Uber Copter offers on-demand JFK helicopter service for top-tier users

Uber is adding regular helicopter air service to the heaviest users of its platform with Uber Copter — a new service line launched today that will provide on-demand transportation from Lower Manhattan to JFK airport for, on average, between $200 and $225 per person, which includes car service to and from the helipad at each end.

Is a ~$200 helicopter ride on top of whatever you’re paying to fly in an airplane for everyone? No, of course not — but the cost of an Uber ride for that same span is roughly $70 to $90 according to a third-party fare estimator, and the price can go even higher depending on demand, so it’s actually not that much of a stretch.

Plus, this isn’t something just anyone can access: It’s reserved for Platinum and Diamond members of Uber’s Rewards program, which means you’ll have to already be dropping a lot of cash on rides to even qualify for whirligig service. If you qualify, the rides are available either on-demand, or bookable up to five days ahead of time. Each helicopter has room for up to five passengers.

Pick-up is at a small city heliport located near the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and then at Kennedy you get a ride from the helicopter landing area to whichever terminal from which you’re departing (and vice versa if you’re flying in).

Providing helicopters for the wealthy amid city dweller protests against NYC helicopter traffic and following on the heels of Uber strike action in NYC around the company’s IPO might not seem like the most logical approach to reputation management, but Uber likes exploring transportation demand wherever it finds it, and people definitely do hate NYC traffic — frequent travelers maybe most of all.

Flights take off starting July 9 in case you’re … Read the rest

China’s Didi kicks off expansion in Latin America with moves into Chile and Colombia

The wheels are turning on Didi Chuxing’s first major expansion in Latin America after the Chinese ride-hailing firm announced moves into Chile and Colombia to double its presence in the region.

Didi said it rolled into Valparaiso, Chile’s third largest metropolis, and Colombian capital city Bogota this week. The company plans to expand beyond those cities over time, and, in terms of services, it said that it will add dedicated licensed taxis in Colombia this year.

Anchored in China, where it is the country’s dominant ride-hailing service, Didi began to place focus on international expansion last year and Latin America is a key part of its global ambitions.

In the region, Didi currently operates in Brazil — where it acquired local player 99 for $1 billion — and Mexico, but recent reports have linked it with more countries in Latin America. In February, Reuters reported that the company was hiring for operational staff in Chile, Peru and Colombia. Other reports have put its total headcount in Latin America at over 1,000 staff, that’s a clear indication of its intent for the region.

In a statement, Mi Yang — who leads Didi’s operations in Central and South America — called Chile and Colombia “two important centers of growth and innovation in the region.”

Outside of Latin America and its homeland, Didi is present in Taiwan, Japan and Australia, where it has other global connection through its investment deals. The company owns a significant stake in Southeast Asia-based Grab — it doubled down with a $2 billion investment alongside SoftBank in 2017 — as well as Bolt (formerly known as Taxify) across Europe and Africa, Ola in India and Lyft in the U.S.

Didi also has relations with Uber as a mutual investment was part of the … Read the rest

Uber is finally trading above its IPO price

Uber (NYSE: UBER) closed up 5% Wednesday at $45 per share, trading for the first time since its May 10 debut at its initial public offering price.

The boost comes one day after the quiet period for the dozens of investment banks that underwrote Uber’s IPO came to an end. Which is to say, Uber’s stock price is trading up now that several buy ratings and positive analyst reports were released this week.

Uber raised $8.1 billion in its early May float, achieving an initial market cap of roughly $70 billion. Uber’s IPO was deemed a failure by many, after its share price failed to pop on its first day of trading, opening at a meager $42 apiece. Uber was previously valued at $72 billion by venture capitalists after raising billions of dollars in a 10-year period.

In the last four weeks, Uber’s stock price has remained relatively stable, however, hovering between $40 and $43 per share.

In his first analyst note on the company, Raymond James analyst Justin Patterson wrote that Uber would be a leader in the “offline era,” and gave it a $50 price target.

“In contrast to traditional Internet companies, Uber is a digital app powering offline behavior,” Patterson said, per CNBC. “This elevates cost in the early years, but arguably creates a more defensible long-term position.”

Uber, additionally, released its first-ever earnings report last week, disclosing losses of $1 billion in the first quarter of 2019 on revenue of $3.1 billion. The numbers came in as expected, with analysts anticipating an adjusted net loss per share of 76 cents on earnings of about $3.1 billion.

“Earlier this month we took the important step of becoming a public company, and we are now focused on executing our strategy to become a one-stop shop for local … Read the rest

Uber’s flying taxi director of engineering is joining us at TC Sessions: Mobility

If Uber gets its way, flying taxis will be coming our way in the next couple of years. The company plans to launch trials as early as 2020.

Mark Moore, Uber’s engineering director for Elevate, is one of the people tasked with making sure that happens. Moore joined the company back in 2017 from a 32-year-long career at NASA. At TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility, we’ll chat with Moore about how he’s bringing electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles from a concept to reality in urban environments.

Uber Elevate is Uber’s all-encompassing term for its initiative to launch uberAIR, which is its aerial electric ride-hailing service, as well as any other initiatives (think food delivery) that may benefit from air transport. Once Uber’s vision is fully implemented, the service will be autonomous, and cheaper than the cost of owning a car, on a per-passenger, per-mile basis, the company says.

Initially, uberAIR will cost $5.73 per passenger mile. In the near-term, Uber says it will get the cost down to $1.86 per passenger mile before ideally getting to $0.44 per passenger mile. At that point, it would actually be cheaper to use uberAIR.

As we get closer to a future where ride-hailing takes it to the skies, Harris will walk us through the logistics necessary to make sure these eVTOLs are safe, efficient and affordable.

Early-bird tickets are now on sale — save $100 on tickets before prices go up.

Students, you can grab your tickets for just $45.

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Is the tech press too positive in its coverage of startups?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

It’s our first week in the new TechCrunch podcast studio, or it was for Kate Clark and Chris Gates. Alex Wilhelm will be back in SF next week. For now, we fired up the mics and dug into what was a veritable barrage of news.

First, Paul Graham’s contentious comments. The co-founder of Y Combinator tweeted some criticism of the tech press on Thursday; naturally, Kate and Alex had a few thoughts. In summary, Graham doesn’t seem to understand what it is we tech journalists do, and that’s a problem.

Next up was Uber’s first quarter numbers. Given how strongly the company had signaled this set of results, the earnings report was a bit anticlimactic. Until you dug into the numbers, and things got stickier. Uber’s operating loss more than doubled from the year-ago quarter. Its adjusted EBITDA tripled, from -$280 million to -$869 million. Adjusted revenue growth compared to the year-ago quarter was just 14%.

Naturally, Uber’s shares rose in after-hours trading.

Next, we turned from public decacorn to private unicorn, working our way through the latest mega-round from American fintech shop SoFi . The new $500 million round is either an up round or a down round (we really aren’t sure) and comes at a time when the business was not at all in need of money. Following accounts of the fresh funds, news leaked that SoFi intends to snag naming rights to the Rams impending stadium. What … Read the rest