Saturday, January 02, 2016

Uber Thinks It Wants Me

Life is full of surprises. Today I opened a form letter from Uber touting its opportunities for drivers. The bold lettering promised me I could make over $400 if I drove people around all day. The legal status of Uber's drivers hasn't quite been settled in court, so I had to chuckle at such a "be your own boss" opportunity. It should go without saying that I threw the letter in the recycling bin. I really have to spell this out for some of you.

The one unexpected line in the letter was how prospective drivers could qualify for special leasing deals on vehicles they use on the job. Drivers who take on debt to work for a third-party contractor are taking a big risk in any sector. The strategy certainly de-risks Uber's business model by keeping vehicle leases off its balance sheet. Transferring financial risk to employees is not a bug of the gig economy, it's a feature.

I can only wonder how my name ended up on Uber's mailing list. They have reached out to military veterans in the past. Maybe they assume my veteran status means I'm in their target demographic. I hate to break bad news to my fellow veterans, but their gigs with Uber won't last forever. Self-driving cars will put every gig driver out of work before they have enough in their IRAs to retire.

I have to disappoint Uber by politely declining their offer to drive. Their bulk mailer wasted a few cents on reaching me. I am already engaged full-time in running the most awesome financial research firm ever, named Alfidi Capital. Uber's earliest investors and employees will do well enough without drivers like me. They'll do just as well without any drivers at all once their robot vehicle fleets deploy. This whole unicorn valuation thing is fun while it lasts. Drivers working gigs get to watch the unicorn run away.

Full disclosure: I have not participated in Uber's private equity offerings. I have no position in the company.