For a while there, you could get a meeting with a lot of potential investors by promising "the Uber of X." We're building the Uber of private jets. The Uber of trucking. The Uber of real estate.
Now, it seems like Uber itself wants to create a whole bunch of Uber of X's, starting with the Uber of corporate events and functions (subscription required). In Chicago and Los Angeles, the company is testing a pilot program where it provides on-demand waiters, security guards, and other 1099 independent contractors to businesses.
With about two million drivers worldwide, Uber would already be the world's fourth-largest employer--behind the U.S. military, the Chinese Army, and Walmart--if its workers were true employees, as opposed to independent contractors.
This move, which is probably set up for Uber's expected IPO next year, could grow the company's workforce even more. At least Uber's wait staff will be able to travel to their Uber events in an Uber car.
Here's what else I'm reading today:
A giant, secretive data mining company might go public
Palantir Technologies is eyeing an initial public offering for the second half of 2019, with a possible $41 billion valuation. Co-founded by Peter Thiel in 2004, the data mining company is secretive and influential.
Its analytics were credited with helping the government track down Osama bin Laden, and it has massive contracts with intelligence, defense, and police agencies around the world. (Rob Copeland, The Wall Street Journal)
In this entire scenario, you don't actually own anything
Rent the Runway announced a new partnership with WeWork this week, installing drop-off boxes at 15 WeWork pilot locations.
This means that women customers can rent clothes, have them delivered to a rented city apartment, and return them to a rented workspace. (Marc Bain, Quartz)
How online brands can go brick-and-mortar
It's been a sad--but not unexpected--week for retail, with the news that Sears is in bankruptcy.
The silver lining is that smaller stores can bring in a lot more revenue than big, legacy anchor stores--thanks to their ability to sell additional items online. Now, several new startups are trying to find ways to get online brands into recently vacated physical spaces. (Michelle Cheng, Inc.com)
Taking on the 'pink tax'
The shaving brand Harry's launched a line of women's products, under the name Flamingo, with a radical pitch: charging men and women the same amount for similar items.
Of course, that's only radical because pricing for women's products is often higher than for men's, even when the products themselves are exactly the same. This "pink tax" leads women to spend about $100,000 more over a lifetime than men do for basically the same stuff. (Sonia Thompson, Inc.com)
Panasonic's dystopian new office product
Panasonic says its new product, Wear Space, is intended to help people stay focused at work--but honestly, it just looks like horse blinders for humans. What's more, this multibillion-dollar company with 250,000 employees is running a crowdfunding campaign to bring the product to life.
Is it a corporate practical joke? If so, Panasonic has done a good job making it look serious. (James Vincent, Circuit Breaker)