The last 10 days were frantic, if you are a soccer fan. There were those dramatic semi-final games for the Champions League final. Then there was the final weekend of English Premier League. I actually did not see any of them. Not that I wasn’t interested but I just couldn’t because of my business and philanthropy commitments around the world.
Although I was extremely busy, having travelled to Botswana, South Africa, Europe, and the US (twice) in those two weeks… all the spare time I had to watch anything on TV was taken up by one particular game…the Uber IPO!
I read every newspaper report I could lay my hands on and listened to endless experts (“talking heads”) on TV shows on CNBC, CNN, and Bloomberg. As the moment of the listing grew close, I was just so excited!
“Wow, wow,” I kept thinking to myself. This is as exciting as when we listed Cassava last year, do you remember?
When Uber was started in 2009, 10 years ago, it did a funding round at a valuation of only $5m, and now it is worth a whopping $70bn.
__But just imagine: If Uber was an African country, it would be ranked #10, just after Kenya. It would be larger than Sudan ($58bn), Tanzania ($51bn), Ghana ($47bn), and DRC ($41bn)…
It provides income to almost 4m drivers in 65 countries!
If it was a mining company, it would be worth almost 3x the value of Anglo American corporation ($25bn), the biggest, and most famous mining group to come out of Africa! Anglo American owns De Beers, the world’s largest diamond company!
Uber had 23 funding rounds since 2010, raising a staggering $24,7bn, during that time.
Here is another thing: In 2018 Uber made a loss of $1,8bn, and $2,2bn, the previous year! Actually, it has never made a profit, and yet it is worth $70bn…
So, how was it possible that a company could make losses year after year, for 10 years, and yet investors can still pour in nearly $25bn?
Who are these investors, who kept faith with this start up, and have now been so handsomely rewarded? They were certainly not banks!
Now those of you who followed Uber’s opening day know that it was not quite as expected according to many. Some say otherwise. Who remembers the first day of Facebook’s listing back in 2012?
__What are some lessons learned as you study what happens this week?
Let’s talk… This is serious business, especially for you aspiring Unicorns, waiting in the wings.
Another question closer to home: How do we in Africa develop a venture capital industry of visionary investors, who could believe in our own startups, and stay the course for such a long time?
One thing that interested me was: What role did the government of the United States have in launching companies like Uber, Twitter, Facebook, Lyft—all which emerged in the same time window?
Did they provide startup capital?
How do you see it?
Watching something like this is your game as an entrepreneur. I need you to become as passionate about it, as a sports fan would watching soccer or basketball.
I want you to discuss it during lunch breaks, and to share articles with your entrepreneurial friends. Debate the issues constantly. This is how you will ensure that when it comes time for you to play, you know how the game is played.
Do your homework vigilantly not just this week but continually. What is happening on the markets and with your favorite companies? What’s your own analysis?
Sports fans, I know you analyze the moves of coaches and players all the time, don’t you?
If you are a serious entrepreneur, Uber is an excellent case study for you.
As Warren Buffet once said: “The more you learn, the more you earn…”
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa