As I write this column, I am at my office on Main Street in San Francisco. When I’m done here, I’ll head back to my house in the Richmond District to pick up some luggage as I head to SFO. Then I’m off to JFK, my hotel in Midtown, 10 meetings across Manhattan before I stop at FAO Swartz to pick up something for the kids before it’s back to JFK and then travel home.
There are only four people/organizations in the world who know my location at all times: my wife (because I tell her), Apple (because Siri), the NSA (because NSA), and now Uber.
Since the service Uber has built is so convenient, and increasingly essential to my life, Uber knows where I live, where I work, where I eat, where I travel, where I stay/visit and when I do all these things.
I am no longer just a passenger or a fare. I am a big data goldmine and, in case you hadn’t noticed, Uber just broke out the pickaxes.
This year, we are going to see the transformation of Uber into a big data company cut from the same cloth as Google, Facebook and Visa – using the wealth of information they know about me and you to deliver new services and generate revenue by selling this data to others.
Starwood is Just the beginning
Recently, Uber launched a service that lets its customers connect their Uber account to their Starwood Prefered Guest account. The benefit to customers: get points when you take Uber. The quid pro quo? Customers give Uber the right to share all Uber ride information with Starwood. And I do mean *all* of it. Take a look at this screenshot:
Creepy? Maybe. Valuable? Sure is – to Uber, to Starwood, and even to me. I fly once a month to our offices in Seattle – Uber knows this because they drop me off at SFO and pick me up a few hours later at Sea-Tac. Uber then takes me to the Hyatt in Seattle and someone, somewhere on the Starwood marketing team cries a single tear before jumping into action. I am a frequent business traveller and active Starwood member that just chose to stay somewhere other than a Starwood property, costing them revenue. They know this because Uber knows this, and before I know that they know, I’ll be getting offers left and right to make sure my next stay in Seattle is with Starwood.
Uber can run the same program with airlines, restaurants, nightclubs, bars – every time you go from point A to point B in an Uber, “A”, “B” or both represent a new potential consumer of your data.
No more faceless data points
It should not be news to anyone that Visa, Mastercard and Amex have set up entire divisions of their company whose sole mission is to sell transactional data to any business that will pay, currently yielding $100’s of Millions mostly to Private Equity, Hedge Funds and Investment Banks, and projected to be $1 Billion within 5 years. The difference is that they remove all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and only sell aggregate information – in their eyes “you” are not you. Uber’s advantage is that Uber users will, in a heartbeat and with the click of a button, trade their PII for extra points and/or miles – that’s a massive win. Even if you don’t hand over your PII Uber still has the same aggregate non-PII data opportunity.
In a bit of irony, one of Uber’s late round investors was able to use the credit card data from the big card networks to see exactly how much of a rocketship Uber is (rumored 800% annual growth) and decided the $42 Billion valuation was a great deal.
What’s hot, what’s not
Uber knows the hot nightclubs, best restaurants and most obviously now has as much data about traffic patterns as Waze (which coincidentally trades data with local governments). Combining Uber’s data with the very-personal data that customers are willing to give up in exchange for benefits, means that Uber can, and is, on its way to becoming a Big Data company. This will never be as big as their core business, but could be a significant contributor to revenue.
Now, if they used my data and my upcoming anniversary to book a hot new restaurant, good live music and pick my wife and me up, I may even consider giving them my social security number.