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Uber Isn't a Car Service. It's the Future of Logistics

Uber's long-term prospects dwarf cool cars and an easy-to-use app. That's the model every company should have in mind.
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The key to any company's long-term growth is its ability to identify how its products and services of today can form the infrastructure of a bigger, better business model tomorrow.

Take, for instance, Uber. The on-demand car service has become beloved by consumers in urban areas for its sleek cars and easy-to-use app, but does innovating upon a basic taxi service really warrant the kind of hype--including $100 billion projections--it's gotten in tech circles?

That's a question Kevin Roose explored recently in an article for New York Magazine. The answer, Roose explains, is no. What warrants that projection is that Uber's car service of today could form the backbone of a landscape-changing logistics, delivery, and travel company of tomorrow. Uber's Christmas tree delivery program serves as an early example.

Looking at the Big Picture

"Eventually, like Amazon, it can become something akin to an all-purpose utility--it'll just be a way you get things and go places," Roose writes. "There's a reason the company recently changed its tagline from 'Everyone's private driver' to the much broader 'Where lifestyle meets logistics.'"

The Amazon comparison is an easy one to make. What started out as an online bookstore in the early days of the Internet would eventually follow its nose to become one of the world's more prominent retailers, web hosting services, and tablet maker--not to mention that whole drone thing.

History Repeating Itself

This comparisons spread offline. In November, The Atlantic compared Amazon's model to that of Sears in the early 20th century. The retail powerhouse leveraged the burgeoning rail and road systems--as well as its hefty catalog--to dominate the retail marketplace as something far greater than a department store for the better part of the century, Derek Thompson explains.

And the comparisons hold on smaller, less global scales--where they might be most of use to you. Dating service HowAboutWe.com launched a new service that helps already-lovestruck couples plan date nights. L.L. Bean, the Maine company that made its name as an outdoor clothing manufacturer, eventually broadened its footprint when it began offering outdoor adventures as an extension of its core business. In both these cases the company found ways to become useful in other parts of its existing ecosystem.

Uber's case is potentially global. The hype makes a lot more sense if it eyes becoming a global logistics powerhouse. As Roose writes, "In ten years, we might be scratching our heads: Wait, Uber used to be a car service?"

IMAGE: courtesy of Uber
Last updated: Dec 13, 2013




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