Uber's stock is set to start trading Friday morning in the year's most hotly anticipated tech IPO, a key test of investor faith in the stability of Silicon Valley as a string of money-losing companies ready themselves to enter the market.
The ride-hailing giant was set to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange at $45 per share on Friday, valuing the company at $82 billion in one of the largest IPOs ever. While it has promised a future as a sprawling transportation company that extends well beyond ride-hailing, it remains to be seen if investors will buy into that futuristic vision as the company bleeds billions annually on operations.
Any signs of trouble in trading on the New York Stock Exchange later Friday could become a cautionary tale for a string of IPOs to follow, including Slack and Airbnb. Already, rival Lyft has seen stock prices tumble nearly 30 percent since its stock market listing less than two months ago.
Uber's IPO comes just two years after its co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick's ouster following allegations of a company culture that fueled workplace sexual harassment. Kalanick also came under fire for his behavior, including footage of him arguing with a driver who had complained about declining pay. It was the same year the #DeleteUber movement caused a massive headache for the company, sending riders to Lyft.
Now, Uber executives are laying out an ambitious plan that positions the company as a competitor to logistics expert Amazon. Uber plans to rely on its ability to apply its vast data trove and routing software to rewrite how goods and people move from one place to another and use computer algorithms to remove inefficiencies. Its budding business lines include freight forwarding and food and package delivery, something triggering its high valuation - more than twice Ford Motor's. Uber values potential revenue from all of the services it wants to eventually tackle globally at $12.3 trillion.
But that vision comes at a steep cost. It lost $3 billion on its operations last year and has indicated it could be unprofitable indefinitely.
Meanwhile, tensions have increased in its core business, as some drivers say they feel that Uber executives are becoming millionaires at their expense. Drivers held demonstrations and strikes in cities around the globe on Wednesday in protest of the company's pay practices, demanding fair and transparent wages as they say their paychecks have decreased.
Kalanick, who is set to command billions as a result of the initial public offering, is not expected to be on hand for the bell-ringing ceremony.
This article was written by Faiz Siddiqui, a reporter for The Washington Post.