I drive for Uber only on the side, and only for quick cash when I need it. This "quick cash" is pretty much tax-free by the time I deduct expenses and $0.54 per mile using the IRS standard rate. The business losses I incur from driving for Uber will lower my taxable income from my "day job" and my LLC I have set up for consulting on the side. On the flip side, I don't think driving for Uber full-time is a sustainable long-term business model.
is schizophrenic when it comes to its disposition on whether its drivers are employees or contractors,
They're pretty adamant about it: You're a contractor.
fails to impose safety standards and inspections of both vehicles and people,
I was required to undergo a background check, provide my driving record, and provide a copy of the inspection results of my vehicle's inspection.
actively encourages people breaking the law by not requiring their drivers to have commercial insurance policies on their vehicles
The laws in my state do not require drivers who drive for Uber or Lyft (the only two legal ones here) to carry insurance beyond their regular insurance. Rather, Uber provides a policy, with an insurance policy certificate from an insurer licensed in the state as required by the law, to cover the additional insurance requirements mandated by the state law regarding companies like Uber and Lyft.
and acting as a taxi company,
Taxis can be hailed from the curb. Uber and Lyft drivers can only legally accept pre-arranged rides here. There is a difference. The DMV in my state does carry out an occasional surprise inspection in some areas where an inspector will try to get an Uber driver to take a "side drive" for direct pay or something similar.
and pretending to be an insurance company in violation of law by claiming they will self-insure for a million dollars of public liability without a certificate from the respective insurance commissions of the states they do business in.
I'm looking at the insurance policy Uber obtained for my driving. It is from a third party insurer who has been licensed and operating in my state since three years before Uber was launched.
Revenue growth isn't hard when you throw enough resources at something. A million average people will happily pick up something cheap or free and easy no matter whose expense its at. Profit growth is an entirely different animal. I believe when the legal chickens come home to roost, Uber will come out to be made out to be one of the biggest boondoggles in the latest dotcom boom. These days, there's a type of challenged ethics pervading the corporate culture of the new boom where people just go break the law and hope that things will sort themselves out. In the long run, it isn't the smartest business strategy in the world, and it isn't just Uber - and yes, I'm looking at you Theranos and Magic Leap. Even when the companies are legitimate, it seems the premiums people pay for them are ludicrous and defy the most basic business analysis of recovery of investment in a profitable way. I can't imagine this will all end well even if the magnitude of the failures are masked by inflation and currency devaluation.
I'm with you on a lot of these points. The legalities are still being jostled about with all of the different locales Uber has to deal with. I can't imagine the cost of dealing with all of that legal mess.
The concept of being a "full time driver" with Uber still has a LOOONG ways to go before it becomes viable, so I think it is unethical for Uber to try to lure drivers in with the prospect of making it profitable to drive with them.
As for Uber's company growth and profit, I think it's there for them in the long term if they continue to increase the number of customers and drivers under their existing model without adding to their existing costs tremendously, especially if they can keep the growth of their staff and developers to a minimum. Uber cut their fares a while back. If I were at the helm, I would probably look at slowly increasing them over time to find an equilibrium so that drivers are compensated better without losing the competitive edge to traditional taxis.