Messing With A Competitor's Fundraising
I saw a post that described how Uber tried to mess with Lyft’s fundraising. This is not a new tactic. I have seen it used for as long as I have been in the VC business. It is, however, unethical and unsavory, just like the companies that use it.
And it is one other thing, ineffective. When I get a phone call from a company telling me that they are going to raise more money and we should think about investing in them instead or at least not investing in their competitor, I hear fear and it makes me more excited about investing in the competitor. If you can’t win in the market on the merits and have to turn to messing with a competitor’s fundraising, what does that tell you about the defensibility and differentiation of a company’s service?
And when another VC calls me to ask about a company that competes with our portfolio company, I don’t bother to trash talk the competitor. I just tell them the pros and cons of the market, the two companies, how I think things will play out, and then let them make the investment decision on the merits. I assume the competitor is going to get funded from someone so I might as well provide an honest assessment of the situation.
Capital is not normally a recipe for success vs competition. Product execution, network effects, go to market strategies, and a few other things are what allows companies to win the market. Access to capital and raising a boatload of it is rarely the thing that wins the market.
And there is a ton of money in the market for funding startups right now. When the CEO of one of our portfolio companies tells me one of their competitors is raising money, I always tell them “assume your competitor will raise successfully and raise a lot” because that is what is happening in the market today.
Don’t waste your time trying to mess with a competitor’s financing. It doesn’t look good, it won’t work, and your time and energy is best spent elsewhere, where the real competition happens, product and market.
uber? more like whatAFuckingJoke.
maybe, but they are winning the market right now. the tactics are unsavory but the execution is impressive.
Agreed. We are attempting to be the Uber for concierge servicing.. I think we’ll get there and will do just fine without executing shady tactics. So would Uber. Ethics must be upheld.. Now that we’re in NYC we’re seeing a LOT of unethical business.
For concierge or in general? Maybe we should have an ethic group in nyc
I’m sorry. As a native, not everyone here is ethically disinclined.*sigh*
I agree – they are not going to be denied and I think they are right on the line, tactics wise.As for unsavoury, I just moved back to the hottest economy in NA, where Uber has been shut out and last week, the taxi commission added 126 badges (complete and utter joke) – http://www.calgaryherald.co… .
Enjoy the rodeo.
Thx – but not much ropin & ridin happening today!Ski bums happy tho!
Short term gains that will bring them long term pains…
Winning the market isn’t nearly enough given what they have raised.They need to grow their current market substantially, dominate it, AND expand and win several other markets that they have not even entered yet (let alone have product/market fit).Then there might be some upside for the common shareholder at an $18B valuation. (Travis and the investors are fine no matter what).
i read that Lyft is to sue a former employee now working for…Uber. it’s getting catty.isn’t it time for someone to pivot to the shared car ownership opportunity?
totally agree with you-and I’d add that while you are trying to screw up a competitor capital raise, another competitor may sneak into the market place and eat you both for lunch. In established PE type industries where the pie is more fixed, this strategy might work better-but you are right; if the company is concentrating on screwing the other company up then it’s not paying attention to executing its own business plan. Recipe for trouble.
At Web Summit, one of the most interesting panels was with Geoff Lewis of Founders Fund (Lyft) and Mood Rowghani of KPCB (Uber).Geoff Lewis was very vocal on how Lyft is the innovative one whereas Uber just copies and executes Lyft’s ideas.I don’t use either so can’t say which is better or which has the user’s heart.Competition being ugly and “cat-calling” isn’t restricted to Lyft vs Uber. We can all recall Apple vs Microsoft, Apple vs Google and Apple vs IBM.Personally, I believe it’s more important for the startup to focus on innovation and their own strategy rather than wasting time trying to affect the competition.The team has a mandate to deliver on THEIR vision and execution — not on that of competitors.
“Geoff Lewis was very vocal on how Lyft is the innovative one whereas Uber just copies and executes Lyft’s ideas.”- is there truth to that?
Here’s the YouTube video. Watch from about 22:00 onwards when Geoff Lewis talks about the secrets of success for ride-sharing:* https://www.youtube.com/wat…And the camera zoomed in on Mood’s face as he cogitates how he should respond.In the Lyft vs Travis VanderZanden case, Reuters reported that Lyft’s former COO was in discussion with Lyft board members to replace Green as the CEO — before VanderZanden joined Uber:* http://www.reuters.com/arti…
thanks! i will watch it.
“privacy is dead” – a counter intuitive opportunity right there.some of these vcs are not people i would be inviting to my home for dinner.
My reading of it is that what Lyft team and their investors vs Uber team and their investors consider to be “the truth” is going to be different.And there’ll be a lot of materials disclosed during the Lyft vs Travis VanderZanden case that’ll present their respective versions of the truth.While their management and investors are distracted by this, it’s entirely possible a 3rd player will take market share from both of them.
Uch…now i’m even MORE upset about Hailo leaving Toronto. Everyone i know hates Uber (issues with both the Corporate Culture decisions as well as the actual service). Hey Lyft — i see opportunity here in Toronto!
Heh, I actually uttered the word “uch” when I read this, too.And to a point we got onto the other day here when talking cabs/cars in NYC, this whole thing is running roughshod over drivers. They don’t seem happier.One night last week, I was standing near a subway entrance, looking for a cab. Two cab drivers responded to my street hail, and then each started yelling that I should get into their cars. Opted for the subway.The best “disruption” I can see for this service is continuing to improve public transportation.
I disagree. The two drivers yelling at each other shows that competition is increasing. That’s going to be a good thing in the end for consumers.
They were yelling at me, and neither one of them won.It’s kind of a microcosm of what Fred is talking about.For a trip that begins and ends in the city, unless you’re carrying a lot of stuff, or have to get to the airport, many NYers have no reason to ever get into a car.(edited: typos)
Uber in TO has been a godsend for me. Cabs are garbage their – small, dirty, sheesh.Last Xmas, Uber’d a SUV during a big snow storm. Back and forth from Westin on the Lake to Roncevalles w no problem.
I’d opt out of the market too. The out r boroughs are not a haven for any of these groups but the mta keeps running
For a trip that begins and ends in the city, unless you’re carrying a lot of stuff, or have to get to the airport, many NYers have no reason to ever get into a car.But you said “One night last week, I was standing near a subway entrance, looking for a cab.”
Yup, it was the end of a long day, a straight ride down an avenue to my place. I was tired and lazy. It would have been a unneeded indulgence/convenience: 3-4 minutes in a cab. Instead, 10 minutes on the train.
Just saw this:http://nypost.com/2014/11/1…Personally, although I’m sure this is an outlier, I like the odds in a cab vs. a subway.
yes and this is a HUGE issue in Toronto — big city with terrible transit and little funding to fix the problems.
Uber is getting sloppy. I’ve used uber black and uber suv frequently over the past few years.I recently had a problem with a car that had defective seats.I wrote uber. Their reply was “each provider is an independent contractor and uber does not guarantee the condition of each car.”Weak Uber, very weak.
That is a sign that the founder’s innovation is not being protected by a strong Brand person. a little if that happens when you are expanding fast, but it cannot last.
Yep, positioning your company on the pillars and fear and hubris is rarely sustainable.
“each provider is an independent contractor and uber does not guarantee the condition of each car.”I believe that their response was similar when one of their drivers attacked and blinded a passenger (lost an eye in the violence) – basically, “none of this is our fault, suck it”.Hey, your brand is on the experience – it is your fault. It’s amazing to see the endless deluge of bad brand management from Uber. However, I don’t know if it is going to affect them.
The best thing you can do is to build a relationship with an independent fleet of cars. Look for one that has 10-15 cars.I think ultimately, now that the technology is being white labeled, this could be Uber’s biggest threat.
But Uber has built a well known brand. Consumers aren’t going to know about company X that white labels the technology.
have a friend going through very acrimonious litigation.trial date approaching and the other side’s legal team beginning to pull some seriously ‘dirty tricks’.he asked my advice and I told him far from a sign of strength their actions show weakness.you don’t need to lower yourself to those tactics if you could win the case on it’s merits.if they believed in their arguments and that their case was ‘uber’ strong they wouldn’t be doing this, thus their moves are borne from weakness and he should view them as a net-positive in his position
Yes, but if you take the high road, you must be ever vigilant, hard nosed and confrontational. Dirty tricks need to have light shed on them for what they are.I learned that from my Pops, who was as high road as you could get in the criminal courts. He was also widely regarded as the single most aggressive barrister in the country.I still do not think they are over the line.
you don’t need to lower yourself to those tactics if you could win the case on it’s merits. if they believed in their arguments and that their case was ‘uber’ strong they wouldn’t be doing this, thus their moves are borne from weakness and he should view them as a net-positive in his positionWhat I have found as a generality is that people who have a case don’t lie and people who don’t have a case lie.The problem is once you are in the land of fiction you do gain a distinct advantage over the opposing party.So the fact that this is happening is not to be taken lightly.Hence the saying that I have “you can only be as honest as your competition” comes into play (yet again).
that is true, and judges hate dirty tricks. often backfires.
There’s a line to me Fred.I learned early that being a shit is just that and there are lines to what I’ll do. I’ve tried to live by that.But I’m a fierce competitor by nature and I will admit I’ve bought companies defensibly to close them down and eliminate risk, gone after a competitors major account to get me in on my merits which means they are out and used the press as a precision tool.But there is a line I agree. Never messed with funding but to the extent that I can work the market, I do.
I agree Arnold.Travis did not trash them, did not tell VCs not to invest & did not tell VCs that if they did invest, he would shut them out of future Uber fundings. That has happened in VC before, btw: Jim Clark shut a guy out and when the guy committed suicide, his answer was ‘What?’ http://www.amazon.ca/New-Th… .
kalanick (sp?) is a complete dick / fool in the vein of Donald trump. If “winning” requires being a detestable human, then screw that. Obviously many (I would actually say most) entrepreneurs are great humans on top of being great business leaders. Its encumbent upon the rest of us to call out the assholes, lest we support them. And to be clear its not just this incident, but his overly smug and cavalier attitude about everything … he consistently demonstrates that at least publicly he wants to and is ok being seen as a not nice / good human. To each his own, I just couldn’t live like that. And Uber really is not that defensible long-term anyway.. they are just hoping to become a global transportation monopoly like the local taxi medallion monopolies that exist.. definitely wouldn’t invest in them at $18 billiong (maybe at about 2 -5 billion)
Just curious, do you know Travis or anyone that does? Don’t believe all you read in the media. Most of which is BS to get eyeballs.
I do not know him. Nor do I know Donald Trump.. doesn’t change the fact the image that they cultivate. Do you know him? Just curious Jim 🙂
I’ve met him and know people that do know him. I try not to jump to personal judgements based on what I read in the media based on my own personal experience in this regard, that is all.
Ok. Appreciate the response. I am sensitive to the fact that many (at least some?) people get bad raps in the media. My question would be if a good guy, why doesn’t he do more to come across that way publicly? A valid response could be that doing so would hurt his image / brand within the company and the valley and ultimately harm Uber. Being honest here… does he mind that he is characterized as an asshole? And if so.. why doesn’t he try to work on that perception?
If your question was in good faith then that is fine.. but it really seemed like you were coming from a “troll” perspective.. protecting fellow silicon valley ceo… happy to be wrong tho.
Great post, thanks for the transparency.
I’ve been using Uber here in nyc for a couple years now. Now that Lyft is available, I got a coupon for a free ride, tried it out. It was fine, but what’s value proposition over Uber — why would I switch if I’ve been a happy Uber customer?If anything, Uber wins on product because I have the option of ordering a taxi, UberX (which as of a couple weeks ago, when I ordered a Lyft, appears to be the only tier they are offering), Uber black, UberXL, Uber car seat, etc.So Uber’s cash advantage allows them to push into new markets faster (not just a marketing challenge but also a regulatory one).In this particular battle, I don’t see how having more cash is not an advantage.
Agreed, CEO & tactics are focused on protecting advantage that product has given them.
Travis Kalanick is of a mold of its own. They are a unicorn among the unicorns.In their case I don’t think that competitive tactics are a sign of weakness. They are executing pretty well, and with amazing speed. They understand the window of opportunity would close otherwise.
I am a huge Garrett Camp fan. he is CGY’s most accomplished tech founder. I am a huge Uber fan, although I have seems signs of its success undermining its quality (Guy showed up @ LaGuardia in groovy jeans and Ed Harvey style T – that got a negative).Clearly, CEO Travis Kalanick, while not a Canuck, is pretty much a beaver stroking icehole – http://www.youtube.com/watc…, – but I think he is the wave of the future: transparent, truculent, beyond confident while not being missionary in his zeal.His general demeanour seems to be “What? Everything I can do to succeed I will do.”His stance on some of his less than sensitive comments regarding women seems to be ‘ If you don’t like the truth, that’s not my problem”.I do not think the link you shared is unethical, just poor form (which is subjective). Had he trashed Lyft or asked VCs not to invest, he would have been way outside the lines. I get that it is a bit of a subtle distinction, but ethics is like that…..
We at Papriika had an IP infringement case against a company being purchased by Nordstrom for $150mm if they were to reach certain milestones. We could have gone down the path of going after the case to intrude on them being purchased. We decided however to take the ethical high road and concentrate on our tasks at hand. We didn’t waste a lot of time on this and I feel no regrets in our actions. Could we have seriously hurt our competitor. For sure. But we sleep well at night. The 4hrs that we do that is. 😉
I don’t have the facts to comment, but if you feel it was the right thing to do, then that’s a good thing.
.Well played. In the end you must be you. That is more than enough.JLM
Who can say for sure that this is well played?There is a defendant being sued for patent infringement and while I have no knowledge of the patent, it seems likely to be software patent.
.Being true to yourself is always Well Played!JLM.
Phrase “bitter end” also applies to being true to yourself.As any able-bodied seaman can tell you, a turn of a line around a bitt, those wooden or iron posts sticking through a ship’s deck, is called a bitter. Thus, the last of the line secured to the bitts is known as the bitter end. Nautical usage has somewhat expanded the original definition in that today the end of any line, secured to bitts or not, is called a bitter end.The landlubbing phrases “stick to the bitter end” and “faithful to the bitter end” are derivations of the nautical term and refer to anyone who insists on adhering to a course of action without regard to consequences.
We dropped it.. So that part you missed. “had”…
I fail to see this an example of ethics, good or bad.Either way you have an ongoing IP litigation case for being, as you commented, the uber of lifestyle? In the end you will be against a defendant with deeper pockets.
We decided however to take the ethical high road and concentrate on our tasks at hand. We didn’t waste a lot of time on this and I feel no regrets in our actions.What you said:1) We took the ethical high road2) Concentrate on our tasks at hand3) We didn’t want to waste a lot of time on thisSo it seems that the major factors were in fact #2 and #3 and #1 was more of a rationalization after the fact (the way I read it).You made a practical decision for business purposes.I made a decision not to sue some doctors and a hospital on malpractice on behalf of a family member. My rationalization was that I wasn’t interested in contributing to problems in the medical system (and a few other rationalizations). The truth is not getting wrapped up in litigation as well as the low chance of actually winning played a large part as well. The friction factor. If I could just “push a button” I can’t tell you that I would have done the same thing (I may have but can’t say for sure in all honesty).
If you only sleep 4 hours, you want to make sure it’s a deep slumber for sure 🙂
Nations spent a huge amount of money spying on one another and hacking for intellectual property. If they spent the same on R&D they’d probably get further down the road.
Definitely an issue of company culture; win at all cost. Uber Ambassadors recruiting Lyft drivers on the job; former Lyft COO VanderZaden accused of taking Corporate documents with him to Uber; now this latest tactic. Fortunately, there are VCs like you who take the high road. I’m not convinced that the rest of the start-up ecosystem doesn’t on some level reward and admire the aggressive tactics of “passionate” founders, thus providing reinforcement of these behaviors.
This. Ass behavior is assumed to win markets, not long term turn off customers
Sad, but true. As long as the tactics yield new markets and dramatic growth, investment dollars will flow to Mr. Kalanick. Customers vote with their wallets; the tough stance on product features like surge pricing will likely have more impact on consumers actions than the public perception of corporate culture.
I’m not convinced that the rest of the start-up ecosystem doesn’t on some level reward and admire the aggressive tactics of “passionate” founders, thus providing reinforcement of these behaviors.The devil is in the details. Everyone draws the line at a different point. Someone who is “shadier” than you means simply they have a line a little further down. Someone who is “super honest” is someone who doesn’t even do the things that you do which to you are ok. And so on. It is absolutely not black and white. Just like paying your taxes isn’t black and white.It’s all relative. Just like religion. Ultra orthodox jews (hassidim) typically look down upon conservative jews and see them as non-jews. Conservative jews can in some cases look down on reform jews. And so on.Like the line in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” from Mike Damone:First of all Rat, you never let on how much you like a girl. “Oh, Debbie. Hi.” Two, you always call the shots. “Kiss me. You won’t regret it.” Now three, act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be. “Isn’t this great?”
I remember back to the late 90s when I was looking to raise money. There were two companies who were somewhat in the same space, but not as innovative, who has raised a ton. 99% of the VCs we spoke to said “it’s a money game and you will never be able to catch up.” I didn’t believe it then or now. We did end getting an investor promise but decided to sell the business instead because of that risk.Glad to see this perspective from you.
On the other hand, Ryanair has built the worlds largest and most profitable airline by daily pissing all over their competitors ( not to mention their passengers too). Ultimately people vote with their wallet for the ‘best’ solution for them. The fact that the CEO did this is of no real relevance to the uber’s customers.
Has Ryanair been unethical?
Arguably – yes. Why?
Arguably isn’t good enough Barry. Examples pls!
I previously understood RyanAir’s competitive advantage to simply be no frills cheap price. Wasn’t (still not) aware that they did (or were accused of doing) anything unethical.
I deliberately wrote arguably because though they’ve pulled some horrible shit, they’ve always been unambiguous – ‘we have the lowest fairs because we are zero frills, and zero compromises.’ This includes shafting people, regardless of age or frailty, who turn up at the airport without their tickets printed. Or charging “wheelchair” levies to their passengers.More from the horses mouth here: http://www.theguardian.com/…A sampler: “You’re not getting a refund so fuck off. We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?”Even though their brand is in the toilet, and as counter point to the post, 100m people will fly Ryanair this year. One persons unethical behavior, is another’s low-cost fare. Their model, unsavoury as it may be, has unlocked tremendous benefits to Europe and individual economies. And finally, O’Leary is a genius, whom most people, have grudging respect for.
I feel that Ryanair and EasyJet came to some sort of tacit understanding. They jiggled there presence at regional UK airports to give each a virtual monopoly. At my airport EasyJet departed and left the way open and clear for Ryanair to dominate. Elsewhere it was the reverse. A bit of a cartel has formed i think.
Ryanair are making a pretty big attempt at changing that perception right now. It was noticeable last time I flew with them
It may be paying off though. 1H passengers up 4%, revenue up 9%. A customer friendly Ryanair is the competition’s worst nightmare.
Fact check. Does not look like Ryanair is the largest airline by any traditional measures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…They rank 5th in one measure, which is # of passengers carried yearly. There market cap may now also be in the top 10.
I know a lot of women who avoid Uber at any cost now.
Elaborate please. Sounds like a safety issue. Have there been incident?
It’s a combo of what @ccrystle:disqus shared (there have been quite a few incidents) and the image that the company is developing as a result of decisions made by leadership.Women and their friends/colleagues are having bad experiences with the drivers, and that’s the kind of thing that many might write off as ‘bad luck.’ But a company that is run by someone who is making misogyny a core part of both his own and the company’s brand does not play well at all in 2014.A perfect storm is forming around rejection of misogyny in startups, tech, business in general, and Uber has steered its ship right into it.
Thanks. Appreciate the background…eloquently stated.
The best thing you can do is to build a relationship with an independent fleet of cars. Look for one that has 10-15 cars.I think ultimately, now that the technology is being white labeled, this could be Uber’s biggest threat.
Pricing is the issue.
What happens to Uber’s pricing once they burn through the billion subsidizing rides and also kill their competitors?That’s why they don’t want Lyft to raise more money.
What happens to Uber’s pricing once they burn through the billion subsidizing rides and also kill their competitors?Same thing that happens to Amazon’s pricing.
Amazon has multiple products and offerings to use as loss leaders though…I agree at *some* point when a true monopoly is established, they will start to rise *all* prices…but they are playing a very long game where this (likely) doesn’t happen for awhile still…and they have the model to afford to wait it out.I’m not sure Uber has the model/ability/long-term vision to truly wait it out…
Uber black is NOT any less expensive than many private black sedans.
I recently tried to set up a series of 4 rides for my kids, planning on being out of town. Great, reputable Limo company in CGY basically said – you are going to have to book the driver from 3PM to 9PM – $700.Its cheaper than that.
It’s funny you say this … at a gut level I have til now had no interest in subscribing to a service that seems shadowy. I prefer cabs with their regulation, even though there are pain points given that a lot of good drivers have gone to Uber and the others.
Pandodaily has some reporting on Uber that is worth checking out. Here’s one:http://pando.com/2014/10/22…
Try a cab in NYC or NJ that waits to stack drunk passengers when u r in the cab. Happened to my wife multiple times and she has even been dropped off on a street and asked to walk a block in the night because ‘other passengers’ will be delayed. Yellow cabs with their ‘mumbling in phone, slurping big gulps ‘ drivers suck. regulation or no regulation. Much better to be in a Uber where the Uberphone keeping a track of where you are going plus I heard that can record using the phone cameras.
.Exactly why dueling should never have been outlawed.Pistols @ ten steps?Why not?JLM
.Definitive and conclusive, no?JLM.
No question for Burr too.. Maybe we skip the next presidential debates
call me naive. but this shocked me.my crazy Uber competition story: On our return trip from Nashville recently my partner and I hopped in an Uber destined for the famous Loveless Cafe before the airport. Or at least that’s what we thought. Our driver told us he could get us to Loveless (20 min south of Downtown) but then we’d most likely be stranded. According to Uber policy, no drivers are to stray more than a few miles from Titans stadium on Sunday (game day). When I speculated “because supply and demand?”, he was clear: nope, because Lyft. Now who knows if that is true? I am just hearing so many of these recently that I presume it’s at least partially true.My old track & field coach Stu used to say that in sprint distances at least (100m, 200m, 400m), every passing glance at competing sprinters costs you valuable distance and pace. Your stride shortens. I wonder sometimes with ride sharing if competition is becoming a value-deflating obsession… and to the detriment of innovation. Someone will win, sure, but we’re not going to see any world records being set.
This driver made it clear that Uber is optimizing for market share versus Lyft. In this case that translates to no coverage at one of the city’s top restaurants during it’s busiest hour. So, yes, this was not a case of not an instance of driver shortage, which you could resolve with surge pricing. This was a case of ensuring Uber got as great a share of total rides as possible. It’s a different optimization, a different mission: Moving People (so that Lyft can’t).
Ummmmm, I’m not sure what to the think. Did you go back with lyft?
Uber is trying mighty hard to convince people it is not a commodity, but the fact that it feels the need to employ tactics like this betrays the relative weakness of the network. Facebook and Google didn’t need to kneecap competitors to solidify market share.
Matt – Uber is only as strong as its coverage. More drivers = more rides + lower pricing.Drivers are a product feature.
An easily replicable feature, especially when those drivers can simultaneously drive for Lyft et al. When all you have left to compete on is pricing, it becomes a race to the bottom.
In the great Oklahoma land rush, when you stopped to ask yourself ‘is this any where near the line that marks ethical behaviour’, you ended up with wagon wheel tracks up your back……
Perhaps they should stop treating drivers like a commodity then.
I bet they do that, when they feel their initial, vast, rapid market consolidation phase is over.And I bet they ruthlessly weed out drivers that damage the Uber brand…starting in, say, March of 2018.
They should offer them stock options in exchange for mobile app exclusivity.
That is a great idea. Maybe they do that in 2018.From what I have seen, the economics of an established black car driver going Uber are surreal (downtime goes down dramatically).Don’t know that they need to do it, in short.The bad stories stem from their desire to be even bigger than the original vision. It could be too ambitious.
Their current valuation is not based on the original vision of UberCab (otherwise they would not have originally been called UberCab).I agree it’s a great deal for black cars and SUVs, but that’s not where the growth potential is.
When I get a phone call from a company telling me that they are going to raise more money and we should think about investing in them instead or at least not investing in their competitor, I hear fear and it makes me more excited about investing in the competitor.I wonder if you really mean you can hear fear or that you imply fear from what they are asking.One of the things that is helpful is being able to parse someone’s tone and infer intent by that tone. It’s always been very helpful to me. I once raised a price on something by a large amount ($50,000) simply by hearing the tone of their voice on the first few words of a phone call. (I was going to actually lower the price before I made the phone call.) I can always tell when my wife wants something from me that she fears I won’t agree to just from the tone in her voice when she starts out and says my name. It raises an octave or two. I can always tell when someone is going to give me bad news just by the first few words on the phone. Not sure I can describe it but I know it when I hear it.  When I call to discuss what takeout to get with my wife there is always a distinct tone that she replies with we even joke about it it’s so obvious (as in “food” = “high note reply”). And so on. People who can do this take it for granted but I’m guessing not everyone is aware that others are parsing what and how they say things and making decisions based on that.Likewise when going into a call (or an in person meeting) I always like to think of it similar to being an actor playing a role.  Like “method acting” you could call it. You have to think in advance what you are trying to convey lest tipping someone off (either consciously or unconsciously) to your intent. Something to post on Soundcloud .. One (of many) of my auto responses when doing certain things along these lines is the negative head nod. Price comes out of someone’s mouth and my head starts to nod in disagreement regardless of whether I am getting what I want or not.
I still think we should do Mba Mondays business ethics the series. For basically this reason. We don’t talk enough about ethical behavior in running a business and how it affects a business’s short and long term growth.
Ethics depends on the situation and business purpose you are trying to achieve. Not everyone is the NY Times.For what Fred does ethics is extremely important because it’s a small community and more of a “word is your bond” type of thing. That’s obvious. But even in that case it doesn’t mean that other VC’s don’t earn a big buck by being unethical. And it’s their right to do that if they want. Nobody cares if Barbra “Wawa” slept her way to the top at this point, right?Otoh the people who would buy Charlie’s Lancaster Bread Company bread off the shelf of a supermarket really aren’t going to know if Charlie trash talks  the Vermont Bread Company in order to get that slot. They don’t know and quite frankly even if they did they might not care. All I know is that at the local whole foods I see Vermont Bread not Lancaster. That’s for illustration purposes not a suggestion that Charlie trash talk the Vermont Bread Company.
certain kind of ethics matter for bread – if a food contamination issue got out, they’d be screwed.
And when another VC calls me to ask about a company that competes with our portfolio company, I don’t bother to trash talk the competitor. I just tell them the pros and cons of the market, the two companies, how I think things will play out, and then let them make the investment decision on the merits. I assume the competitor is going to get funded from someone so I might as well provide an honest assessment of the situation.In that situation it is more than likely that they are (once again) listening for tone and exactly how you say what you say not just the mere words. Similar to when you call on a job reference for someone. Person called is not going to say anything overtly negative but you can usually tell by the enthusiasm (or lack of it) and and read between the lines what is really going on.
Capital is not normally a recipe for success vs competition. Product execution, network effects, go to market strategies, and a few other things are what allows companies to win the market. Access to capital and raising a boatload of it is rarely the thing that wins the market.But lack of capital means you can’t do those things.As Jack Horner said in “Bogie Nights” “The Colonel here puts up all the money for our films. It’s an important part of the process.”.
Perils of being in a commodity business!!
“And when another VC calls me to ask about a company that competes with our portfolio company, I don’t bother to trash talk the competitor. I just tell them the pros and cons of the market, the two companies, how I think things will play out, and then let them make the investment decision on the merits. “In this situation, I wonder how objective your feedback can be. There is an obvious conflict and you don’t have to go out of the way to trash the company to influence the other VC in a negative way towards the competing company. If a VC is calling you knowing that you invested in a competitor would tell me that they most likely would not invest in that company. The chances are stacked against that happening anyways.
I don’t bother to trash talk the competitor. I just tell them the pros and cons of the market, the two companies, how I think things will play out, and then let them make the investment decision on the merits.:)This is how the best founders treat competing founders too. Treat your competition as competitors, not losers. Competition is a good thing, and not just in business.I am very competitive. I played every sport and was in every club. I acted and sang. The best forms of competition are not about watching others fail; you want to win, yes, but it’s about working hard to succeed, not about wanting to watch your competition lose. The joy of competition is in the process of self-improvement. The best competitors want great competition, and they want their competition to constantly improve. Good competitors keep you in check. They make you want to get better. Competitors respect their competition.Others don’t need to lose in order for you to win. Run your own race.If you *really* want a problem solved, you should feel great that others are succeeding at it too. Because that means the problem you care so much about is being solved even faster. More market validation is good for everybody.
Microsoft is another company with famous “win at all costs” ethos. Remember “windows ain’t done til Lotus won’t run”?
i was wondering. if this blog paused for a prolonged period of time how many on here would feel the compelling need to start their own blog to continue to feed their addiction?
Uber isn’t alone. Warby Parker did the same thing to a smaller startup: http://betabeat.com/2012/03… and http://classicspecs.tumblr….Pretty lame and shows the kind of people they are.
Looks like Uber is looking for ANOTHER billion dollar raise (this time at a $25B valuation) http://recode.net/2014/11/0…
Über was an angel when it was black cars / sedans / limos only.Then came in Lyft, which literally disrupted the disruptor. And Uber turned evil since then.Uber pivoted by ripping off Lyft (wonder why no one ever talks about this pivot)Uber is not able to sustain its crazy ass $$$ fed growth, while Lyft is growing at a healthy organic rate.Now, Uber is shit scared.
Anon agree. But I use both frequently totaling north of 5K USD a month on travels and there is significant difference in QOS. UBER in NY NJ has Better & newer cars, drivers dont slurp big gulps, rides dont auto start if you are late. There is option of setting destination so drivers dont take u for a ride ;-). Customer service is much better with refunds. Overall UBER is 8/10 and Lyft is about 5 but I will agree UBER service quality is declining. I do see drivers with 3.5 star ratings now and some UBER SUV and Black car drivers start the ride before you meet them.
An interesting question is when does all this questionable behavior turn into a crime? Fraud via telecommunication, wire and cyber comes to mind. Possibly SEC violations if you are messing with a round of funding.When I left the military and defense contracting behind I remember being told by a former senior enlisted advisor to the NSA to tread lighly when applying principals of Psychological Operations, Information and Cyber Warfare in business.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…http://en.wikipedia.org/wik… I think the direct quote was don’t.
I just got back from European Utility Week – Great to see and talk to many big companies who want to see their markets develop.Should we trash-talk our competitors (who supply to energy companies / grid etc)?Nope – In a big market some have great strengths and we would rather partner with them on their good stuffIn my view if Uber is working on tripping the competition, they arent working on winning the foot racePS Uber just lost a customer until I see a change of heart !
Uber has been practising hard ball tactics in its business execution. While it may work in the US the impact of such tactics, in many parts of the world , will be considered unedifying & possbly unacceptable.It may also create a backlash which in the long run will be detrimental to the success of its business. Better to practise walking softly and executing better stealthily in many regions.
“What does that tell you about the defensibility & differentiation of a company’s services?” Well said!
If everyone stopped using Uber they wouldn’t have a business. Vote with your dollars.
This is why I STRONGLY prefer LYFT. It just tastes better. Friendly VS Pricks (Uber) who I hope implodes from their excessively high valuation when nimble and localized competitors beat them on price worldwide….in a few years.
I can fully attest this is how Fred acted in this situation. Certainly was appreciated and the right way to handle it. I have significantly more respect for Fred and am far more likely to work with him in the future.
Not to derail the conversation here, but didn’t anybody else get tweaked by this comment:”And when another VC calls me to ask about a company that competes with our portfolio company, I don’t bother to trash talk the competitor. I just tell them the pros and cons of the market, the two companies, how I think things will play out, and then let them make the investment decision on the merits. I assume the competitor is going to get funded from someone so I might as well provide an honest assessment of the situation.”What if some PE firm called some board member of a public company and said “hey, I’m thinking of funding a major competitor of yours and I’d like you to tell me something that could help me make a material decision on that investment”? This just further illustrates the different rules VCs have about ethics for themselves. Here is a VC expounding on a company’s ethics, while blatantly trodding a fine line of his own. I think the appropriate response here is “buzz off”, and to assign the requesting VC to the list of those with fuzzy ethical lines. Am I missing something here?
You should cover more of the savory and unsavory things that you’ve seen companies do over your years of experience and the good and bad things that come from them. Thanks for sharing.
Wish Foursquare had better marketing. I think it is a better product than Yelp but its marketing is weak in comparison.
testing to see if my account works
This post can easily be read as “Messing with your Competition”. And if the success of larger companies is a testimony, there seems to be no consistent deterrents preventing such behaviour. As consumers, we are part of encouraging this as well. We all love Amazon but is there no Diapers.com-like competition story behind each such player?
I had a different reaction from most of the conversation. Fred points out, not only is this (arguably) unethical, but it doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, it’s just mean-spirited; if it does, it’s a dilemma. Are there any favorite examples of capital really being the difference, where these sorts of tactics would have had a chance to materially benefit a company (outside the reputation harm)?
Sorry, they are aggressive, but not unethical.
The Wizard of Omaha published code of conduct just so there are no mis-understandings…http://www.berkshirehathawa…I wonder if VC firms publish a similar piece, Not that it is necessarily the same, Berkshire buys 100% vs VCs owning less.
Imagine the market turns against both. Lyft could have the ethical cajones to survive, while uber could be Enron in the making
++++1Here’s a little taste of what’s wrong with that companyhttp://pando.com/2014/10/22…
.I agree more with you — substantially more — than you do with yourself.I have grave misgivings about Uber.Price gougers extraordinaire?JLM.
This makes me wonder what other unethical things they do.I totally agree with your “tip of the iceberg” take on things.That said don’t think that people who appear to be all proper and on the up and up aren’t just as slippery in other ways. Normally a marker for slippery can also be someone who appears to upstanding and tries “to hard” to appear to do the right thing.
to what degree does a company reflect the character of its founder?
I know this hits close to home @ the AVC Saloon, but I got email #1 this AM and then 7 minutes later got email #2.
I have never used Lyft, but I plan to. Just downloaded the app last week. I am voting to use Lyft because of lots of unseemly unethical behaviors by Uber.
A better question would be “has anyone been able to reason with them”? They seem to be able to 1) raise more money, 2) blow past regulators, 3) be unaffected by protests, 4) continue to grow. That kind of streak would make anyone feel invincible. And they don’t think they are doing anything illegal.
Not illegal but definitely shady.. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are talented and hats off to them for sure. But there is no need for them to initiate shady tactics.
They CLEARLY are doing illegal things (some of the laws they are violating in beating admittedly corrupt laws in many of the cities that protect cabbies). To be clear, the taxi laws are ridiculous, but to say they aren’t doing anything illegal is crazy. They realize if they can become the “bigger bully” they can make a ton of money… which idk, there is clearly a line. Would it be ok to murder to make money? (obviously an admittedy exaggerated current claim). I guess while you would almost certainly agree murder is a line to far, many are saying their consistent underhanded tactics have crossed the line
Financing is a competitive marketplace and a key to growth (in the view of some, even if our Esteemed Bartender disagrees).He is competing in the marketplace and not really being that nasty (see response to Arnold below).Nice? No, Unethical? No as well.He is right on the line and he knows it, otherwise he would not be so transparent about what he is doing.
and not much different from pumping carbon dioxide into its competitors HVAC systems to make them sleepy, or putting sugar in the tanks of Lyft drivers.That breaks a law though. You trash talking Vermont Bread Company almost certainly (if handled correctly) doesn’t break a law.Not an argument for you to do that, just an illustration btw.
Seems clear to me. You?
Look Charlie it’s all what you feel comfortable with doing.My ex father in law used to run a business where he would schedule installations that he knew he couldn’t complete on the same day (alarm business). He would make promises that he couldn’t keep. He would do all sorts of shenanigans. And I can tell 1000 other stories like that of business people and things they have done. And had no problem sleeping at night either. (I could never do that if I was able to I would have made much more money…I recognize that. So once again it’s not that I am saying I am better but it’s not in my makeup to operate like that the “sleep at night” factor.)I had a case where I had a major client that I was doing work for and I that bought a machine to handle the volume ($80,000 in 1980’s dollars) and then the next month they decided to take all the work in house. Also the person who was supposed to operate the machine one of my best employees left to go out on her own.  So I was left with a machine and not enough volume and also had to find another skilled person to depend on to do the work once I found the jobs to replace what I had lost. That’s business. Your job is to navigate the storm and make hay when the sun shines and all of that.You know where the “runway” came from? My pocket not some other funding source. The customer and the employee didn’t give me advanced notice and the customer knew I was getting the machine as did the employee obviously.
I’m puzzled that no one has been able to touch them legally. They keep wiggling and going around things. There is something to be said about being able to summon a car by a touch of a button, putting more money in the car drivers’ pockets, and training drivers to be courteous and polite.
Perhaps ‘unethical’ is the wrong word. I know a few ethical pricks. You can have morals and still be an asshole. However, these tactics telegraph to employees, recruits, customers, and investors that you have to wear your flak jacket. It’s not a great message to send.
def siding with james in this beef. (on the specific issue of fundraising and competitors, not any other the other allegations regarding uber’s behavior). how is this any different than an employer who imposes an non-compete agreement with an employee? or parts supplier who wants an exclusive contract? or an exclusive contract of any kind? business is competitive, and thus it has its rough side. rough is different from unethical, though. (and frankly i don’t even consider it to be that rough)
This is hardly the only thing Uber has done that is unethical or unseemly.
Don’t get me wrong William. I think the concept is great. And I think the taxis / local politicians are pretty corrupt to protect them. What is so frustrating is that UBER is (at least in mine and other peoples opinion) only able to change it by being a “bigger bully” / more corrupt. Honestly it really reminds me of the two political parties. And I am NOT an idealitst… I realize that some “rough and tumble” must occur, but I fear that if the only way to be a corrupt incumbent is to raise more money and be part of the corruption machine, then where does that leave other startups who don’t / can’t play that game?
Part of legal theory is that what happens in court is the law. See for example hla hart, Hans Kelsen for variations on legal positivism.Get a good pr firm, a good legal firm, and thousands of users in a locale and it doesn’t matter what is on the books. You get to basically write the law.Is it undemocratic-yes. Does it undermine the law-probably not
No kidding. Despite the blowback Uber is currently experiencing largely from the tech community, consumers are going ga-ga over it. I was at Whole Foods about a week a go and overheard two ladies in passing talking about having taken a Uber. I stopped, apologized for the intrusion, and asked what they thought of it. They kept me there for 10-15 minutes bombarding me from both sides with sheer enthusiasm, walking me through the features / benefits. You could not pay someone to be that enthralled. That kind of consumer advocacy is over the top and makes Apple look like a nobody company by comparison.
Actually sounds a bit like racketeering to me.And if true pretty stupid.  To many co-conspirators who could rat the situation out for one thing.
I wouldn’t do that, but note the key phrase @ the end – on the edge.
I would not do that. Block the #s obvious answer.Cheesy, yes. And a cancellation fee (a la Car2Go) wouldn’t hurt.
I have grave misgivings about Uber.As a passenger why should that matter to me though? (I don’t use either service as it is so just asking).Price gougers extraordinaire?Where is the line between price gougers and taking advantage of a supply and demand situation?Some people think that a guy who loads up a truck in Texas and drives to Oklahoma with a bunch of generators and “jacks up the price” is a gouger and should be arrested or constrained in how much profit they are “entitled” to. (I don’t as a generality btw…)
‘surge pricing’ providers.
Come on JLM!Simple choice- regulated, evenly priced & generally lower overall QoS versus unregulated, spiky & generally higher quality of service.Both should exist.
I think much of what Sarah said is a bit to “nanny state” for my taste.Uber is a company that presents itself as a way for people to get home safely after a night of drinking. Uber passengers are often locked, alone, late at night in a metal box with Uber drivers. Because of the service Uber offers as a company, the CEO and its investors need to go out of their way to set the tone that objectification of women is simply not acceptable.What do you think? That a man who drives a cab is going to be less of a threat if they have some policy that says that women should not be objectified? That you are safer riding in a cab at that company?To me that is security theater and not real security. It wouldn’t make me feel that my daughter (who takes Uber btw) is any safer. Some men are dogs plain and simple. You get the wrong dog whether it be in a yellow cab or in a Uber or at a club at night and your toast. If Sarah thinks you can just train people to not be a threat she is kidding herself.I’ve got a good solid alternative in Lyft, and life is too precious for me to put mine at risk.So as a women she feels safer in a Lyft than in a Uber? Explain to me why that is the case. (I’m totally missing the point here in other words.)
Does your packaging say that?Also why doesn’t this page say that:http://www.thelancasterfood…
Obviously I’m not saying that you should mention your competitors.What I’m saying and what I was asking is if you mention that you don’t use chemicals and/or GMO etc. I’ve seen that on packaging and it’s made a buying decision for me.Saying “all natural” (which is of course nice to have on the package or website) is not the same as saying “no this or no that” or other impulse words. There are reasons (infer a negative) not to do that of course (depends on the situation). Like I wouldn’t say “ecoli free!!” or “our packaging repels ecoli!!!”.That said see the attached packaging and note specifically the copy (arrows that I’ve added) and the use of certain words to enhance the product and shelf appeal.
I can’t see your packaging on your website pictures are to small.Separately, you should register all of these (to name just a few):lancasterbread.comlancasterbreadco.comlancasterbreadcompany.comPlus any other product you intend to make or already make.
.When one prices a commodity while taking advantage of a disaster, then one is a price gouger.I do not think Uber is anything other than a price gouger.Fuck those Texans BTW.JLM.
.Nothing wrong w their existence. I just vote with my feet and dollars.I find Uber to be pond scum.JLM.
.Flaws do not come in one packs, they come in 24-packs.JLM.
More than 98% but not 100%.Philosophy is best word to use tho.
When one prices a commodity while taking advantage of a disaster, then one is a price gouger.Sounds very absolute. Actually sounds more like something that someone like, gasp, Obama would say!Price isn’t everything it’s only one factor.The fact that there is a disaster doesn’t mean someone else (an individual) has to not make money as a result of that disaster. Although they might. But it doesn’t make them a bad person because the price of a generator on Amazon is $265 and they decide to “jack up” the price to $400 (especially given the fact that Amazon is already selling for pennies above cost btw..)(In a disaster a generator is close to a commodity since you don’t really care about anything but it providing power…)Honestly I’d rather have some guy buying generators and “gouging” (where the assumption btw is there wouldn’t be any generators) than I would the same person choosing crime to make money. Not that it’s one or the other but actually sometimes it is.Ever buy jewelry in a jewelry store? What makes that pricing “fair”? It’s completely opaque and driven to take advantage of emotion and the buyers lack of knowledge. Diamonds are a commodity if you get them down to the 4c’s or whatever that shit is.Need to buy a car? Most people don’t buy as cheaply as I do they pay more. I’m glad there isn’t fixed pricing that way the person paying more allows me to pay less. If you walk into a car dealer and don’t play your cards right the dealer will certainly “gouge” you. And you know what? Most buyers will buy from a different dealer over $100 price differential.Lastly many people who complain about gouging wouldn’t think twice about “showrooming” they are not saints..nobody is.
From LE, Normally a marker for slippery can also be someone who appears to upstanding and tries “to hard” to appear to do the right thing. [BTW, that’s “too hard”]and just above Flaws do not come in one packs, they come in 24-packs. Once I saw a case of LE’s “too hard” that was the tip of an iceberg with JLM’s”24-pack”. The “too hard” part looked nearly angelic, but the “24-pack” part had some really nasty stuff. E.g., can argue that she long secretly and subtly but somewhat effectively sabotaged her husband and eventually basically deliberately killed him! Nasty stuff! Such things can happen!So, even in just one person, both observations can be correct.Although it can be work to get the bugs out of some software, at least the software is not actively attempting sabotage!So, here we should have identified another chapter in Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys and, here, not just girls but life.These lessons are not entirely new since, of course, there is: And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s In deepest consequence.-William Shakespeare, Macbeth Act I, Scene iii Of course from T. Boone Pickens, there is also the related To take advice from person X, checko Is person X smart?o Does person X have a conflict of interest?o Does person X love you? There’s much more in the obscureErving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. e.g., seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wik…Yes, the case I saw liked theater a lot and, really, regarded daily life as a stage performance, maybe comedy, fantasy, tragedy, farce, etc. but always fiction and just a performance.Yes, for the related:Deborah Tannen, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. Tannen’s first marriage failed, and then she started learning from Goffman.Of course, Tannen should be referenced in Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys. Such lessons are not very difficult to understand, but without some knowledgeable help it can take a while, while paying “full tuition”, to discover them.Ah, my first data gathering software is working well, and it’s giving my computer a good workout gathering some good, initial data!The driver’s side rear view mirror fell apart. I got a really nice, new one, just like the original, cheap, from Amazon. Now, while the software runs, out to the garage to put on the new mirror before “the snow flies”. Have to pop off the driver’s side door liner — done it before. And do have some of the little plastic disks for putting the liner back on!
Pond scum. Love it.
A good friend of mine made his mortgage payment driving for Uber while he was looking for work for 6 months. It was a lifesaver for him and he continues to drive on nights and weekends to pay off the debt he incurred while out of work. There was nothing else available to him where he could make $3K a month part time, and still have the time to look for a full time job.
My point is, I am voting with my dollars to use a competitor because of a whole host of crap that Uber does.