Please ride your toy scooters on the sidewalk

CXIX

Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy. If you're returning from last week, thanks! If you're new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here.

Big congrats to Quartz for eking it out by TWO VOTES in the first round of this year’s Mineral Cup. Better luck next time, Muscovite.

Uber on.

The best companies become verbs, says Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

“Very few brands become verbs,” he said on Sept. 10, as Uber announced it had hired Coca-Cola veteran Rebecca Messina as its first chief marketing officer. “For Uber to have achieved this shows how we’ve captured imaginations and become an important part of our customers’ lives.”

Other members of the illustrious company-became-a-verb club:

  • FaceTime

  • Google

  • Jet Ski

  • Rollerblade

  • Skype

  • Uber

  • Venmo

  • Xerox

  • Yo-yo

That makes the Venmo-Uber partnership the ultimate tie-up, right?

Finding a CMO has been on Uber’s executive bucket list for a while. In August 2016, back when Travis Kalanick was still CEO, Uber hired Target CMO Jeff Jones as president of ride-sharing operations, a role that resembled, but wasn’t quite, a CMO job. Jones was supposed to improve Uber’s storytelling. Instead, he hosted a disastrous Q&A with Uber drivers on Facebook in February 2017 that further inflamed driver frustrations. Jones resigned the following month, citing differences in “beliefs and approach to leadership.”

In June 2017, as Uber’s PR problems cascaded and a week before Kalanick took a leave of absence, the company brought on Apple marketing guru Bozoma Saint John to be its chief brand officer. This, again, was a position that sounded a lot like a CMO, but wasn’t. Saint John was tasked with creating a positive “emotional connection” between Uber and its customers, instead of the very bad one Uber had created. Within a month, the New York Times had cast her as the “woman who will save Uber.” She lasted a year, then left to become a real CMO at Endeavor this past June.

In the middle of that, Khosrowshahi took over at Uber and began an apology-tour-slash-brand-campaign to improve the company’s image. Uber has put tens of millions of dollars behind a TV ad, “Moving Forward,” that makes Khosrowshahi the face of the company and features him promising a new and better course for the company. (“Why is Uber’s CEO on my TV all the time?” friends and family members have asked me. I guess because, in the absence of a CMO, that’s what he decided to do!)

Messina joins Uber from a CMO job at liquor maker Beam Suntory, and after 22 years at Coca-Cola, where she was a senior marketing executive for ventures and emerging brands. She immediately endorsed Khosrowshahi’s marketing choices, telling the Wall Street Journal he is “getting out there right in front, he is humble, he is full of integrity, and he means what he says.”

That Uber hired a woman to a senior leadership role is significant after many of the company’s top female leaders—Saint John, VP of strategy and leadership Frances Frei, chief people officer Liane Hornsey, head of comms Rachel Whetstone, and legal chief Salle Yoo—departed, in several cases tarnished by scandal. The void of female leadership became more apparent after Uber chief operating officer Barney Harford, a Khosrowshahi hire, was alleged to have made insensitive comments on race and gender. Employees raised the issue at a staff meeting in July, the New York Times reported, wondering how the company could improve on diversity and inclusion without any more women on the executive team than there were a year ago.

Elsewhere in Uber branding, to mark his one-year anniversary, Khosrowshahi told the audience at TechCrunch Disrupt, “I had no frickin’ clue what I was getting into.” This is cute, but I find it hard to believe that anyone who survived the Byzantine selection process that was Uber’s CEO search had “no frickin’ clue” where that tunnel led.

Scooters!

Scorned by San Francisco, Lyft launched electric scooters in Denver:

Lyft says it has been awarded permits to operate both electric bikes and scooters by Denver’s public works agency, but it will just be offering scooters to start out. The company plans on dropping 350 scooters initially, including 100 scooters for the city’s “opportunity zones,” which are designated as low-income and underserved by public transportation.

Lyft’s scooters are available in Denver from 6am to 8pm. They cost $1 to unlock and $0.15 per minute, including reservation and hold time. Denver has also issued permits for up to 350 dockless electric scooters to Bird, Lime, Razor, and Spin. The city has come a long way since it seized and impounded hundreds of Lime and Bird scooters, fining the companies $150 per seized device, earlier this summer.

Per Lyft’s rider FAQ, scooters in Denver should be ridden on the sidewalk:

You can ride scooters within the service area in your Lyft app. If your scooter ride ends outside of this service area, you will be charged a fee. You should only ride the scooter on sidewalks — don’t ride in the street, in bike lanes, within designated parks, or on park trails. Please yield to pedestrians when riding on sidewalks.

The sidewalk-only rule comes from Denver itself, which determined that “e-scooters are considered ‘toy vehicles’ and are not allowed in the bike lanes or in general traffic.” Toy vehicles! The city never explicitly said scooters should be ridden on the sidewalk, but once you rule out bike lanes and general traffic, there are only so many options.

Risky business.

Freelance marketplace Upwork filed to go public on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker “UPWK.” The preliminary prospectus is here.

Upwork, previously known as Elance-oDesk, helps people hire freelancers for a variety of creative and administrative jobs, such as web development, customer service, human resources, and graphic design. The company reported $1.5 billion in gross services volume—that is, the value of all services arranged through Upwork, plus fees charged to users—for the 12 months ended June 30, on which it booked revenue of $225 million. Like any good startup, Upwork isn’t profitable (why bother with that?) and it reported a net loss of $7.2 million for the six months ended June 30.

Let’s take a look at the risk factors, pp. 14-49 (!) in the prospectus:

  • We have a history of net losses, anticipate increasing our operating expenses in the future, and may not achieve or sustain profitability.

  • If the market for freelancers and the services they offer develops more slowly than we expect, our growth may slow or stall, and our operating results could be adversely affected.

  • We may be subject to new and existing laws and regulations, both in the United States and internationally.

  • There may be adverse tax, legal, and other consequences if the contractor classification or employment status of freelancers that use our platform is challenged.

This last one is particularly interesting as Upwork is one of the first major gig economy companies to go public, and thus to need to lay out, in excruciating detail, the risks that come with having the unresolved employment model of hiring people as independent contractors who may feel that they are, in fact, employees:

A misclassification determination or allegation creates potential exposure for users and for us, including but not limited to monetary exposure arising from or relating to failure to withhold and remit taxes, unpaid wages, and wage and hour laws and requirements (such as those pertaining to minimum wage and overtime); claims for employee benefits, social security, workers’ compensation and unemployment; claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation under civil rights laws; claims under laws pertaining to unionizing, collective bargaining, and other concerted activity; and other claims, charges, or other proceedings under laws and regulations applicable to employers and employees, including risks relating to allegations of joint employer liability.

Uber, are you reading this? It’s a preview of 2019.

Airbnbegone.

Ah, the puns are so bad, aren’t they? Anyway, yes, Paris city council member Ian Brossat would like Airbnb to be gone from the city center, which he fears is becoming an “open-air museum,” he told AFP:

“Do we want Paris to be a city which the middle classes can afford, or do we want it to be a playground for Saudi or American billionaires?” Brossat said.

He has had Airbnb and its rivals in his sights for years, and recently published a book assailing the US giant titled “Airbnb, the Uberised City”.

Paris remains Airbnb’s biggest market, per AFP, with about 60,000 apartments available to rent. Brossat would like short-term rentals of entire apartments banned in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Arrondissements, which are tourist-central. Paris threatened to sue Airbnb in December 2017 if it didn’t delist hundreds of apartments whose owners had failed to register with local authorities. In January 2017, the Paris mayor’s office issued a report that blamed Airbnb for population declines in the heart of the city.

Elsewhere in Airbnb hardship, more than 2,400 Airbnb listings were wiped out in Vancouver after the city started enforcing new rules on short-term rentals. Officials think there are hundreds more that are skirting regulations. Airbnb users who violate Vancouver’s rental rules could be fined $1,000 per day.

This time last year.

FBI probes Uber for “Hell” program, shared hurricane relief, top-secret Waymo earrings

(Like this throwback to Oversharing’s archives? Hate it? Have another strong opinion not supplied here? Let me know by replying to this email, or sending a note to oversharingstuff@gmail.com.)

Correction.

I said last week that it was baffling that, as Wired originally reported, “someone else” would be responsible in the Uber-Toyota driverless car deal for “putting those cars into the streets and filling them with passengers.” Turns out it was baffling to Uber too, because this was not true. A third party will own and operate the driverless fleet, an Uber spokeswoman clarified, but the cars will very much be deployed on the Uber network, and Uber will very much be putting passengers into them.

Other stuff.

Uber IPO on track for 2019. Waymo’s Big Ambitions Slowed by Tech Trouble. GM keeping its options open for driverless ride-sharing. LinkedIn names Lyft top startup of 2018. Lyft is carbon neutral. Uber bans riders with low ratings. WeWork Fails in Bid to Lease Space in New York’s World Trade Center. Lyft Is Driving People to Paul McCartney’s Secret New York City Concert. Uber adds overdue safety features. Häagen-Dazs tests on-demand ice cream. Walmart adds new delivery program. Instacart chief growth officer departs. Taxify launches electric scooters in Paris. $5 million Airbnb home trashed in San Francisco. Couple finds hidden camera in Airbnb in Toronto. Driver who crashed in autopilot mode sues Tesla. “Move Fast and Break Things” Is Broken. What Went Wrong at Social Capital. Bump-cancelling bunk beds. The Best Description of Burning Man Comes from an Episcopalian Priest.


Thanks again for subscribing to Oversharing! If you, in the spirit of the sharing economy, would like to share this newsletter with a friend, you can forward it or suggest they sign up here.

Send tips, comments, and terrible Airbnb puns to @alisongriswold on Twitter, or oversharingstuff@gmail.com.