Is the Pandemic Killing Off the Gig Economy?

In this week’s roundup, senior RSG contributor John Ince covers the gig economy, Uber and Lyft’s quarterly earnings announcements, and interesting interviews around automated vehicles. Also, this is John Ince’s last weekly roundup with The Rideshare Guy – make sure to sound off in the comments to wish him well on his future endeavors!

COVID didn’t kill gig economy, the pandemic accelerated it (FreightWaves)

Sum and Substance:  The gig economy grew at a 33% rate in 2020 as more workers looked for flexible work schedules and ways to supplement, or even replace, lost income during the pandemic. …

The online survey of 2,788 U.S. adults by payments firm daVinci Payments also had some other surprising facts about the nation’s gig workforce. The survey is based on the 35% of respondents who identified themselves as gig participants.

Defined as temporary or part-time work conducted by independent workers, the survey found that 63% of gig workers (approximately 59 million out of the total 93 million gig workers in the country) also held full-time jobs in 2020, a 19% increase from 2019. The onset of COVID increased the importance of gig work for many, as 74% said gig work is “as important or more important” to their financial security because of COVID.

The number of gig workers who earned less than $15,000 in 2020 was 69.8 million, a 35% increase from 2019. That is 74% of all gig workers. The average gig worker income was $17,445 in 2020, up from $16,926 in 2019, daVinci said.

The survey found about 50% of gig workers had a household income below $50,000 per year; 6% had income above $150,000. The average U.S. household income in 2020 was $68,703, according to the Census Bureau. 

My Take:  This survey has some real nuggets.  First, 63% of gig workers have a full time job. Due to the pandemic, the importance of gig work increased. And 74% of gig workers earn less than $15,000.  Lots more in this little known survey.

Lyft (LYFT) Soars After Analysts Raise Price Targets  (Investopedia)

Sum and Substance: Lyft shares moved sharply higher during Wednesday’s session after Piper Sandler raised its price target to a Street high of $88.

Piper Sandler notes that a return to revenue growth should translate to rapidly improving EBITDA, while Wedbush sees a faster trajectory to profitability.

The stock moved into overbought territory as the relative strength index (RSI) hit 73.03, but the moving average convergence divergence (MACD) experienced a bullish crossover in early February.

My Take:  I don’t get this. Lyft announces earnings that are moderately better than projections, but they’re still losing a ton of money. What happens?  The stock soars.  I guess this is why I’m a driver and not an investor.

Uber reportedly looking to unload large chunk of office space at new SF headquarters (SFGate)

Sum and Substance: Uber is looking to unload up to 300,000 square feet of office space at its new Mission Bay campus, reports the San Francisco Business Times.

The ride-hailing tech giant has not officially listed the space yet, but has been “softly” marketing the lease at 1725 Third St. in San Francisco over the past month, according to the publication.

The move comes as a surprise, as the company had not yet moved into the space near the Chase Center. The company’s new San Francisco headquarters, acquired in 2019, comprises four buildings totaling more than 1 million square feet….

My Take:  I had wondered about the office space thing.  Chase Center, I would think, is a pretty desirable place to have an office, but if you don’t have workers, then who needs it? They’ll find another tenant – but at what price?

Uber: 4Q Earnings Snapshot (SFGate)

Sum and Substance: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Uber Technologies Inc. (UBER) on Wednesday reported a loss of $968 million in its fourth quarter.  On a per-share basis, the San Francisco-based company said it had a loss of 54 cents….

The results did not meet Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of 53 cents per share.

The ride-hailing company posted revenue of $3.17 billion in the period, which also did not meet Street forecasts. Ten analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $3.58 billion.

My Take:  Another quarter, another billion dollar loss.  When does this stop?  And yet, the stock price continues to climb.  After hours, it’s down, but not significantly.  I just don’t understand this business.

Uber lost $6.8 billion in 2020  (CNNBusiness)

Sum and Substance:  Uber lost a staggering $6.8 billion last year — and that’s actually good news. The full-year loss, which Uber reported along with its fourth quarter results on Wednesday, represented a significant drop from the $8.5 billion it lost in 2019. During the year, Uber sold off costly ventures, cut staff and focused on what its CEO previously called “profitable growth.”

The company reported $968 million in losses for the last three months of 2020, including $236 million in stock-based compensation expenses, down from nearly $1.1 billion in the year prior. CFO Nelson Chai said in a statement that Uber remains “well on track to achieving our profitability goals in 2021.”

My Take:  Somehow it seems appropriate that my last roundup would end with an announcement of yet another steep loss for Uber.  I’ve been doing this for over 5 years and now it’s time to move on.  Thanks to all you who have been reading and all the best.

A Chat with Dara Khosrowshahi (Newcomer – A Paid Newsletter Subscription)

Sum and Substance:  Uber is finally worth more than $100 billion.

For years, the promise of a twelve-digit-valuation has hung over Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s head.

Khosrowshahi’s compensation package was partially pegged to reaching a $120 billion market capitalization. That same valuation leaked as a possibility in the run-up to the IPO in late 2018. Then expectations started to fall. The New York Times reported that “Uber Is Said to Aim for I.P.O. Valuation of Up to $100 Billion.”

Uber ultimately went public at an $82 billion valuation. In 2020, the company saw its stock price drop below $50 billion – a valuation the company had already achieved back in 2015.

Now, with a booming stock market, Uber has soared to a value that it long aspired to.

Editor’s Note: In this interview with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, they cover Uber’s acquisition of Drizly, self-driving cars, remote work, and Uber’s valuation. There’s an interesting comment from Khosrowshahi about DoorDash in the interview, as well as praise for Lyft.

One interesting takeaway? Uber is happy to have sold its autonomous vehicle research project. We’ll see how autonomous vehicles continue to develop, but it should be clear to everyone by now that autonomous cars are still quite a ways off.

Season 6 Premiere-Jessica Uguccioni (Hoag + Co. Podcast)

Sum and Substance:  My guest today is Jessica Uguccioni, the Lead Lawyer at the Law Commission of England and Wales. She’s currently heading a three year review of the UK’s regulatory framework of automated vehicles for the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

Central to this review is an overview of the regulatory framework for automated vehicles that she and I discussed and covers everything from definitions of self-driving; safety assurances before deployment; safety while in use; the so-called “user-in-charge,” i.e., a non-driver tasked with otherwise operating the vehicle; remote operation; criminal offenses and wrongful interference; and data privacy issues.

Editor’s Note: Speaking of autonomous vehicles, this podcast episode by Hoag + Co. comes just at the right time. This episode discusses regulatory frameworks for automated vehicles, safety assurances before deployment, and how it’s going in the United Kingdom. A can’t miss episode if you want to see how AVs are successfully deployed in another country.

Readers, what do you think of this week’s roundup?

-John @ RSG