Will Uber (UBER) Become a Super-App?


What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” This iconic love torn plea, spoken to Romeo by Juliet, in their namesake play by William Shakespeare, has stood the test of time. Or has it? Apparently, the company whose own name denotes supreme, Uber (UBER), may think that everything is in a name as they strive to become the first ever super-app.

As a New York resident and one who has followed the ride sharing company since its inception, I’ve always marveled over each phase of the company’s growth and transformation as it grew to become part of the fabric of our everyday lives. I can easily recall, like it was yesterday, how the streets of Manhattan, once filled with shiny black Town Cars, Limos and folks waving a hand to hail a yellow cab, seemingly morphed overnight into avenues speckled with regular New Yorkers, smartphone in hand, tracking their rides as they arrived for a pickup.

Now, headlines and stories are everywhere, “Uber to Add Flights, Rail and Hotel Bookings” was the most recent one that I have read. But, is adding these features to their app, something that is worthy of anointing Uber or any company’s application a “super-app”? To take it a step further does it even make any sense?  It seems to me that there is nothing super about what they’re looking to build. If history has taught us anything in business, it’s certainly shown us that companies looking to be jacks of all trades, many more times than not, become known for being masters of none. What puzzles me the most, is why would any company with a perfect niche market now try to make every market its niche?

I believe that these aggregators are, in a way, playing catch up. When you peel back the layers, globally, companies like Kayak, Orbitz, TripAdvisor and Expedia are only creating a small amount of value for the end user compared to  the services provided by each of their member companies combined. To me, the difference lies in a company’s ability to step it up a notch in terms of services and refining a marketplace as much as they can. Users want apps that make products and services on demand, sophisticated and easy to use.

You need only look at my industry — private aviation. We too have a few conglomerate type companies that are trying to be jack of all trades, biggest of the big type institutions and doing so through corporate shopping sprees. Companies like these in my opinion, grow to a level of ineptitude. I find it similar to the Peter Principle, which theorizes that people in management often grow to the level of their own incompetence. So do businesses when they lose focus on what got them there to begin with.

So, do I think that Uber will leapfrog all others to become the first super-app? I wish them the best of luck, but no. As a matter of fact, I think that they are only going to muddy the waters of what made them part of the fabric of our everyday lives.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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