Same day delivery: wrong for Uber, right for the braveTuesday, 3 April 2018
Uber has shut down its same day parcel delivery business, and in fact it never made it beyond three US test cities. You could argue that this is part of a strategy of focusing on the core, alongside its recent exits of China and India. But we would argue (and did, in 2015), that this was never the right market for Uber to enter.
OC&C supported the UK national same day courier Citysprint in a successful re-financing process soon after UberRush was launched. This was during the days when Uber was perceived as a kind of magical business that could do no wrong, and a number of potential investors in Citysprint dropped out because of the "Uber risk".
At the time, we felt the most compelling reason why there was limited Uber risk in same day parcels was that the market was small: 10x smaller than the taxi market in the UK. And even the most aggressive growth in same day e-commerce wasn't going to make a dent in that difference. As Patrick Gallagher, CEO of Citypsprint, points out, parcels are also a lot more complicated to pick up and drop off than passengers. Uber's enthusiasm for the market at the time felt like bad strategy, as well as a bad case of hubris.
The mentality of some investors then was that it would be a career-ending decision to bet against Uber. This fear of investing in businesses competing with FANGs is still too prevalent. By all means assess the risk, but investment committees who are too scared of "disruptors" will lose opportunities vs those capable of seeing through the hype.