Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he’s published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.

Uber’s String of International Setbacks Continues in Israel — Fortune

Uber’s past keeps giving headaches to Uber’s present management. This time, the company is banned in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Uber has been ordered to halt a trial service in Tel Aviv that the U.S. ride-hailing company had hoped would pave the way for full operations in Israel.

Given that Uber is in more than 600 cities worldwide, at a banning a week, we’re only 11 and a half years from the end of this streak. 

Here’s what you need to know about SoftBank’s tender offer for Uber coming tomorrow — Recode

Tomorrow is the day existing Uber investors find out whether the drama has been worthwhile:

Tuesday is when a multi-billion dollar “tender offer” from Japanese investment giant SoftBank is expected to begin, according to sources tracking the process, giving Uber shareholders the chance to sell some of their stock or hold fast until the company goes public. The decision effectively asks every Uber insider to gauge their confidence in the company they built.

Curious to see whether Travis Kalanick sells any shares. Stay tuned.

Lyft Gains Permission to Test Autonomous Vehicles in California — MotorTrend

Everyone is testing autonomous vehicles in California these days: 

Ride-hailing company Lyft has received permission to test autonomous vehicles in California by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, according to a report from Reuters. Lyft is the latest to receive permission in California and joins companies like Waymo and Apple, as well as automakers Subaru, Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors.

Lyft and Waymo move to counter Uber’s autonomous aspirations. My prediction: Eventually, Alphabet will buy Lyft.

Uber’s Eternally Bad Weeks

Pity Dara Khosrowshahi, who has done yeoman’s work neatening the Uber business in the wake of its uproarious startup years. He can’t get a break from the previous mischief committed by the company’s founder. Yet, I suspect Khosrowshahi is satisfied with his work to date, as the Uber board probably is, as well.

Last week, after finally resolving board conflicts with founder Travis Kalanick, Khosrowshahi admitted the company had, under Kalanick, covered up a massive data breach and paid off the intruders without reporting the event to law enforcement or regulators. Having swept its juvenile behavior under the rug, Uber will be dealing with these malignant hairballs for years to come. How long will the company hand competitive advantages, brand confidence-building opportunities, and market share to its competitors? Forever, because it established a huge early advantage over competitors that, like Microsoft’s PC market share, is permanent and of dubious value — because it distracted Microsoft from new markets for more than a decade while Apple and Google sopped up the mobile market like gravy.

Uber’s view of local transportation markets was an incredible asset, but the insights generated by Lyft, Didi Chuxing in China, Ola in India and Grab in Southeast Asia, now rival those of Uber. This has given Lyft, in particular, an opening in the U.S. to move into enterprise services. For example, Lyft signed an agreement with corporate travel giant Carlson Wagonlit this week, giving it convenient expense management for enterprise travelers. Volkswagen today announced a Chinese on-demand transportation service (cars on demand) that mimics Cadillac, Audi, and other carmaker services that promise to change the auto purchase process over the next decade. Meanwhile, companies, such as Stratim, formerly Zirx, and others, such as Ford and GM, are jockeying for part of the on-demand automobile management market, hoping to carve out a share of transaction revenue to pay for vehicle cleaning, maintenance, and, ultimately, customer relationships with car users.

From AutoNews: Even EY is working on a software management platform, called Tesseract, to connect fleet operators, service providers and passengers. The firm is working with automotive partners to develop a system that can manage payments among all parties in a mobility service, from the car’s manufacturer to the rider — another aspect of ride-hailing services Schondorf says consumers will expect to be quick, easy and trustworthy.

This is a business Uber should own, but seems prepared to cede, along with the revenue, to competitors Not Currently Struggling With Brand Reputation. If Uber’s primary role will be the acquisition of vehicle fleets, such as its $1B Volvo deal last week and $10B Mercedes deal in March 2016, the company is taking on inventory risk that voids its earlier scale-free growth strategy: Drivers paid for vehicles until now, and Uber’s customer interface will need to be transformed from the face of the driver (and their vehicle) into a remote service business represented by the Uber app. This will be Uber’s biggest pivot, yet. The bad weeks must end for the strategy to pay off.


The Falling Cost of Video Marketing: Local Implications

Amazon today introduced AWS (Amazon Web Services) Elemental Media Services, a suite of video production and distribution tools that demonstrate, once again, the growing importance of video to local marketing and engagement. Elemental Media Services, like Azure Media Services from Microsoft and others, provide professional grade tools for virtually any organization to use. Enterprise capabilities have percolated down to Main Street, and local engagement has never looked as complex as a result. Video blended with messaging, email, web, app, and bot-enabled UX represents improved branding opportunities for small business and large. 

Bringing that communication engagement smoothly into the transactional experience is challenging. Large brands have tended to produce for national or, at the most granular, regional audiences. Local media, however, requires local stories of success with products/services, as well as a form of influence that is easily shared. Video is ideal for this intimate connection, but it requires locally connected sales and influencer engagement to activate audiences based on personal and local influencer connections. People need to be involved, telling stories that can be promoted locally to establish authentic community bona fides — the notion that the brand is not only successful but that it is successful for people in the consumer’s community. These stories get shared, but they need a platform like Elemental Media Services for successful management and follow-through on sales opportunities. 

Amazon’s dominance in transactions, which accounted for 2016 online sales, ties many sales opportunities to search and fulfillment by the retail giant. Indeed, MediaPost’s Marc Schader wonders if Amazon won’t dominate all marketing because of its growing search marketing influence: “Brands are quickly realizing that if they don’t start taking Amazon’s search capabilities seriously and get in on the “Amazon effect” now, they could find Amazon-owned brands overtaking their own market share.”

Which leads to the question for local retailers and service providers: Where to plug into local video marketing services? AWS and Azure, among others, have attractively priced video services, but Amazon’s comes with implicit and explicit tie-ins to Amazon’s retail search that could turn a local marketing investment into an Amazon marketing benefit — a local retailer’s advertisement could convert into an Amazon sale of the advertised product. This isn’t to say that Amazon video is necessarily a bad choice for local marketers. Instead, the system needs reporting tools that display clearly the transactional outcomes of local campaigns. 

Recent movements among brand marketers to demand transparency in media results are another facet of this issue. Enterprise marketers, such as Unilever and P&G, now want to understand how their marketing spend benefits participants in their own and competitors’ supply chains. A transparent marketing environment will benefit consumers and marketers alike, but the advantage lies with the entity with the transactional opportunity, which is, in many cases, Amazon.

Zego picks up £6M Series A led by Balderton for its gig economy worker insurance | TechCrunch

Insurance by the hour. A billing cadence or a business model?

Founded by Harry Franks, Sten Saar and Stuart Kelly in 2016, Zego has set out to re-invent commercial insurance for self-employed people, with a particular focus on contractors powering various parts of the gig economy. Its first product is pay-as-you-go scooter and car insurance for food delivery workers utilising platforms such as the Deliveroos of the world.

Source: Zego picks up £6M Series A led by Balderton for its gig economy worker insurance | TechCrunch

Some Instacart workers to strike over pay that can be as low as $1 per hour | Ars Technica

A “strike” in on-demand is failing to show up for work, something that is very hard to enforce in a virtual community. With Instacart’s “commission” structure, which provides the base pay for a delivery, local factors can bring compensation way down, to “just $1” in Evansville, Indiana.

One of the strike’s leaders is Matthew Telles, a Chicago-based shopper who has been with Instacart for two years. He was also one of the named plaintiffs in a lawsuit (Camp et al v. Maplebear dba Instacart) that resulted in a $4.6 million preliminary settlement, which is set to be finalized in a Los Angeles court in January 2018. (Telles is set to receive $681 as part of the settlement.)

Source: Some Instacart workers to strike over pay that can be as low as $1 per hour | Ars Technica

We’re joining Lyft! – Kamcord

Kamcord, a game streaming developer, has been acquired by Lyft and announced it is closing existing services to focus on video engagement in autonomous Lyft vehicles. Interesting.

The transportation space is very different from mobile live streaming but we see a lot of parallels. Prior to Kamcord, broadcasting your mobile screen involved cables and desktop software. As Steve Jobs would say, YUCK! We simplified the process to one tap on your phone and invested heavily in making the broadcaster-viewer interactions natural and fun. In many ways, Lyft has done the same thing for getting from point A to point B, pioneering the peer-to-peer ridesharing model and placing an importance on a

Source: We’re joining Lyft! – Kamcord – Medium

Volvo Cars to supply tens of thousands of autonomous drive compatible cars to Uber – Volvo Car Group Global Media Newsroom

Uber and Volvo move to deliver the first fleet of autonomous ride-sharing cars. This comes sooner than many expected, and raises a very important question about Uber, which has relied on drivers to supply, clean, and maintain cars in the past: Is there any margin in autonomous vehicles? The acquisition of 24,000 self-driving cars for approximately $1 billion will require management and maintenance of those vehicles be performed by Uber, which, at let us say $30 a day in maintenance fees (24,000 x $30 x 30 days = $21 million a month in costs — or $259 million annually, and we haven’t covered parking, fuel costs, and cleaning up after messy riders intra-day).

Taking humans out of the car provisioning equation doesn’t pencil out. Uber’s model benefitted from individual ownership of vehicles.

Volvo Cars, the premium car maker, has signed a framework agreement with Uber, the ride sharing company, to sell tens of thousands of autonomous driving compatible base vehicles between 2019 and 2021.

Source: Volvo Cars to supply tens of thousands of autonomous drive compatible cars to Uber – Volvo Car Group Global Media Newsroom

Fines for firms that cheat on status of gig workers | The Times & The Sunday Times

U.K. politicians have made gig work a hot-button issue as Tories and Labour vie for post-Brexit influence. This will spread to the U.S.,. and companies need to get ahead of regulators by finding solutions for on-demand work benefits and safety net services.

Companies should face punitive fines for falsely classifying workers as self-employed and denying them benefits such as holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and pensions, under proposals by MPs to crack down on abuses of the gig economy.

Source: Fines for firms that cheat on status of gig workers | Business | The Times & The Sunday Times