Uber, the high-flying car service/tech company valued at $18.2 billion in a recent round of capital infusion, is now worth more than Hertz or United Airlines–even though it doesn’t own any cars or planes. In fact it’s worth that in part because it doesn’t own any hardware. (But software? Check. Network? Big time.) And it doesn’t have any of those annoying unions to deal with either–hell, Uber drivers aren’t even employees, let alone organized ones. But if that’s the case, is the business model “defensible” in Silicon Valley speak? Can’t Uber’s competitors–and not just big ones like Lyft and Sidecar–just do the same thing? Customer acquisition may be a costly impediment, with Uber‘s head start and strong reputation, but the playing field would seem more even than most: competitors don’t need planes or negotiated runway arrangements. They just need people with driver’s licenses and cars. Not uncommon possessions.
To be successful you can invent something new, or do something well that someone else invented. Look at the British Invasion of the 1960s, bands storming America with reworked American blues! Now another British operation is taking its cue from Uber’s American innovation: Green Tomato Cars. A success in London, Green Tomato Cars has brought its service to Washington, DC–a city where Uber has found great success–adding its welcome green twist: Green Tomato Cars features exclusively hybrid vehicles, a clean and quiet option in noisy dirty cities. Green Tomato Cars was actually founded before Uber, way back in 2006, with its green focus as the major point of difference. Now, like its competitors, it’s been swiftly adding all the conveniences made possible by apps, mobile and networks. Are Green Tomato Cars and its competitors destined for just a small piece of his growing pie? Is Uber’s lead too big, too insurmountable? See MySpace, et al.