Last week, Uber’s chief financial officer, Nelson Chai, sent an all-company email announcing a minor policy change. Uber marks the anniversary of employees’ work at the company, which is internally referred to an “Uberversary.”
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But now, instead of marking another year of service with helium balloons at their desk, the on-demand transportation giant will start giving its employees stickers to mark the occasion. Chai said in his email that the switch could save the company more than $200,000 at its offices in San Francisco alone.
“It’s not only a great way to find dollars we can invest back into the business, it’s also more environmentally friendly,” Chai’s message said. Crunchbase News was shown the email by a recipient, who did so on condition of anonymity. Uber did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.
This cost-cutting measure is part of a company-wide campaign, complete with its own internal hashtag: #FindTheMoney. Uber executives are soliciting ideas from their employees to find ways to reduce the company’s burn rate. In his email message, Chai credits an employee with the idea and implores others to “please keep the ideas coming.”
It should be noted that the projected $200,000 savings from the switch to Uberversary stickers would only save Uber the cost of one senior software engineering salary, for one year, or roughly two salaries for junior engineers based in its San Francisco and Bay Area offices. However, it’s unlikely the savings will be reinvested in Uber’s tech talent pool, for now.
Uber is looking to slim down its operations. At the end of July, the company laid off 400 employees in its marketing department. And, last week, it instituted a hiring freeze on the engineering side. In a recent all-hands meeting, when asked about the prospect of engineering layoffs, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi would neither confirm nor deny that some developers could lose their jobs, remarking only that Uber needed to become a “more efficient” organization, according to a person who attended the meeting.
It will likely take much more than slashing budgets with stickers to deflate Uber’s ballooning losses. In its Q2 2019 financial report, delivered last Thursday, Uber reported a loss of $1.3 billion on $15.75 billion in gross bookings. (Uber reported a total operating loss of $5.485 billion, which included a one-time “driver appreciation award” of $298 million, and “$3.9 billion of stock-based compensation expenses,” both paid out in conjunction with its IPO.) Its stock fell 10 percent on earnings day.
Months ago, some at Uber hoped the company would go public at a whopping $100 billion valuation. Uber went public on May 9, raising $8.1 billion for the company, valued by Wall Street at $82.4 billion, fully-diluted. At the time of writing, Uber’s market capitalization hovers at just over $63 billion, down over 20 percent in its first three months as a publicly-traded company.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias