I wish they didn't hire so irresponsibly back in 2015 and 2016.
Can confirm this. It was a very poorly managed org because it was extremely grassroots driven—leadership was underempowered to say no to front line teams or hold groups accountable.
The overlaps and poorly considered projects described above are not an exaggeration. Many of them were designed for building the lead engineer's open source brand, not for company needs. Half of the projects described above have since been canceled.
Contrary to their glossy open source and tech blog presentations, these projects were highly contentious internally and widely viewed as inferior to industry counterparts. Each of these projects had 5-20 engineers working on them for over a year; many of them are being EOLed or phased out currently. And this is just the list that I can publicly talk about. This development came at extraordinary cost for the org and, in the case of the people who were laid off, cost to people's careers.
Do teams just work on random projects like the above while other people fix bugs? Is it like a million mini startups internally all pitching an idea to the CEO all the time?
Or do you need 90% of people focused on how to develop your product at first, then suddenly it flips and you need 90% of your engineers to balance enormous amounts of network traffic and data storage?
Many of the projects are just a response to some other internal problem, like "the teams aren't using a shared platform", so they build a platform for the platforms. Persistent problems get ignored because nobody wants to rock the boat. The joys of working in a large corporation...
This is a great way to have engineers burn time on projects they think are interesting rather than projects that will actually have good ROI.
Larger companies with substantial profits can hire engineers explicitly to come up with POCs one after another.
I've seen a lot of vanity projects over the years, and often it feels like this, or a form of in-house retirement. That guy has done so much for us that now we just let him do whatever as long as HR is okay with it.
I do agree there were definitely projects that were overly ambitious and optimistic that likely that should have been better planned. I think you are weighted firmly at one end of the spectrum however. I have some obvious bias being involved in one of the projects you outlined, but I still think you are blindly covering a swathe of projects in one go without any nuance at all.
The project page states "M3, a metrics platform, and M3DB, a distributed time series database, were developed at Uber out of necessity. After using what was available as open source and finding we were unable to use them at our scale due to issues with their reliability, cost and operationally intensive nature we built our own metrics platform piece by piece."
I'm especially curious about Schemaless, since it seemed like at one point every company tried to build a NoSQL KV store on top of sharded MySQL, realized how janky it is, and are currently decommissioning it.
The development team is pretty active. They've been doing an important effort to gain community adoption, e.g. persistency with MySQL, Postgre in the works, Prometheus style metrics, a proposal process or design docs. Very interesting.
I fail to see how.
Considering Uber is reinventing the wheel a lot, the people who were laid off where probably working on some interesting problems. Uber is a fairly well known brand. Unless they are incredibly inapt at selling themselves, their career should do fine.
You're only in a bad bargaining position if you need a job to pay your bills.
The key in the discussion with the recruiter is not to say that you are unemployed but to say that you're taking time for yourself and looking for opportunities that meet your professional desires and baseline financial expectations. The key is to make it clear that you have no financial needs, just financial expectations.
Be prepared to use the Noel Smith-Wenkle salary negotiation method.
I took six months off after a large liquidity event and then went back into the job market. I don't think I lost any negotiating power - the trick was to make sure I times the interviews so that I'd have several offers at the same time and then could use the fact that company X was offering a certain amount to ensure I got the job at the company I liked the most.
I do just want to say one thing: most tech investors now think we are in a bubble. A downturn is likely at some point. Now would be a very good time to ensure you have six months of expenses in a savings account so you don't have to take the first job you get offered - I had to do that in 2008 after the financial crisis hit and my startup died and it wasn't a fun time.
There is a similar effect people have when they reach a certain level of financial independence - not only are offers better, but negotiation is much easier. Companies react to confidence (whatever the source) the same way individuals do.
Also it sounds like Uber needs to fire it's CTO.
Seems like you probably got a lot of shares and were lucky. Now that they IPO'd, do you consider that you came out ahead financially (compared to working elsewhere)?
That said with dilution, it's likely 2015 share price is less than it is today.
I think they moved to RSU's in mid 2015 or 16.
That said, Schemaless isn't going anywhere. Cassandra doesn't cover all the use-cases.
Except the people who were laid off, if they have been there a while, got much deep knowledge than if they just glued together a bunch of AWS stuff.
Gluing together AWS stuff can get you a good job, but it's not the same as solving these sort of problems.
I'd rather spend 3 years working on this and get laid off than the way I spent my last 3. Guarantee I'd be in a much better spot in the job market too.
Instead I'm trying to figure out how the fuck I get my career back on track because I'm headed towards the sort of job I will hate every single day.
But that's just it: the problems were not solved. Personally I would rather devote years of my career building something that actually works by standing on the shoulders of giants, than going full NIH and wasting those years on a clunky POS that will be mothballed before the decade is out.
But hey, I chose science.
I remember doing that too, once upon a time. I invented a templating system based on Lisp for building web apps, back in the days when there were servlets, but no Java Server Pages (or Handlebars, or jsx, or anything we have today).
The templating system was wonderful, and it did improve developer productivity for our group, but there is NO WAY WHATSOEVER that it paid back the time I put into it.
The business would have been much better off if we'd simply used what was available and spent the majority of our time solving business problems, not developer productivity problems.
Furthermore, my templating system didn't wind up being that special. You know why? Because I wasn't really solving a business problem with it, so I had no constraints upon my design. Without constraints, such things meander from shiny bauble to shiny bauble according to the engineer's whims and fancies.
When you're solving an actual problem, you have constraints in time, resources, and solution. This forces you to create actual value. That makes what you build actually useful. But when you're building a thing because you want to play with the thing, you have no constraints, and rather than freeing you to create something amazing, this simply sucks you into making something that is worthless for anything except résumé-building.
"Ah, but my résumé," says the narcissist who feels no obligation to create value for their employer. I have bad news, and I am speaking from experience. If you build a bunch of things with way-cool tech that created no value, you become an ignorant person's idea of a smart developer.
Sure, you can get hired by people who don't really understand how to manage engineering, and they will throw money at you, but their ignorance combined with your self-serving ways will result in another disaster. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Good engineering cultures will ask you about your projects, and they will ferret out the fact that your projects did not add value, and did not "move the needle." I am not hypothesizing this, I have gone to interviews and had the interviewers grill me on my vanity efforts.
You cannot pull the wool over the eyes of anyone who has been through a cycle like this and is determined to never have it happen again. You can put lipstick on a pig, but there's no way to hide the fact that all projects like this wind up becoming ad-hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementations of half of the thing you should have used instead of building your own.
Now all is not doom and gloom. For everyone who has done this, either deliberately or by being dragged into one of these white elephant projects, there is a way to supercharge your career going forward.
Instead of boasting about your ability to write Lisp-based templating systems, or synchronization protocols based on Operational Transformations, or whatever it is you built, try confessing to it.
Point out the engineering experience, but then be up front that the project was a failure/bad idea. Sure, point out that you learned some great tech. But spend much more time talking about how much you learned about failure modes for projects. Talk about the scars.
Companied worth working for are eager to hire people who know better. Position yourself as someone who has learned these lessons the hard way.
Learning those lessons the hard way still requires doing those projects, which means you learn how the tech works, which means I still feel 100% justified in my previous statements.
I want to work on a project like this that actually has lasting value to the company. Actually does something novel enough that it's worth doing.
How do I get there? Is the only way to win the lottery and get placed there as a new grad/junior engineer?
Cause that seems like what you're saying.
I know it's very hard to get jobs in established good companies, but there are also quality startups, founded by people who have these kinds of scars already and won't go down the path of building things nobody needs.
Here's a specific tip:
When interviewing, there's a point where you get to ask them questions. Great! Ask about projects like these. Is the company working on any of its own tech that could otherwise be rented from Amazon or is available as open-source? Why? What is the expected benefit? If not, how do they manage development to stay focused on projects that deliver value?
By asking these questions you will identify engineering groups that are strong or weak, and you will also send them a strong signal that you care about success. Good companies will pick up on that signal and be more inclined to hire you.
JM2C. My advice plus $3.00 will get you a latte at Starbucks.
* This is not a dichotomy, of course.
Most of the things we should use instead of building our own are either currently someone's shiny, golden side project with no business case, or else started that way.
Take chat, hipcat is like 5-10 bucks per month per user. Uber has about 20k FTEs, 40k contractors all use chat. That's 3 to 600k per month just on chat.
Don't forget scale is expensive.
I can't imagine how much that many slack licenses would cost.
In my experience this is one of the most toxic diseases an engineering org can catch. It often comes from smart, technically capable engineers who are more concerned with impressing their peers than growing the company. They come up with a BS reason to re-implement some rock solid 3rd party tech, spend ages doing it, only to leave the company as it starts to comes crumbling down. At that point other engineers have to put in massive effort to rip out their buggy timesink, and replace it with the open source library/database/protocol/whatever that was the obvious choice from the start.
If people like this exist in your org, you either need to convince them of the error of their ways, or let them go. The damage they cause when left unchecked is just too great.
Well, if the company's business is connecting drivers with riders, there isn't much engineering involved in growing the company. Pricing, handling investors, PR/advertising and working with municipal governments does affect your growth. The exact details on how you store the destination's GPS coordinates in the database don't really matter. A good product manager who understands usability and can communicate their ideas to the management can add some value, but having a 20% lower price than the competitors do will make 90% of the users ignore any usability hiccups.
Hiring thousands of engineers to maintain a process that only needs a handful is perfectly reasonable, since the investors don't understand tech and generally like the head count. So this is critical for raising VC capital needed to subsidize the rides, that in turns gives great growth numbers.
A typical developer doesn't understand these mechanics. And even if they did, the only alternative to delivering useless unneeded results would be to resign, except good luck finding a competitively paying non-bullshit job in the current market.
All have had the same experience re: there being more feature work and tech debt elimination than they have the resources to complete.
So, whenever a technical team identified a need for X, there was a lot of time putting into understanding the problem, understanding the company's real needs, and figuring out the simplest thing that would get the job done. If there was an off-the-shelf product that did one thing and did it well (e.g., protocol buffers for serializing datagrams), that would get chosen. If everything out there was a confusing pile of feature creep that was trying to be all things to all people (e.g., configuration management), an in-house product would get launched.
TBH, the tech stack was a joy to work on. Especially that home-grown configuration management system. So simple, so effective.
I've never worked for Uber or anything, but I've attended a few lectures and conference sessions where Uber engineers presented things they worked on, and my sense was that that wasn't at all what was happening there. Most the projects I saw seemed to be motivated by resume-driven development. Which is absolutely the way to go if you want to end up with solutions that are complicated, hard to manage, and half-implemented.
For example, automated package management was banned at the company level. Instead there was a central repository of approved packages that everyone used. That's actually another great example of figuring out the simplest solution that would work: It ensured internal consistency in a way that more-or-less eliminated a problem that is more commonly solved with baroque solutions like containerization. It gave tech ops a really, really easy place to go look when they needed to do security audits on our dependencies or for pushing security updates. And it made it easy for legal to keep an eye on compliance. Stuff like that. Honestly, I thought it worked really, really, amazingly well. And I'd have never thought of it, because it flies in the face of 20 years' worth of the entire software field pulling things in in a completely different, much fancier and more complicated and bell-y and whistle-y, direction.
Also, most of what was going on was so simple you wouldn't even be able to turn it into an open source project. Like, I know that the official wisdom is that you're not supposed to route your event streaming system through a database, but wow, assuming you're willing to shell out for a commercial RDBMS, it's amazing how far you can scale an event streaming mechanism that routes everything through database tables. And don't even get me started on how easy it was to support in production. Sometimes I have to remind myself, open source is only free when your programmers aren't drawing a paycheck.
Do you mean they had a private dpkg/yum repository? That is a well supported and somewhat common setup, and counts as automated package management (your application gets packaged up as a .deb or .rpm with the necessary dependency and installation info).
> It ensured internal consistency in a way that more-or-less eliminated a problem that is more commonly solved with baroque solutions like containerization.
I worked at a company with that kind of build/deployment system. About the time of the start of Docker mania, a corporate merger happened, and the acquiring company, in addition to buying the company I worked for, also bought into the hype, and insisted the build and deployment process go through Docker. Early days of shitty Docker tooling meant a ridiculous amount of time spent by one of my colleagues getting the system working, with the result that build and deploy times went up an order of magnitude, and debugging got a lot harder. Containers are not a substitute for package managers or automated provisioning.
All libraries were collected into a single repository in source control that developers would clone onto their machines and use. These were the same libraries that were installed on the production servers. Very consistently, modulo major platform migrations and the fact of running multiple server OSes in production.
Binaries were named and versioned tarballs that were deployed by just unzipping them on the target server. That was all that was necessary, regardless of server OS, because of the abovementioned consistency in what shared libraries were installed on the servers.
With those standards in place, CI, CD, configuration management, all those sorts of things became just wildly simple.
It's a bit like Bazel's golden handcuffs: If you're willing to let go of the basket case of flexibility that C and C++ have traditionally offered, Bazel can deliver you a build system that's just a dream to work with compared to old friends like autotools and CMake.
My company has similar stories. When you look at the amount of requests per second we're actually dealing with, there are plenty of other companies doing something far less "sophisticated" and handling more traffic.
Keep it Simple, Stupid.
Allowing for heterogeneity is a blindspot for a lot of wannabe architects. We have a system where most of the code is dominated by 2 platforms and there is no way to democratically add/test/demo new routes that don't go through one of those two. And every change has to be able to deal with production traffic levels from word one. Similar with deployment management.
In this sort of climate, there is no incentive to ever go back and revisit NIH vs off-the-shelf tools that has now outstripped the functionality of the in-house tool. When the friction is so high it's a non-starter. And when some of those NIH projects started in ignorance (ie, a tool existed and was already mature enough to start using, but the author didn't find it) it represents extra frustration.
At some point your engineers figure out nothing they are working on will present well on their resume, and they either get burnt out or flea.
Shouldn't the fact that they were part of standing up solid reasonable solutions reflect well on their resume, to reasonable hiring managers elsewhere?
Citation needed? AFAIK Uber was using Facebook's Buck and decided to move to Bazel for stacks where Buck is admittedly not good at (e.g. Go). I'm not aware of any org within Uber reinventing Bazel. The web org might be closest to what you're claiming, but even there, it merely wraps over Bazel to bridge over its shortcomings (i.e. package management is typically done "outside" of Bazel, via yarn/npm in web, as seen in the official rules_nodejs and other 3rd party spin-off rulesets)
Yes, that's exactly how it works. It helps you move from manager to senior manager. It helps your boss move from senior manager to director, etc.
Growing your team is management 101 for anyone with a minimum politically astute. So if the message you get "from above" is that the budget is unlimited (which honestly seems to have been the case at Uber) then you dream up any justification to increase your headcount.
This is hilarious, given they Bazel is the public version of Google-internal Blaze
That said, a lot of these sorts of systems are notorious for being pretty awful, too. Yes, there are many millions of man-hours poured into them, but that doesn't mean they're good; those man-hours could very well be spent on trying to implement every bell and whistle under the sun while entirely neglecting bug fixes, for example (and - speaking from experience - that is a disturbingly-common example). Also, having a bad UX can (and often is) a fatal problem for such a system (sometimes even in a tragically-literal sense, e.g. with EMR/EHR systems and other medical software); the whole point of business software is to optimize user productivity, so the last thing you want is to make the user's life harder.
So yeah, tradeoffs. If you're gonna fall into the DIY trap, the key would be to not try to replace the entire ERP or entire WMS in one go, but rather to build smaller tools that optimize specific business processes, and make sure those tools stay small and maintainable; any expansion of features should happen through interoperability between tools rather than trying to build a giant bloated tool. If you're thinking "wow, that sounds like the Unix philosophy" and/or "wow, that sounds like microservices", that thought ain't exactly a coincidence.
The biggest thing that people who try to roll their own fail on is this right here.
It is scary how many systems cannot be audited this way because the engineers and business owners had no understanding of basic accounting concepts like double entry book keeping.
Systems that are not designed to be easy to financially audit are either going to overbill or underbill customers. It isn’t a matter of if, but when...
For example: let's say you have a warehouse management system, which tracks inventory movements in a warehouse / fulfillment center that ships, say, toothbrushes to customers. Multiple customers call in with complaints about getting blue toothbrushes when they ordered red toothbrushes. Seeing as how this is clearly not an isolated incident (multiple people are upset about not getting the right toothbrush!), it's up to you to find out where in the whole lifecycle of that toothbrush in your warehouse - all the way from when it was received to when it was shipped - that error might be happening. If your warehouse management system is completely auditable, then you'll be able query the transaction log (given perhaps the affected order and item numbers) to work backwards to investigate where the fault occurred, be it in shipping, picking, replenishment, receiving, the vendor, or what have you.
The "incumbent" off-the-shelf ERP and WMS vendors tend to support this sort of comprehensive audit trail much more thoroughly than those writing new ones (whether as an in-house project or as a startup attempting to disrupt the space), simply because those incumbents have already had their hard-earned lessons on why literally every transaction must be thoroughly logged (whereas the newcomers and DIYers typically have not, or are in the process of learning as they encounter more and more situations where that audit trail is necessary).
Any system, e.g. SAP, that has a proofen track record in that, that is SOX compliant, is a huge benefit in that regard. Also for the company itself, IMHO, as the company is forced to work in compliant ways that just make life a lot easier.
Skylark (renamed Starlark) is the extension mechanism. It's exactly the same in Blaze and Bazel.
Source: I work on Blaze/Bazel, and I'm the lead for Starlark.
And functionality (and architecture?); I started my career at Google, and am now at a mid-size place that uses Bazel and it's almost identical from an interface perspective
 - https://github.com/bazelbuild/bazel/search?q=blaze&unscoped_...
It seems like everyone does that.
and it makes sense cause if given any chance to do it I'd jump on it immediately.
Uber switch to Schemaless from a Postgres cluster, claiming that Postgres "does not scale for Uber". I see irony in that piece of Uber history. Particularly, Uber always claimed that some OS solution "had serious reliability issues". Cassandra in 2014 worked for companies that had orders of magnitude of traffic, yet Uber found it unusable. Similarly, Uber switched from MySQL to Postgres and then from Postgres to MySQL. Each time Uber published an article to claim engineering victory. The truth is that any of the three systems would be perfectly fine for Uber. Oh, didn't someone also claim that Elaticsearch crashed under Uber's load" and JVM-based systems were not usable for Uber's scale? " before Uber ended up adopting Elasticsearch?
What really happened was that some teams in Uber simply didn't want to dive deep and produce objective tech assessment.
The Dunning-Kruger quotient is especially high.
What I've always wondered is, why do people get so excited about working on ideas that they themselves characterize as 'simple'? The level of excitement around these sorts of projects does not match the level of rhetoric. You put the second rate people on the 'simple' stuff. You save some of the meaty bits for yourself.
Which means that in your head, you know that KV stores are actually pretty complicated to get right. You either aren't admitting that to yourself or to the org or both. It just screams cognitive dissonance.
Because if you were brutally honest and up front about it being complicated, you'd select a good one and have your fun elsewhere, say in using or scaling the KV system instead of building it.
I've been in many orgs where engineers like to reinvent the wheel. Just so they can claim ownership over more components, add polish to resumes ("Led project to rewrite X to scale", "built X from scratch") and makes them look busy. When it comes to perf reviews, or when it comes to job cuts, they'd likely survive given they know more / built those components.
In the recent past there have been a lot (hundreds?) of startups and a few dozen larger players fighting to hire in an environment with virtually zero unemployment. There are thousands of empty jobs waiting to be filled. Hence if you live around here and have tech something on your resume, it's 3-5 recruiter emails a day.
Across three rounds, Uber has let go ~1000 people. I have no idea how many are in the Bay Area, but to pick a random number and say "half," that's ~500 new people in the labor market who are probably well qualified for the rest of the open jobs.
By itself that's pretty healthy, and should actually help a lot of smaller companies in particular to be able to get "butts in seats."
But with this whole thing of "the window being open," and a lot of recent IPOs, if we start seeing a lot of the other IPO companies engage in similar layoffs, it's not hard to imagine we end up with a few thousand qualified people suddenly looking for jobs.
Is there still so much demand that the market swallows that up without noticing? Is it just enough that it helps take some of the pressure off locally, that labor demand dips but remains healthy? Or is it enough that employers can start being pickier, or stingier with their offers?
I don't know, and I'm not sure how you estimate the impact of something like that, but it's an interesting question to me. Anyone with a labor economics background have an idea how many layoffs it would take to get Bay Area supply/demand in balance?
I think as long as the VC investment keeps growing the layoffs won't matter much.
If the layoffs continue and VC investments steadies or declines, I don't think it takes many months until there's suddenly more supply than demand, and companies start being more selective about who they hire, and offered salaries stop increasing (and maybe even decline).
Think about it. Uber is the biggest IPO by far. They're laying off only 1000 people. Even if they're all in The Bay, and even if all the other recent IPOs go through similar (but proportional) layoffs -- you're talking about maybe 5000 layoffs max. That's a lot.
Bay Area investment in 2018 was $27.5B . Nationally, since 2007 (and I pick that since it's the last peak), VC investment has increased by 11.13% per year.
If the Bay Area gets an extra ~$3B next year in VC money, that could absorb the 5000 layoffs pretty easily.
Obviously there could be any other exogenous shock that causes even more layoffs. Obviously VC investment could fall off a cliff. Obviously I can't predict the future.
It's the senior engineers (5+ years) which have multiple emails from recruiters and are in really high demand, not so much junior engineers.
Look at the last StackOverflow dev survey: the number of devs with 0-5 years of experience is almost double the number of devs with 6-10 years. That means the number of senior engineers will be increasing very rapidly over the next 5 years. You can bet it's going to be much harder to get a job in about 5 years or so, layoff or not.
The unemployment statistics don't match what you're saying here, at all.
Just looked at it.
In 2018 there were 87,259 responses and 72,688 in 2019.
Developers with less than 5 years experience were 35% in 2018 and 13.4% in 2019.
Less than 5 years 41%
5-10 years 27%
10-15 years 14%
As you can see, there has been a massive supply increase of junior engineers (probably entering the industry). And this massive increase will in a few years result in a massive increase in senior engineers. Right now being a senior engineer is still a huge advantage but that will diminish quickly over time.
"Years since graduating" != "progress to senior engineer"
Plenty of people who graduated a few decades ago never reach a senior level. It is not about simply about whiling the time away until you have "10 years of job experience"
data scientists is a step up from that, and typically requires a PHD and will utilize more sophisticated statistical models.
You get used to it after being in the startup scene for even a few years. Everyone just bounces around to whatever nonsense gets financed.
Comcast, Samsung, Microsoft, Clorox, Walmart, Bank of America heck Honda and other Auto manufacturers have large presences in this area and traditionally are not as attractive to a lot of talented engineers as startups or the FANG companies. I'd think that you'd see these guys start picking up a lot of the excess talent if the market started getting flooded.
There's a ton of slack here that would gobble up talent outside of the traditional VC funded group. They're good jobs too if you're looking for stability.
I’m sure Google or someone would pay a TON of money to have them all sent down to Mountain View for the day to do a huge round of interviewing. The same way they do for smaller-scale startup acqui-hires.
It doesn't affect the point you are making, but I believe the first big round of layoffs they did (about 400 I think?) were mainly marketing folks. I could be wrong, but I feel like those positions are not quite as in demand as tech workers in the bay area.
Eventually it will get there, but that will come coupled with an overall economic recession. While there's some instability with failed VC companies, there's still WAY too much capital in the system to not keep everyone employed for a long while, as long as there is even the chance of investments panning out.
With the looming fear of recession in near term, fully expect hardship ahead.
- Last quarter of UBER's $1.2b operating loss almost 50% of that is from UBER eats subsidies. They paid $544m more to drivers to deliver food than they took in. Why? (a) It is their fastest growing (by %) division (2) It's arguably the most valuable battleground in logistics - developing a "last mile" delivery network at scale.
- Their core business - ridesharing - has improved their gross margin and unit economics quarter-over-quarter to the point that operating and discounting losses here are almost non-material (less than $22m total worldwide this quarter, representing less than 1/2 a percent of total ride sharing revenue).
- In addition another area of analyst criticism has been losses in their "other bets" which is almost certainly their freight brokering network at -$50m, and the losses appear to be diminishing.
Seems to me like these layoffs are analyst signaling that there are still inefficiencies in those departments, UBER is aware and working on in preparation for Q3 finances.
But it's also hard to get the prices up enough without people just getting off their lazy asses and buying food.
source: price goes up I get up off my lazy ass.
That's pretty good. Seems like there's a huge incentive to just start a bunch of big projects when you raise such giant rounds of money.
Is this supposed to be evidence of a sound company or a strike against them?
After Wework I really can't tell.
I remember their quarterly calls spending much more time on the accounting maneuvers that generated the cash to cover losses than other parts of the business.
It's a mug's game.
The game becomes a matter of how efficiently you can map multiple orders to a single delivery driver and the more demand you have the more likely you are to be able to allocate multiple delivers to a specific driver. The more orders you can allocate to a single driver the more margin you have.
Adding to which, the most profitable markets are the dense cities where there are already strong incumbents, which goes to pouring in capital as a substitute for building a business organically.
I think Uber has way overhired but this doesn't seem to be the signal a lot of you all are making it to be.
The economics of one driver picking up one order and delivering it just don’t make sense to me.
Maybe I'm just some weird statistical anomaly?
I went to a McDonalds today and the line of cars in the drive-thru was out of the lot. I went inside, and there was no line. People will go to lengths to not leave their bubble (in this case, their cars). A fast food company could make a killing if they can get the menu/vehicle right.
Importantly, though, the food trucks stay in a single location for at least the duration of an entire meal service. They aren't roving around the whole day.
I suspect that Uber Eats, Door Dash et al. do not want those figures published because it makes the profitability issues glaringly obvious.
There is a reason pizza has been the primary delivery food for such a long time-- most other meals are more complex to prepare/transport and harder to keep at proper serving temperature & texture. When you add customization to the mix, it's even worse.
That seems like a very small lay-off. From reading the article it sounds like this is full time employees, not gig workers.
A lot of this is just managers that don't want to be confrontational and firing the guy who just isn't working out but seems perfectly happy to just keep sucking at his job. These 10% haircuts give them the excuse they need to do their job.
However, some well qualified engineers won't be bullied by such routines: they'll simply go work somewhere they're appreciated.
You could argue that they did it in the stupidest way though.
When it occurs they’ll email departments and say something along the lines of “we have an ongoing lay-off, please stack rank employees by need”
Then you cut the bottom. It’s something GE did for quite a while.
> So now he has this other job. No brightness or creativity involved -- but no
cooperation either. Just a single principle: The Deliverator stands tall, your
pie in thirty minutes or you can have it free, shoot the driver, take his car,
file a class-action suit. The Deliverator has been working this job for six
months, a rich and lengthy tenure by his standards, and has never delivered a
pizza in more than twenty-one minutes.
The purpose of the lay offs is to keep everyone else working even harder. People will work even harder to keep their jobs.
1185 x $150000 average salary per employee (guessing at the numbers) yields annual savings for the company of $177.75 million. A sizable chunk, I suppose, but they lost 656 million EBITDA just last quarter, or around three times that amount.
Yes, let's assume people who did not work in a sane environment, who have never seen how to make a profit, yes, let's give them funding. Same BS as all the ex-Googlers who immediately ran most of their start ups into the ground (after 6-7 awesome funding rounds of course).
Let's be clear, the ex-Uber founders will make mint, given what happens in those endless funding round pyramids. But for anyone considering joining those rackets? Goooooood luck.
I’m going to call bullshit. Have many Googlers started startups that failed? Yes, but that’s the default state for startups so it hardly seems notable. I doubt the failure rate for ex-Googler founders is any higher than for regular founders. In fact, I suspect it’s higher, if only because they’re probably more likely than the average founder to be able to raise a round, and that likely increases your success rate vs the average startup. But you’re still probably going to fail.
What I take exception to is the 6-7 rounds of funding. A tiny, tiny fraction of companies raise more than 3 rounds, so the idea that there’s a “very large list” of failed companies started by ex-Googlers who have raised 6-7 rounds is total hogwash. Your hand-waving “you’ve never heard of them” notwithstanding.
Stick to engineering, it's better.
I'm just here for the free pizza. :P
It would have to be based on valuation built or ROI rather than outcomes becuase we all know the top-VCs almost always find a home for even their failed startups and PR it as a win
Ex-Uber engineers are probably just as good as ever. It's not like they were the ones tinkering with competition, business model, profitability, whatever.
Their task was to execute on engineering goals and Uber hires pretty good engineers to do that.
They seem to be run quite differently though to Uber / Deliveroo, probably because VC money doesn't or didn't flow quite as easily in Barcelona as it does in California.
They talk about how it's a matter of timing and not entering markets with two established players, but I think the key for them has been only bothering with places which have a combination of low salary expectations/requirements and high densities (southern Europe, Latin America, Africa).
I imagine that it's the driver pay in high-pay societies which blows up the economics of it.
Also give how aggressively they were hiring in the run up to IPO, a lot of people are probably nearing the 1yr cliff.
Nov 4th: Q3 Earnings
Nov 6th: Blackout ends 2 days after earnings
Nov 6th: Lockup expires
 - https://investor.uber.com/news-events/news/press-release-det...
That strategy is precisely: Get big fast. That means hire a bunch of engineers, build out an expensive infrastructure, consume a lot of office space. Sell.
Nowhere in that strategy is: Earn a lot of money. Do it cheaply.
The VC world doesn't care about earnings. They don't care about profit. The value of a business to VC only comes when it is sold to someone else. You don't need something really good to sell it to someone else. You just need someone to believe it is worth the amount of money you want to sell it for.
The problem with that strategy now is that the public is wising up to them. We ain't your fool anymore VC. Go home.
While I'm not in one of the big cities like NYC/LA/SF or in a big tech area, my state or metro area isn't tiny either. I've since stopped trying all of the tech-company food delivery services and likely won't be going back. Also, not too keen on them skimming tips.
Uber Eats and competitors like Deliveroo offer generally much better food, restaurant quality (just colder), but always do it at a much higher price.
I think there’s a market for it, but I wonder if when the VC funds run out and the subsidies dry up, will much of the market move back to just ordering “normal” takeout? Maybe this is the top end of the market and maybe it’s a much smaller business.
They'll get around $9 million simply for building their complex:
And what does it mean to build an entire skyscraper for themselves? I thought these things were leased out by floor to multiple companies.
Flying taxis are actually a lot less crazy of an idea, although it is still very difficult technology that will cost a lot of money. Kitty Hawk's Cora is going to act like a sky shuttle for tourist locations in New Zealand and plans to begin testing soon (it will probably be delayed, but the technological viability is there). There are obviously technological challenges to be solved in that space, but the biggest one is probably noise. Kitty Hawk also has the Heaviside which is very quiet (only unmanned tests so far, but it's legit). But this is a single-person short-range toy for rich people. There is also the Lilium "jet" which is an industry favorite, and the Opener Blackfly. Fun fact: Larry Page owns most of the companies I just listed and is kind of obsessed with flying cars.
People have run the numbers. You can build an eVTOL aircraft with enough range to work for something like Uber Elevate is designing. But they are ignoring noise, and I believe that is going to be the chasm they cannot cross because the public will not allow that much noise pollution (they are really fucking loud - if you live somewhere with helicopters imagine them lower, whinier, and all the time).
I think flying taxis are technologically sound but will never get approval from the public, which is actually why we don't have supersonic flight (yep - the main barrier is actually it's too fucking loud for people to allow it and many laws have been written making it illegal to fly over anything but the ocean, although there were other problems with the Concorde as well).
Uber Elevate is meant to be a carrot to convince investors they are onto something big to float the stock price. It's much more viable than self-driving cars within the next decade, but I would not count on anything happening in the US within the next 5 years apart from aircraft testing.
Blah blah blah, it's mostly smoke and mirrors.
The videos always show some guy in a business suit flying some laser straight path right to the building, not being buffeted around by the wind reflected off of the buildings and one engine out from a pigeon that got sucked into the motor.
You only need to look at the opposition to runway or operating hours expansion around airports. And this is even truer if there's a perception that it's all mostly for the benefit of "the rich."
Some will argue that most people already have to tolerate road traffic today to greater or lesser degrees. That may be true but I don't see a lot of people throwing their hands up and saying "Oh well, it's already pretty noisy. Who cares about a bunch of aircraft whizzing around my house."
And you probably shouldn't understate the safety aspect and the level of pushback after the first few accidents.
There is, as is the case with everything about Uber, no meaningful moat. There are a lot of companies and teams pouring rivers of gold into the problem, many of whom are already profitable from other businesses and who can raise debt at relatively low cost (vs diluting shareholders again, and again, and again).
The carmakers will have their own services. Google will. Everyone else who rounds up a few shekels from friends and family will do it in their hometown. The taxi companies will, so will the livery companies. Car financiers will pile in with monthly payment schemes "but with an app!". There'll be ten "AirBNB for Uber" startups enthusiastically shanking each other with VC shivs.
When the dust settles it will at best be a game won by those who were already profitable coming in, at worst a game of musical bankruptcies.
Nothing about self-driving cars will save Uber. Only raising their price to cover the cost of every ride and accepting a dramatic reduction in topline revenue will do so.
I somewhat agree that self-driving cars isn't an obvious solution for Uber when you think about it, because it basically makes the entire business of Uber a stepping stone towards a completely different company. That is to say the majority of everything Uber has built would no longer be relevant. Of course, I suspect Travis always knew this and really it was actually Uber itself that was always bullshit (or at least by the time the company became a unicorn, nobody really knew anything when they were still a glorified limo company) and self-driving cars always the real endgame. The problem was it didn't go according to plan.
Considering the relationship Travis and Anthony Levandowky established and the whole history there (Uber legitimately tried to defend Anthony from the Waymo lawsuit until it was blindingly obvious they could no longer do so), I think Travis was dead serious about self-driving cars for a long time. The problem is Travis is a great entrepreneur and businessman, but robotics is an unforgiving field.
It's easy to sell an idea. "Wouldn't self-driving cars be great?" And honestly 5 years ago I felt like it might be possible, and many other seasoned roboticists legitimately got on-board (so not just for the money, although some did and I don't blame them because holy shit I have seen some of those offers and they were insane). But at this point, and this is very much an open debate, I believe you need to solve general AI before you can have a meaningful self-driving car product.
Everything above applies for L4 autonomy, anything that requires driver attention (such as Tesla's Autopilot) or extremely limited use-cases (such as GM's SuperCruise, which is 100% independent from GM's self-driving car division called Cruise) is a completely different discussion.
Trains. That have right of way. Their own trains, that they own, on their own rail, that they own, liberally covered with communications towers and sensors (many of which my father put up during his time there).
It's about as close to the simplest version of self-driving there is. And they weren't hurting for smarts: they raided quite a few universities for even vaguely relevant talent.
They did it, though. Level 4 autonomous trains. It cost them a billion dollars and six years just for one crack at the software. Before that at least a decade of work for who knows how much money.
But: trains. That's the functional state of the art worldwide. Trains.
Earlier announcement (2014) that they were planning to do so: https://www.railjournal.com/signalling/rio-tinto-gets-set-fo...
Note that the original contract with Ansaldo for development was approximately half what it wound up being. That they will admit to. And I suspect leaves out a lot of the work around the lines which can be used for autonomous and non-autonomous purposes.
But then it goes back further, to this article from 2008: https://www.railwaygazette.com/news/rio-tinto-to-go-driverle...
Predicting that autonomous trains would be done in 5 years. That is, they expected to be finished by 2013 ... when the next contract was signed.
I won't be surprised if it's announced a few more times in the coming years.
Mine automation is a big deal, Rio Tinto have spent heavily on it. Not just trains, they also have spent a lot on developing autonomous mine trucks. The pit is covered with a lot of beacons to help the trucks position themselves and they use regular scans of the site to update the map. I'm not sure how far they got with those.
BHP-Billiton seems not to have gone as far, but they have spent a lot of money in remote operations: having the control centres for multiple mines consolidated into special-purpose offices in Perth etc. Cameras everywhere, das blinkenlights, the whole shebang.
It's not really worth taking any of these ideas seriously. All they illustrate is that Uber doesn't believe their core business is viable.
But if it’s really just too loud, isn’t there some way to muffle the sound? I suspect it would be expensive but certainly not ridiculously so.
My hunch, although nobody can say definitively, is it is physically impossible to make these quiet enough to be acceptable for mass use. But aerodynamics has as much trial-and-error as it does theory so maybe a genius will come up with something novel.
I may be inaccurate on the precise accounting terminology, but essentially a full time employee is a recurring cost, while a contractor is a non-recurring cost, and this makes your books look a lot better to those who aren't paying close attention.
During that period of time, it certainly felt that your job was a lot safer if you were a consultant vs FT. They also paid those contractors by the day, not the hour, and it also felt like they kept the FT'ers around for the "free" labor they provided for weekend work- How I even investigated that 70% number is that I was in theory at least relatively high up the totem pole, but got doing real drudgery type weekend work- checkouts after network upgrades and such since my team had so few FT people. I then mucked around with our api a bit and got the actual numbers and saw this wasn't a unique phenomenon to my team.
However I’m not an accountant so that’s only what I heard from my clients when I asked them why for example they don’t hire a full time employee for a long term project.
Why wouldn’t an employee add to the value of a piece of software?
Also why would a contractor paid 10k add 10k to the value of the project and not 0? Or 100k?
Would a company having a bigger than avg contractor-to-employee ratio be a red flag? As to be overvaluing their assets?
2) No FTE associated benefits (health insurance, 401K, etc.)
3) Easier to terminate
4) (Arguably) Can grind harder
Hopefully, some of the recently laid-off employees can get re-hired as 1099-contractors. Sometimes working as a 1099 can actually be more lucrative (sometimes much more) than being a FTE.
If you have a spouse to provide benefits and hire an accountant to setup things properly, you can make very good money as a contractor. Even better if you can work part time for several with a high rate and juggle them around - then you start outsourcing some labor, and before you know it you have a consulting business.
If going the contractor route--and if the pay is six 000s+--I would highly recommend getting an LLC and all the great tax benefits that provides. Easily adds 5-10% (if not 20%+) to your bottom line.
You will most certainly be a W2 contractor through some middleman who takes a nice cut. Even for higher-end consulting talent. No big company is willing to risk contractor misclassification lawsuits anymore.