Lyft-Off: Zimride’s Long Road To Overnight Success (@techcrunch)

Mostly the story of how Lyft came to be, through its predecessor, Zimride. It’s an interesting backstory. Much more interesting than the mudslinging, bottom-of-the-barrel tactics that Lyft and its sworn enemy Uber have been up to of late.

One minor quibble towards the end on the subject of ridesharing displacing car ownership. Ryan Lawler writes:

It’s also seeing adoption in a number of markets you might not consider highly dense cities — think places like Providence, R.I. That shows its model could extend to more suburban areas and help people get around even in places where car ownership is currently ubiquitous.

Providence, having been in it, is not San Francisco or New York. But it’s not suburbia either. It’s a mid-range city; a sprawling type place not unlike most cities in the U.S. where public transportation doesn’t reach large swarths of the city and hasn’t been built out mostly because it’s still relatively drivable. Ridesharing works in places like this because it gives people another option. But I’m less bullish on Uber and Lyft replacing car ownership entirely in these places unless traffic swells to the point where parking is unavailable and general road space is non-existent. The highway structure in most newer, growing cities is more robust than in cities on the coasts, which means it’s far easier to just drive yourself in most cases. This is even more pronounced in most of the rest of the country; both suburban havens that were built with cars in mind as well as rural areas. That’s why I think the narrative Uber investor Bill Gurley put forth re: ridesharing will take place asynchronously across the country. Car ownership will likely decline overall in places like New York, San Francisco and Chicago long before it happens throughout the rest of the country.

Facebook and Uber Discuss Integration of Car Service Into Messenger (@recode)

That’s why Zuckerberg has held preliminary talks with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about potentially embedding the service into the Facebook Messenger app, according to sources who have been briefed on the discussions.

“It’s very conceptual, and nowhere near execution,” said one person with knowledge of the situation. “But it’s a direction that Messenger has to go in.”

Smart. Google Maps already added their own integration with Uber. Not to mention WeChat and their integration with e-hail services in China.

Uber is launching an on-demand courier service tomorrow (@VentureBeat)

According to a job listing obtained by VentureBeat, Uber plans to pay bike couriers between $20 and $30 per hour for “on-demand deliveries.” Uber plans to give couriers a free iPhone 4S, allowing them to “receive pickup requests from nearby customers.”

Not surprising. Will be interesting to see how they do against some of the existing delivery-on-demand services. But clearly they’re gearing up for a fight with the big fish over this stuff: Amazon.

Forget roses — use Uber to order skywriting on Valentine’s Day (@cnet)

This, the kitten delivery thing they did last year — all trial balloons for Uber’s inevitable fight with Amazon for on-demand delivery of anything. Founder Travis Kalanick at last year’s LeWeb:

“We’re in the business of delivering cars in five minutes. And once you can deliver cars in five minutes, there’s a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes,”

21 million taxi rides have been booked on WeChat in the past month (@Techinasia)

700,000 ride requests per day. Compare that to the Uber numbers which were leaked late last year:

Over that five-week period in October and November, Uber averaged 79,000 new signups per week, or 316,000 signups per month and 3.8 million annualized. It’s not clear whether signups refers to users who have downloaded the app or if it also includes people who merely filled out Uber’s online sign up form. The average number of “eyeballs” per week was 1.9 million. The average number of rides requested per week is 1.1 million. For rides completed it’s around 800,000.

Extrapolated over a period of 4 weeks, that’s 4.4 million rides GLOBALLY. That’s just over a fifth of the rides booked through WeChat did during the same period in China.

Wow.

Boycott Uber If You Don’t Like It (@gawker)

I put forward this option in order to distinguish it from other, more vague proposals, such as “Throw Uber’s asshole CEO in jail” or “Pass some sort of law against Uber’s pricing scheme.” If you find Uber objectionable, the proper thing to do is to cast your economic vote against Uber by not giving them any money. If you are particularly passionate about this issue, organize a large-scale boycott of Uber. But do not sit around complaining about Uber while also using Uber. That is nonsense.

Sums it up, really. And by the way, I’m still waiting to hear a quote from Travis Kalanick or any other Uber executive that their mission statement is, as some of Uber’s more vocal critics have maintained, to replace taxis in each municipality rather than simply becoming the best alternative to taxis in each municipality. Uber’s true competitors are expensive black car services. They may take a share of the higher end of the cab-riding demographic but unless Uber fares come down precipitously, the average cab rider is going to stick with yellow cabs, which is completely sensible and how I think they intended it to play out.

Uber partnering with auto financing companies to offer discounted rates to potential new drivers

From TechCrunch’s Ryan Lawler:

Instead, the company has partnered with a couple of auto manufacturers — like GM and Toyota — and struck a deal with auto financing companies to ensure that qualified drivers will be approved for financing rates that are better than they could get on their own.

Basically, it’s lowering the cost of entry for anyone who wants to be an Uber driver. Because the company can predict driver income, it’s been able to lock down better rates for those who have been approved to drive on its platform.

In reading first-hand accounts from drivers, it doesn’t sound like a particularly lucrative business, especially in an expensive place like the Valley. But it does sound like a good way to get into a nice car for next to nothing: grab yourself some incentive-driven financing, drive some folks around and at the very least, cover your cost of ownership. (unless the terms of financing are predicated on the driver picking up X number of people)