Name: Uber

Estimated valuation: $65 billion

Product: Ride-Sharing, Logistics 

IPO Timeline: Late 2017, 2018 at the earliest

Date Founded: March 2009

At the Creation

The idea for Uber was spawned during a brainstorming session that co-founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick held in Paris at the LeWeb conference in 2008. Their vision was to create a convenient, easy-to-order car service for reliable taxi rides in San Francisco. In early 2009, the venture received $200,000 in seed funding. That year, Camp worked on Uber's now-famous consumer app after-hours at his day job as CEO of another firm, StumbleUpon. Kalanick's task was to move the app and car service to the prototype stage, running the operations full time and making sure the launch of the San Francisco service went smoothly, according to Bloomberg. Today, Camp, 38, is Uber's chairman and Kalanick, 40, is  CEO.

Founders' Startup Experience

Both Kalanick and Camp had extensive experience at startups before launching Uber. Camp co-founded, a web discovery service, which was sold to eBay. Kalanick had joined Akamai Technologies Inc. (AKAM) after selling Red Swoosh, a peer-to-peer file sharing system to the company. Before that, he gained valuable experience at Scour, a search engine that filed for bankruptcy.

Uber's revenue growth exploded as it started service in hundreds of cities worldwide. According to an August, 2016 Bloomberg report, Uber generated $1.1 billion in revenue in the second quarter of 2016, up from $960 million in the first quarter. In early 2010, for example, the company entered the New York market with just three cars. Now, Uber is omnipresent on the streets of America's largest city.

The changes required fine-tuning management. Kalanick hired Ryan Graves to be CEO in 2010, only to be replaced by Kalanick months later, with Graves moving to COO.

Rapid Valuation Growth 

The company's valuation has jumped as investors realize that Uber's model can disrupt sectors far beyond the taxi industry. That includes logistics, where the app-based service delivers everything from food to medicine to Christmas trees. According to Crunchbase, when the company raised $11 million in a Series A funding in February 2011, it was valued at $60 million. By the end of 2014, after a Series E funding led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Uber was valued at $40 billion. Today, it's valued at approximately $65 billion, after having raised a total of $11.46 billion in funding, Crunchbase says.

Aside from Goldman Sachs, Uber's big investors include Benchmark; GV, formerly known as Google Ventures; Menlo Ventures; and Fidelity Investments, among others. Some of Benchmark's investments include other prominent startups including WeWork, Quora and Glassdoor, while GV's investments include Medium and Jet. Some of Menlo Ventures' bigger investments include Betterment, Munchery and Roku.

Uber's Challenges

Uber's expansion into more than 60 nations and more than 500 cities worldwide has come at a cost. The company has lost nearly $4 billion since it was founded, including $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016, according to an article from Bloomberg. Those losses can be attributed mainly to driver bonuses, a price war with its main U.S. competitor, Lyft, and its costly effort to enter the China market, where it ultimately sold its local operations to Didi Chuxing in exchange for a portion of equity in its China rival, according to the Wall Street Journal. (See also: How do Ridesharing Companies Like Uber Make Money?)

In many cities, Uber continues to face lawsuits from drivers demanding bigger benefits as well as opposition from traditional taxi companies, intense regulatory scrutiny, and negative publicity from critics who describe Uber as  an evil force that destroys local jobs, according to TechCrunch. In London, the city's black cabs have turned to crowdfunding to fight off Uber, including pressing for a judicial review of the company's London license. Uber and Lyft actually stopped service in Austin, Texas, after the city requested its drivers receive fingerprint identification. In Boston, the unionized Boston Taxi Drivers Association has waged a long, contentious fight in an unsuccessful effort to remove Uber from the city.

Uber currently appears to generate no profits, in the traditional sense of the word, as it reinvests them back in the business. Those rising losses may become a cause of concern as it weighs an initial public offering in the next few years. In the first quarter of 2016, for example, Uber generated a profit in the U.S. but slipped to a loss in the second, according to a report by Bloomberg. And its $520 million EBITDA loss in the first quarter expanded to  $750 million in the second quarter. The company continued to lose money in the third quarter, according to people familiar with the results interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

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