Bloomberg is reporting that Uber has raised $1.6 million in convertible debt, a loan that will convert into an equity stake in the company. The money comes from Goldman Sachs Wealth Management clients, rich people who are more than happy to provide the startup with capital now in order to get their hands on shares before the company goes public. Uber was valued at $40 billion this past December when it raised $1.2 billion in venture capital. The folks backing this loan believe it will be worth many times that at its inevitable IPO.
According to the New York Times, the debt would convert to shares at a 20 to 30 percent discount from the stock price after a public offering. If Uber doesn't go public within the next four years, the interest on its debt would rise.
Earlier this month Uber announced a new program to help beat the winter slump by cutting fares for riders while simultaneously guaranteeing earnings for drivers. The company is essentially taking a big hit on its margins in order to capture more market share. That's a costly, and cutthroat tactic, a combination which is rapidly becoming Uber's signature. It's CEO, Travis Kalanick, spoke openly about his efforts to prevent rival startup Lyft from raising money.
"Ruthless execution combined with total arrogance."
Hailo, another competitor, repeated the claim that Uber tried to block investment in rivals, all while it was busy "spending money like a drunken sailor." Fred Wilson, a tech investor who has backed Uber rivals Sidecar and Hailo, grimly acknowledged the company's singular status. "I’ve watched this company closely for a long time now and what I see is ruthless execution combined with total arrogance," he wrote in a blog post. "I am in awe of what they have done. It is about the best execution I’ve witnessed in a long long time."
Uber's biggest challenge to date has been from local incumbents, commissions, and regulators. To that end, its hired an army of lobbyists and political heavyweights like former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.