Uber is a Silicon Valley darling on top of being the largest privately held company with a valuation of over $62 billion. But, in order for the company to continue building its empire it needs cash. While it’s been in the works for some time, the company announced yesterday that it had secured $3.5 billion in funding from the Saudi Arabia.
Not Surprisingly, Uber is quite popular in Saudi Arabia
While there are no laws on the books that keep Saudi women from driving, it’s pretty well understood that they shouldn’t expect to comfortably go about their days behind the wheel of a car. Roughly 80% of Uber’s business in Saudi Arabia comes from women using the service and the company believes that building its business in the Middle East is key to its continued growth.
“We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence,” Travis Kalanick, one of Uber’s founders and its chief executive, said in a statement. “Our experience in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how Uber can benefit riders, drivers and cities and we look forward to partnering to support their economic and social reforms.”
The $3.5 billion represents roughly a quarter of all money raised by the company having raised over $11 billion since the company began prior to yesterday’s announcement.
No female drivers on the horizon
In Saudi Arabia alone the company has seen its ridership increase over five times in the last year and no “employs” nearly 20,000 drivers. While again, most of its ridership is women, don’t expect to see them become drivers anytime soon.
While the kingdom suggests is a change that is going to come, many have their doubts. Uber is not one of them.
“Of course we think women should be allowed to drive,” said Jill Hazelbaker, an Uber spokeswoman. “In the absence of that, we have been able to provide extraordinary mobility that didn’t exist before — and we’re incredibly proud of that.”
While women may not be able to drive owing to fatwas issued by more conservative Muslim clerics clearly trying to keep women in the places they deem “correct” for them, that doesn’t seem to apply to princesses.
Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud presently sits on the company’s advisory board and seems to believe that this investment is a precursor to change in the kingdom’s policies regarding the treatment of women.
Yasir Al Rumayyan, the managing director at the Public Investment Fund, will be taking a seat on Uber’s board following the investment.
“We’ve seen firsthand how this company has improved urban mobility around the world, and we’re looking forward to being part of that progress,” Mr. Al Rumayyan said in a statement.
There has been a big PR campaign by Taxis against Uber over charges of being unsafe and related issues. Whether fair or not, Uber now probably has the best PR tool possible against Uber. As Saudi Arabia becomes increasingly unpopular in America over alleged ties to terrorists in Syria and Iraq, 9/11 hijackers – its waging an oil war against America and more -Uber and Lyfy can (fairly?) claim that everytime you take an Uber you are killing a child in Syria.