Uber is starting to look like a lifestyle brand

Jul 23, 2013

FORTUNE -- Ask Travis Kalanick about the future of Uber, and he'll tell you that it has become a brand that transcends its original mission. "Today, we're in the business of delivering cars," Kalanick said onstage at this year's Brainstorm Tech conference. In the year-and-a-half since Fortune profiled Kalanick, Uber has rapidly expanded into new markets, despite regulatory hiccups in cities like Washington D.C. and New York.

But the serial entrepreneur, who previously cut his teeth on startups like the file-sharing service Red Swoosh in the early 2000s, also pointed out Uber has dabbled -- and continues to do dabble -- in other services. Last Friday, Uber worked with ice cream trucks and served up on-demand dessert in 33 cities; this Valentine's Day, it delivered rose bouquets. And at previous South by Southwest conferences, the startup served up barbecue in a similar fashion. (The latter wasn't much of hit however, something Kalanick told Fortune that had more to do with cold weather.)

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His point: Uber is more than just a car service app. Kalanick said he has held informal discussions with a large e-commerce company about utilizing drivers' downtime to potentially enable same-day delivery of goods. Explained Kalanick: "If somebody goes, Travis, you've got this great lifestyle brand. When are you going to do concierge services?  Or when are you going to do hotels?  And I'm like, we're not going to do hotels because we're not delivering a hotel building to you, right?  So we know what we are. But maybe we do like Uber camper or something, like we'll bring a camper to you -- no, I'm just kidding."

Judging from the conference attendees, Kalanick and Uber are having a moment. The vast majority of people watching the conversation in a packed main-stage tent raised their hands when asked by moderator Jessi Hempel who used the service.

Uber's CEO also remained mum on the firm's finances. Uber is currently raising another round of funding at a rumored $2.5 billion valuation. He admitted the fundraising process was in progress, but demurred the stratospheric valuation. "Our numbers are really, really good," Kalanick said finally. "And the multiples that you see in the public market are around companies that are growing like 50% or 40%.  You could take their price-to-sales ratios and we could come in -- well, shoot, I'm getting stuck. Shit." And the room exploded with laughter.

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