By Andrew Nusca
August 26, 2016

How much money would your company be willing to spend to win?

I don’t mean just barely, à la sprinter Shaunae Miller’s finish line dive during the women’s 400m at the Rio Olympics. I mean sheer and utter domination, à la swimmer Katie Ledecky’s 11-second lead to win the 800m freestyle.

Would you spend $12 million? $120 million?

How about $1.2 billion? And how about in six months? That’s how much Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wants to win. According to various reports, his company is losing staggering amounts of money—the GDP of Grenada, every 180 days—to secure its place at the top of the global ride-hailing market.

Uber generates plenty of revenue. But its desire to subsidize drivers in highly competitive markets around the world is draining the company’s coffers faster than it can fill them. (Even having raised almost $9 billion in funding.)

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Can Kalanick pull it off? If he’s smart, he’ll steal a page from another CEO who has plowed extraordinary amounts of money back into his company: Jeff Bezos. Quarter after quarter, the Amazon (amzn) chief has managed to keep investors at bay by eking out just enough profit, just enough times, to give him to the cover to plow funds into growth initiatives, often at a loss. Bezos’s ability to take the long view—and crucially, convince others to do so—has given the retailer unmatched competitive advantage.

But Bezos never lost money like this. Amazon’s biggest annual loss was $1.4 billion in 2000. Last year, Uber lost almost twice that.

All Uber wants to do is win, win, win—no matter what. And that may be the problem.

 

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