[00:00:00] FA: Welcome to Just Curious Media. This is Pop Finance. I’m Francois Aure. I’m a forex author and analyst and a US markets contributor for CCN.
[00:00:09] SH: I’m Sarah Helms. I’m and attorney and also a pop culture guru.
[00:00:14] FA: Today, we are talking about everyone’s favorite, unless you like Lyft that is. Everyone’s favorite rideshare app, which is Uber and their plans to expand into helicopter rides in New York City in a very ambitious attempt to corner the not often talked about helicopter rideshare market. Have you ever called Uber helicopter, Sarah?
[00:00:38] SH: I have not had the opportunity yet. I also don’t live in New York City, as you know. So I think that’s where it’s all commencing, correct, is it’s going to start with New York.
[00:00:46] FA: I think so. I believe it’s actually an expansion. They’ve been doing it in the Middle East, particularly in Dubai, where apparently it’s relatively commonplace to walk out to the shopping mall and to call a Uber helicopter to land on the top, and then it whisks you off somewhere. So this is new and exciting to us.
[00:01:03] SH: It’s very new and exciting.
[00:01:03] FA: In America. But –
[00:01:05] SH: To the New Yorkers, apparently you can now take it from the airport, right, to –
[00:01:10] FA: Yeah. Manhattan.
[00:01:10] SH: Manhattan.
[00:01:11] FA: Yeah. Manhattan to JFK and back again, all of it.
[00:01:14] SH: Which I believe, you New Yorkers can correct me if I’m wrong, that ordinarily is a treacherous, treacherous journey without Uber helicopter.
[00:01:21] FA: It’s a bit of a trek, I think.
[00:01:23] SH: Yeah. So apparently, this is the new flight plan, if you will, is to take this route and to see how it goes. It’s a pilot program. Get it? Get it? Get it?
[00:01:33] FA: I see that. Moving on, the thing that Uber is trying to do most here is really basically come up with anything and everything they can to diversify themselves as a company, as they fear the inevitable end of rideshare into automated driving. There are a lot of people trying to have automated self-driving cars.
Lyft, they’re trying to do it. Google, they’re trying to do it. Tesla have an apparently in amadar of a million robot taxis that they’re going to unleash. Uber can see the writing on the wall, and they’re trying to come up with these new and exciting new projects. I think Uber helicopter is kind of an interesting one. If it takes you down from an hour to eight minutes, I think there’s going to be some wealthy families who are going to like this.
[00:02:17] SH: Yeah. I think it’s a great step by Uber. I mean, true to form, Uber stepping up to the play. Just like they were the first to do the rideshare, they’re going to be the first to do this. In the words of Ricky Bobby, if you’re not first, you’re last. Here, they’re maintaining their position in first by saying let’s do a helicopter.
[00:02:33] FA: I think that’s exactly right. Lyft have made it quite clear that they’re not as ambitious a company as Uber. If you look at their business model, they basically have said, “We are going to conquer North America. Or if we’re not going to conquer North America, we’re going to do our absolute best to eat into Uber’s dominance.” I think the number one rideshare or the place where Lyft has closed the gap between Lyft and Uber as the smallest I think is Seattle. So if there’s anyone from Seattle listening, they’re probably thinking Sarah doesn’t know what she’s talking about. We all love Lyft. Lyft is life.
[00:03:05] SH: Hash tag Lyft is life, Seattle.
[00:03:06] FA: But down here in LA, which I believe is where it could’ve been well if it was meant to be. It’s definitely where Uber, their concept for Uber came from. Then in LA, like I say, I see the Lyfts but I’ve never used one. I think their drivers typically are both Uber and Lyft.
[00:03:20] SH: They’re cheaters. Yeah. I always find that to be really weird to me that as Uber, you’re okay with the people being absolute cheaters, because they’re not loyal. They’re not just Uber drivers and they’re not –
[00:03:30] FA: And either are their customers.
[00:03:31] SH: Except for me apparently, because as I say –
[00:03:34] FA: And me.
[00:03:34] SH: I have never in my life taken a Lyft, nor do I plan to do because Uber is my number one. So I just feel like it’s really weird to me that a driver can just have all the different stickers on their car like, “Do you have no loyalty here?”
[00:03:46] FA: Sarah, I apologize for this. But you really do have to delve into this issue. If you’re saying that most of the drivers are both Uber and Lyft, what is exactly your issue with using Lyft? It’s going to be the same and the same driver.
[00:03:59] SH: Well, it’s because it matters to me. Uber is first. I support – Uber was the first one to invent it. Why would I go on to a company that you say is lackluster? By your own words, they have kind of just sat back on their heels, thinking, “We’re okay with being second place in North America.” They haven’t tried to go anywhere else. To me, I don’t like that lack of ambition. I don’t do it.
You’ve inspired me now. The next time I call an Uber and I see both of the Lyft and the Uber, I’m going to say, “Next. Move on, buddy. I want the loyal Ubers only.”
[00:04:28] FA: After they charge you the inevitable –
[00:04:30] SH: Five dollars or whatever it is.
[00:04:30] FA: Five-dollar fee, which they need to get rid of, by the way, because half the time I feel like my drivers drive around in a circle, trying to avoid it.
[00:04:37] SH: Just to get the five –
[00:04:38] FA: Yeah.
[00:04:38] SH: I could do an entire episode on this alone. We won’t even go down that rabbit hole, because it is infuriating. But I will say this. This is what I think is most interesting about this concept is will people use it. I mean, obviously, they use Uber all the time. But this is a completely different animal. This is for starters a heck of a lot more expensive and kind of a little bit odd. I mean, you’re going –
[00:04:57] FA: How expensive is the helicopter ride? I don’t think we’ve touched on that yet.
[00:05:00] SH: I don’t think we have. I believe we looked for the airport to the city was what? Like around 200 bucks, right?
[00:05:05] FA: I think it was between – They’re aiming for it to be between 200 and 250.
[00:05:09] SH: I just think that is wild. I don’t know. Again, we need a New Yorker in the room today to tell us what typically it would cost to do that journey without this service. I would imagine you just hop on a paid subway and walk a lot.
[00:05:21] FA: It’s something that you can – There’s actually a couple of ways I think you can do it. You can take the subway, and there are trains. I think it’s relatively connected. Or we can take buses. Well, you can take public transport. I don’t think you can take the subway the whole way to JFK. But you can pretty much take public transport. It’s probably quite crowded and quite cheap and relatively speedy but not really, really speedy. Or you can hop in an actual regular Uber. I think that –
[00:05:44] SH: Well, how would you – I wouldn’t [inaudible 00:05:45] after this.
[00:05:45] FA: But nowadays, they will have these airport taxis they add on there as well. So I don’t think you can even go there. I think it’ll cost you about 50 bucks from downtown Manhattan.
[00:05:54] SH: But say it costs you 50 bucks, because 50 bucks is not 200 bucks. I mean, it’s 200 bucks just to get to the airport.
[00:05:59] FA: You can split it though.
[00:06:01] SH: That’s an interesting concept.
[00:06:02] FA: This is a wealthy place in New York.
[00:06:03] SH: How many seats does the helicopter have?
[00:06:06] FA: I don’t personally have a helicopter. But from what I’ve seen in the movie The Dictator with Sacha Baron Cohen, there are –
[00:06:12] SH: A very reliable source.
[00:06:13] FA: Four people in the back of that helicopter.
[00:06:15] SH: I guess if you split it.
[00:06:15] FA: I would imagine they would use similar size things. So I think you can roughly four people. I’ve never seen a helicopter that had three. There wasn’t a sort of army grade schnook that had three banks of seats. But I’ve seen four. I think maybe we get five in the middle seat.
[00:06:29] SH: Here is what I also don’t understand about the concept is the most genius thing about Uber is that any Joe Schmoe can drive whatever car he has, as long as it goes and get the Uber certification and make sure whatever you need to do to get your Uber driver’s license, and then you’re an Uber driver. But where are these helicopters coming from? Who owns them? Are they going to have to make them? I mean, there can’t be possibly enough of them to fit the demand, because there are going to be some people that will pay 200 bucks.
[00:06:53] FA: I think they’re using – I think they are partnering with a specific company.
[00:06:57] SH: [inaudible 00:06:57].
[00:06:59] FA: These aren’t just – If you have a helicopter, you can’t drive Uber helicopter.
[00:07:03] SH: Well, then it’s not rideshare. Then it’s not a typical rideshare.
[00:07:03] FA: That’s such a good point we picked up. Yeah. This isn’t rideshare. We should probably make that clear. This is not do you have a helicopter to all the board and lonely multimillionaires out there who see their helicopter just sitting there and not earning them any money.
[00:07:17] SH: But here’s an idea, Uber, dear Uber. I mean, why not? I mean, there’s so many people – Isn’t there a huge problem with people buying planes and helicopters that they don’t use? People rent them out all the time, because they can’t afford the maintenance and upkeep. Here’s an idea, Uber. Get rich man Joe blow down the street to run through their helicopter. You might see some change.
[00:07:33] FA: You might, and perhaps that might help those cash-strapped plane and helicopter owners out.
[00:07:39] SH: No. But it’s a real thing. You’re laughing at me, but it’s a real thing, isn’t it?
[00:07:43] FA: No, it is.
[00:07:43] SH: That people buy planes and then they [inaudible 00:07:45]. Call me Miss Finance.
[00:07:49] FA: Many do. I think tens of thousands of dollars just to rent the space to keep your plane and helicopter.
[00:07:53] SH: My point. Exactly. So –
[00:07:56] FA: But the problem is $200 for a couple of trips back here is not going to pay that off. The demand is the problem. But if they can make the small enterprise successful, I mean, they can definitely expand it. They do have competitors, which we’re going to go into next. They are not the only ones doing this. But they have branded it Uber helicopter to make us think it’s something fancy and special. This is essentially just helicopter rides from one place to another place.
[00:08:22] SH: And very limited in place. It only –
[00:08:24] FA: For $200.
[00:08:25] SH: For currently right now, it only goes the one route, so it just goes airport, Manhattan.
[00:08:29] FA: Exactly. They’ve just partnered with a specific helicopter provider.
[00:08:32] SH: So I know you don’t live in New York. We will say that.
[00:08:36] FA: I don’t.
[00:08:35] SH: But how much would it have to be? Because for me, I wouldn’t pay the 200. I would much rather check my suitcase through the mud and the grime and go on the subway and bring my disinfectant and make sure my suitcase is – All that kind of stuff you have to do to travel in New York I would say. But I would rather do that than pay $200 for an eight-minute helicopter ride. What would it have to cost for you to use it? I think I would pay a hundred maybe. Perhaps, perhaps.
[00:08:58] FA: The thing is here that we have to remember is perhaps their target market might be the upper class Manhattan elite.
[00:09:06] SH: Ouch. Ouch. Apparently, I am not. I am the lowest of the low class. I am not the target audience according to Francois.
[00:09:16] FA: I’m just standing out for the “Joe Schmoes” who drive Uber.
[00:09:19] SH: I see. I see. Well, we’ve now established everybody. I am definitely in the lower class. Thank you.
[00:09:25] FA: So the main point we’re going to get to here is pricing. How do Uber take what could be really a very convenient way of getting from one place to another and bring it into the mainstream? Or will this forever be a niche? I think the first thing to consider is the demand, how much demand, which we talked about. There just aren’t going to be that many people prepared to pay $200.
Also, there’s an environmental issue here in that how successful can this niche ever be, because you can’t just have hordes and fleets of helicopters flying up and down all day. They’re never going to approve that. So there seems to be a very limited concept this.
[00:10:02] SH: Yeah. I think you can only make these limited journeys.
[00:10:05] FA: We can’t have – I mean, you say, “Oh, no! well, look at the traffic jams.” Well, we can’t then just take all the cars up the road and put the helicopters in the sky, because then we’ll have traffic jams in the sky and the implications of accidents and things like that. So I don’t see how scalable an idea this is.
[00:10:21] SH: Yeah. I think it also has to be –
[00:10:21] FA: I think it’s just fluff to be perfect, honestly.
[00:10:23] SH: Set locations as well, because you have logistical issues of landing, taking off, etc. So I think it would have to be places where you can take your helicopter, it’s easy to go from A to B, and you only say, “We only are offering –” What is it called? Uber helicopter?
[00:10:37] FA: Uber helicopter.
[00:10:38] SH: That’s what I’m going to call it.
[00:10:39] FA: Uber copter.
[00:10:39] SH: Uber copter.
[00:10:41] FA: Or maybe Uber helicops but Uber copter is better.
[00:10:43] SH: Just hire us for your marketing, Uber.
[00:10:44] FA: If you’re listening Mr Uber CEO, Uber copter is better.
[00:10:48] SH: Uber copter.
[00:10:48] FA: You might want to go with that.
[00:10:49] SH: Uber copter only can go from A to B, because I think logistically it’s the only way that it works. That really narrows it down, because maybe I don’t want to go from Manhattan to JFK. I want to go from Manhattan to, I don’t know, where people go in New York. But somewhere else that’s not the airport. So I can’t call my helicopter, and I have to go in a traditional Uber. What is this? So I think it’s going to be very limited in terms of where they can actually place these little routes.
[00:11:12] FA: Right. I think you actually hit the nail on the head earlier when you talked about the depreciation and the cost of owning a helicopter. That’s really what this is aimed at.
[00:11:20] SH: Thank you very much.
[00:11:19] FA: This is aimed at the people who you might want to think about owning a helicopter for the convenience, for the speed, because they fly to the airport a lot and they want it. I can see it working pretty well in Los Angeles or any other major metropolitan area. You just don’t want to have to deal with the depreciation and just all the hassle that goes with ensuring and just dealing with a helicopter.
So this brings us to really my final issue, which is why is Uber marketing this so much. Why are they making such a big deal about this, which is incredibly small target market? It might look good to have a big black helicopter with Uber on the side but –
[00:11:55] SH: But it certainly their shining start. I mean, there’s just no way that this can become a big global thing. I mean, I think you have a theory or at least I think I know what your theory is going to be. Can I guess it?
[00:12:05] FA: You can try.
[00:12:06] SH: Okay. I think you think they’re marketing it, because they’re coming out with the flying cars that they’re going to use.
[00:12:12] FA: Yeah. Their famous flying. They’re barely flying cars. They’re just helicopters but go on.
[00:12:16] SH: Yeah. Exactly. They look like – We need to talk about the commercial at some point, but they are basically just helicopters just redesigned. I think that they’re like prepping the helicopter for it to become a helicopter times a thousand, which is like this mini car thing that was on the advertising. Did you see the advertisement?
[00:12:31] FA: Right. Absolutely. So for those who haven’t seen the advertisement, it’s quite difficult for me to paint you the picture of just how delusional this advert really is.
[00:12:40] SH: Completely delusional.
[00:12:41] FA: A lady strolls along the street.
[00:12:43] SH: Wait. I’m sorry. I have to say it again but while you’re painting the picture though, because I’m not – I need to be clear on what this is. This lady strolls into an unknown city but apparently a city that has absolutely nobody else in it. She strolls in – I don’t know if she comes out of a taxi orwhat. But she’s strolling along, no luggage.
[00:12:58] FA: Probably an Uber.
[00:12:59] SH: No luggage, no nothing. There’s no traffic. There’s no line anywhere that she’s going, and she strolls into some obscure office building. Continue. I just needed to set the scene that it was very unrealistic to me.
[00:13:09] FA: She strolls into this sort of high-rise building.
[00:13:13] SH: A beautiful building though.
[00:13:14] FA: Beautiful building. Saunters up to the top in which there are multiple of the –
[00:13:18] SH: No one else in the elevator, because that’s fine.
[00:13:20] FA: There are multiple of these Uber copter, Uber car things landing on the roof, and she just wanders up, hopes in one.
[00:13:29] SH: No. You forgot about the part where she scans her ticket. If you can’t see me, I’m doing air quotes, because she downloads some weird tickets like a boarding pass.
[00:13:38] FA: Uber using the incredibly cutting edge technology of downloading a PDF.
[00:13:42] SH: It’s just a boarding pass.
[00:13:45] FA: Anyway, so she wanders out, and there’s all these cars.
[00:13:47] SH: Scans it.
[00:13:48] FA: Sorry. She —
[00:13:48] SH: Again, no luggage, which I’m baffled by like this woman is dressed to the nines, but she has no luggage.
[00:13:51] FA: Well, she’s just going home. She’s just been at work.
[00:13:53] SH: She’s just taking the Uber copter to work, which is what I think people would use it for.
[00:13:56] FA: Did you not watch the end? She goes home.
[00:13:58] SH: Right. Okay. Yeah. Okay.
[00:14:00] FA: But anyway, she goes out there. There’s all these things, and then she just hops on with these other people, and she gets whisked off. So there’s no security. There’s a lot of these things flying around. No security at all. Which that is completely unrealistic, because given the amount of effort that goes into stopping dangerous people getting into the sky.
[00:14:17] SH: No TSA. She didn’t have to take off her shoes. None of that.
[00:14:20] FA: So it’s just complete fantasyland, and yet Uber’s here who was sitting there with a straight face in this interview. I can’t remember who he was talking to. He sits there with a straight face after he’s shown this advertisement and says their tagline is coming sooner than you think.
[00:14:34] SH: I mean, that actually sounds believable, because I don’t think it’s coming.
[00:14:39] FA: If it arrives at all.
[00:14:40] SH: Yeah. It’s surprising.
[00:14:41] FA: It will be sooner than we think.
[00:14:42] SH: Exactly. I mean, because I think it’s utterly unrealistic, and it took her about four minutes total from the time she walked out of the non-busy street on to the completely empty office building, which again unrealistic.
[00:14:55] FA: Where there are more Uber copters than people.
[00:14:56] SH: Yeah. It was unbelievable, and she just glides right in. So I just – Yeah. There’s no way. If this becomes a real thing, the demand will be so high. There is no way there’s not a line out the door. It’ll become just as busy as flying, and there’s no way.
[00:15:10] FA: My favorite and last point on this issue is during the advertisement, when she glances –
[00:15:15] SH: By the way, he’s saying advertisement for those Americans listening. Go ahead.
[00:15:19] FA: She looks out, and down on the road below her is just chockablock New York traffic. You can see. So I guess it is New York. Yellow taxis, the cars aren’t moving. It all just looks horns honking, and she’s in this serene Uber copter just flying out. I’m thinking, isn’t that Uber’s core business, cars? Are they saying in this – In Uber’s dream future, the roads are just as clogged as ever, filled with Ubers. They’re not using Uber taxi. The taxi still exists.
[00:15:50] SH: Empty Ubers. Down below is just empty, the skeletons of the Uber drivers that used to be.
[00:15:55] FA: In Uber’s fantasy, New York is still clogged with the existing taxi companies, the roads aren’t moving, and instead people are just flying around in these copters. So, take of that what you will.
[00:16:07] SH: Long story short, Uber needs to straighten some things I think. We’re on our way, but think some of these things through and stop putting on our television this ridiculous advertisement.
[00:16:17] FA: Stick to Uber Eats is it makes money. Uber Freight, I actually like the idea of Uber Freight. It’s kind of Uber. If you own lorry, you can deliver stuff for people. It’s kind of an interesting concept.
[00:16:27] SH: Again, lorry means truck.
[00:16:29] FA: Stick the Uber Freight. Lorry, truck, whichever way that you choose to use, because when we have listeners all around the world, my cohost is assuming that we are just flat out American listeners.
[00:16:41] SH: Fair enough. Fair enough.
[00:16:41] FA: We more likely than not have people in Europe and around the world. But if you’re Uber and you are the world unlike Lyft, these ideas have to work because they’re risky, and your business model is risky. You’re spending a lot of money. You got a lot of debt. You got a lot of investors who are already pretty uninspired by the performance of their stock investments. Lyst isn’t doing great either.
So, it’s not like that business model has worked terribly well. What’s the answer to all of this? I don’t believe that it’s flying cars, and these self-driving cars need to come quickly if they’re going to try and avoid bankruptcy, because you can’t keep losing money at that rate, billions of dollars in debt. At some point, you have to make money.
[00:17:26] SH: There you have it, folks. Uber’s destiny as told by Francois or – So I guess going back to would people use this. I think there’s logistical things iron out. How can I use it? Do I use it in the app? Do I have to book ahead of time? How many seats are available? Because if it can only transport four people at once and say the only half – I don’t know. Even 50 helicopters. It’s not that many rides for as many New Yorkers as there are. So how is this going to work? How are these issues –
[00:17:54] FA: Trains is still the answer, people. Come on, LA.
[00:17:57] SH: It’s very old-fashioned.
[00:17:58] FA: Come on, LA. We want that fast train to san Francisco.
[00:18:01] SH: Mr. LA, please.
[00:18:02] FA: It’s my plug for that.
[00:18:03] SH: Please give us some more public transport. Please.
[00:18:05] FA: Japan has a bullet train. France has a TGV. We need a fast train from LA to San Francisco, but I digress.
[00:18:10] SH: Just give us some subway stops that are outside of downtown. I mean, this is really not hard. But, again, I could do a whole another podcast on [inaudible 00:18:18].
[00:18:18] FA: Well, that’s what Elon Musk in on that with his boring company.
[00:18:21] SH: Elon, come on, man. Step it up.
[00:18:23] FA: They tried to stop him in Beverly Hills at Woodland Hills or one of these fancy places. They said, “You will not build that here.” He just said, “I’m just trying to help you guys avoid some traffic. Sorry.”
[00:18:33] SH: Elon’s always trying to do the right thing, and people are always shutting him down. We’re team Elon here. But seriously, I mean, I have a lot of concerns about how much space it’s going to be, how convenient is it really going to be if you call and they say, “Actually, Sarah, it turns out we can’t book you for another two weeks.” You’re like, “Well, my flight is tomorrow.” I mean, it’s –
[00:18:50] FA: Sarah pulls out her phone, and she clicks. This is just like the advert now. She looks down. The camera looks down. She sees her phone. She clicks on the Uber app. It says, “Would you like to call an Uber copter?” She says, “Yes, please.” It said, “Your driver will be here in four days and 17 hours.”
[00:19:07] SH: Please be outside with absolutely no luggage per the commercial. Yeah. I think there are a lot of logistical concerns. But I think the reason we don’t have answers to those questions are circling back to your theory, which I developed for you, you’re welcome, which is that essentially this is just deployed to be advertising the bigger idea, which is at some point we’re going to have something even more advanced and even better, so gird your loins.
[00:19:32] FA: Be ready.
[00:19:32] SH: Be ready. Yeah. So I think that’s probably what they are doing, which is why I think I have no answers.
[00:19:36] FA: I think that’s exactly what they’re doing. Look how boring Lyft is with their rideshare and look how exciting we are with our helicopters.
[00:19:42] SH: Well, again, I hesitate – I hate to be nitpicky here, but I do hesitate to call it a rideshare ploy. Again, the concept of a rideshare is that anybody can become an Uber driver and then they can bring people to where they want to go. This is obviously a transportation program. It’s not a rideshare. So I just wanted to make that point.
[00:19:59] FA: That I think is an extremely valid point as well.
[00:20:01] SH: Thank you very much. Thank you. I appreciate that. So, yeah. I guess only time will tell if people will actually use it. I think it’s a dud, and I think it’s also – Like we said, it’s a ploy.
[00:20:10] FA: It’s a ploy. It’s a marketing ploy.
[00:20:13] SH: Yeah. I think, as you said at the very beginning, it’s, again, Uber trying to show their muscles. It’s probably –
[00:20:20] FA: Uber flexes its muscles and says, “We can literally paint Uber onto the side of our helicopter. Can you do that Lyft?” Lyft says yes but it would be pink.
[00:20:29] SH: Lyft says, “I’m still trying to get out of North America. I’m a little behind. Yeah.” So I guess we shall see. We shall see. But, hey, the stock, as you said, doesn’t seem to be doing too terrible.
[00:20:38] FA: Yeah. Given all the negativity surrounding Uber, Lyft’s IPO they essentially botched. Anyone who invested on the first day of Lyft’s IPO has probably or most certainly has lost money. Uber, on the other hand, has stock price. While it is down, it’s not down as much as when you hear people talk about Uber. I mean, it’s negative, negative, negative.
[00:20:59] SH: As these podcasters show it apparently.
[00:21:02] FA: Yet it’s relatively resilient, and I think that’s partly why it’s an investment in Uber is more of an investment in the kind of the big dreams of the company. You’re not investing in earnings. You’re not investing in profit. You’re investing in the idea that they will one day have basically a stranglehold on all kinds of transport and transportation around the world.
[00:21:23] SH: Which again brings us back to the very beginning. If you’re not first, you’re last, and that’s what Uber is trying to say.
[00:21:29] FA: Thank you for listening today. Please subscribe to us on iTunes.
[00:21:32] SH: You can also find us wherever it is that you receive your podcasts, and leave us a review. Thanks very much.