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What The Leaked Uber Documents Don’t Tell Us

According to leaked documents on Gawker, Uber is losing money. That doesn’t necessarily mean the company is in trouble.

What The Leaked Uber Documents Don’t Tell Us
[Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

What appear to be leaked internal Uber documents posted on Gawker indicate the transportation company lost significant amounts of money in recent years. The Gawker story, which includes screenshots of the documents, alleges Uber lost more than $56 million in 2013 and more than $160 million by the first half of 2014, based on an unaudited top-line revenue and expense breakdown. These metrics offer some limited insight on the company’s financial history.

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That said, the documents posted to Gawker can’t give us the whole picture on the viability of Uber’s business model. The documents cover a period in 2012, 2013, and 2014 that dovetailed with rapid expansion efforts overseas and in the United States (and the funding rounds which the company said were earmarked in part to launch and maintain those expansion efforts). It is unclear whether the growing losses were due to expansion costs and the necessary expenditures of scaling and improving the service, in order to make more money in the future–or whether they were due to less-than-expected customer demand in new markets, trouble turning a profit on individual rides, or operating costs. Or a combination of the above.

As Fast Company’s director of product, Cliff Kuang, notes on Twitter, the documents are missing needed context. Importantly, they don’t offer details on what Uber’s expansion and operational costs are. While it appears that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick overstated the exact rate of Uber’s revenue growth, revenue is indeed growing–in the first half of 2014, it appears Uber made over $102 million in revenue, almost as much as it made during all of 2013.

Last week, Uber raised approximately $1 billion in funding that valued the company at a staggering $50 billion–so it seems the company has enough of a financial runway to invest heavily in expanding right now. But again, without a breakdown of Uber’s costs, it’s hard to judge how troubling Uber’s reported losses really are–and the documents in question end with the second quarter of 2014, which means we don’t know what the company’s losses look like today.

In the meantime, Uber continues to pursue its expansion efforts, and plans to spend big bucks trying to gain a bigger foothold in the lucrative Indian and Chinese markets.

Fast Company has reached out to Uber for comment and will update the story as needed. You can view the documents in full on Gawker.

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