Uber’s raking in money in SF, but the story is complicated

Uber is now on a pace to make $500 million a year in revenue in the San Francisco market alone, according to CEO Travis Kalanick. Kalanick spoke on the matter over the weekend at a conference in Munich, and Business Insider reported the news Monday, making the argument that Uber is far larger than the taxi industry, which Kalanick claims only brings in $140 million a year in SF. I’ve reached out to the SFMTA to confirm that number and will update this if I hear back.

Prior to today, the most recent SF revenue stats from Uber surfaced last November, also via Business Insider. At that point, the leaked Uber presentation showed the company’s run rate in SF was $212.4 million based on its December 2013 revenue. Roughly a year later, it’s at $500 million — so the company has doubled in size in the city.

Originally, there was a significant, missing piece of information from Kalanick’s remarks. As Kevin Roose pointed out on Twitter, Kalanick didn’t explain whether $500 million includes the money Uber has to pay drivers.

The company later told me that it does. Uber takes a roughly 20 percent cut of each transaction, giving the rest of the money to its independent driving partners. Including the full booking fee in its revenue statistics is the difference between gross revenue (all money transacted) and net revenue (considering certain basic deductions).

Uber is touting its gross revenue to demonstrate its size, but some have questioned whether that number accurately represents the size of Uber’s business. $100 million — Uber’s cut after it pays out drivers — is a far cry from $500 million, after all.

For the time being, Uber can’t markedly shrink the cut drivers are taking, so its real business is arguably its 20 percent cut, not the full amount of booking revenue. Either way, the stats show the company is still growing at a rapid, staggering rate.


This story has been updated to include Uber’s confirmation that $500 million is its gross yearly revenue in SF, not net yearly revenue.

Everything you need to know about the recent Snapchat leaks

It has been a dramatic 24 hours for Snapchat, which had some internal emails leaked last night via the Sony hack. Sony Entertainment’s CEO, Michael Lynton, sits on Snapchat’s board.

There’s been dozens of articles about all the information surfaced, reported on (mostly) by Business Insider. Some of the details were legitimate product news, others  provided a glimpse into the mind of its 24-year-old CEO Evan Spiegel. Snapchat has historically been a private company and done little media outreach. So the document dump is one of the more comprehensive looks at its vision.

In a statement released today, Spiegel said he was “devastated” by the privacy violation and felt like he was “going to cry all morning.” He explained that he believes keeping secrets, although difficult, is key for a company’s development so it can “work free from judgment” and “feel safe in our expression and creativity.”

To give you the quick rundown on all the news, we put together this list of everything you need to know about the Snapchat leaks. Most of it is not hugely groundbreaking, but there’s definitely some compelling nuggets for those following the social media company and its meteoric rise.


1) It looks like Snapchat acquired a company called Vergence Labs for $15 million, which makes eyeglass frames akin to Google Glass that can record and store video. It’s not clear why Snapchat wanted it.

2) Snapchat bought an iBeacon/QR code company called Scan.Me for $50 million. Another confusing, currently inexplicable purchase. (This news came from TechCrunch)

2) Snapchat paid $30 million for video tech startup AddLive. The deal had previously been reported, but not the sum Snapchat paid.

2) Facebook may have bid even more than $3 billion for Snapchat based on emails between author Malcolm Gladwell and Lynton. Gladwell asked if the company was crazy and Lynton responded, “If you knew the real number you would book us all a suite at Bellvue.” Other messages suggest that Mark Zuckerberg believed Evan Spiegel was behind the leak of the news, and he wasn’t happy about it.

3) Snapchat considered starting a music label this past summer. Emails showed that Spiegel wants to use Snapchat to promote musicians from a Snapchat-run label. But after Snapchat’s partnership plans with Vevo fell apart (because Snapchat wanted too high an advertising revenue cut), the plan stalled.

3) Evan Spiegel seems to have insulted Tencent by asking to take $40 million personally through a secondary offering and not informing board member Mitch Lasky from Benchmark. “They didn’t like the fact that I didn’t know what was happening … part of what gives them comfort at the high valuations is knowing that someone they trust — me — is fully engaged on the board,” Lasky said in an email to Lynton. Tencent also wasn’t pleased with the $4 billion valuation Spiegel was aiming for. The Chinese internet company appears to have passed on a followup funding deal because of that.


1) Various VCs expressed excitement over Snapchat because it’s seeing high, passionate engagement from its users. “I am not overstating it when I say that Snapchat’s utility requires hours of your time a day,”Jerry Murdock from Insight Venture Partners told Lynton. “Snapchat’s stickiness is very real.” In an email, Spiegel explained that he doesn’t think the app’s advantage is teens or its threat to Facebook — it’s the fact that it has pioneered a new form of messaging.

2) After Evan Spiegel gave a public speech, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo emailed Lynton singing his praises. He said, “I really think [Spiegel] is one of the best product thinkers out there right now.”

3) Despite the fact that Spiegel is stereotypically seen as a reckless bro who lucked into running such a successful company (see: his sexist college frat emails), his emails suggest otherwise. In one message to Lynton, he penned a comprehensive, dense analysis of market dynamics to explain why he thought Snapchat should stop fundraising and start building revenue streams. Other emails showed that Spiegel was reaching out to category experts (like the now Twitter CFO Anthony Noto) for further education.

And now you’re caught up! This is a living document, and as more Sony leaks emerge we’ll continue to update with relevant Snapchat information.