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As Uber Prepares for I.P.O., Its Losses Pile Up

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SAN FRANCISCO — Technology companies rarely make money before they go public. Twitter was unprofitable when it listed on the stock market. So were Snap, Spotify and SurveyMonkey.

For Uber, the question as the ride-hailing giant prepares for a public offering is even bigger than whether it can make money. That’s because the company, the most prominent tech start-up of its generation, will set the bar for other well-known tech companies like Slack and Lyft as they also stampede toward the stock market this year.

So far, Uber is not doing itself any favors on profits.

The company reported on Friday that it had narrowed its net loss in the fourth quarter of 2018 from a year earlier. But excluding certain one-time items, including the sale of some of its businesses, Uber’s losses for the quarter rose 88 percent compared with the previous year, to $842 million.

The losses were a result of Uber increasing its spending as it tries to outmuscle competitors, many of which have intensified their efforts to add riders and drivers. Uber has responded by offering bigger incentives and more promotions to fend off rivals like DoorDash, Lyft and other ride-hailing and food-delivery services.

Uber made its financial disclosure as it hurtles toward what is set to be one of the biggest-ever public offerings by a tech company. A transportation colossus, Uber was privately valued at more than $70 billion last year, and proposals from investment bankers suggest that it could be worth as much as $120 billion after going public. The share sale will create enormous windfalls for Uber’s many investors, and for its founders and early employees.

As a private company, Uber is not required to disclose financial results. But it has regularly done so over the past two years to inform investors about its business, and perhaps to keep the depth of its losses from coming as a surprise later.

The latest set of figures, probably Uber’s last as a private company, will be closely scrutinized. Many investors initially give young and fast-growing tech start-ups a pass for losing money, but questions about whether such companies can ultimately be profitable eventually catch up with them. Investors criticized Twitter for racking up losses before it finally began to make money last year, and they have pushed down Snap’s share price since its public offering, partly because the company is still deeply unprofitable.

In a statement, Uber’s chief financial officer, Nelson Chai, did not address the company’s losses. He said Uber had “maintained category leadership” in its ride-hailing business and he noted other bright spots, including the company’s freight-management business and nascent e-bike and scooter program.

Uber has a long history of spending large sums of money. Ride-hailing is inherently an expensive business that requires companies to expand into new markets for growth, pay to recruit drivers and lower prices to grab business away from competitors.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, has been under pressure to pare its losses, and the company has pulled out of money-losing markets like Russia and Southeast Asia.

Some of the company’s losses have been overshadowed by its explosive growth. In 2018, Uber increased its total bookings — what it charges customers for rides and food delivery — to $50 billion, up 45 percent from 2017. Net revenue was $11.3 billion, a 43 percent increase.

The company’s net revenue for last year’s fourth quarter was $3 billion, a 25 percent increase compare with a year earlier, and its gross bookings jumped 37 percent, to $14.2 billion. The company has $6.4 billion in cash and its net loss was $865 million.

But Uber’s profit margins have declined as it cut prices to match competitors and spent money on expanding its food-delivery business, Uber Eats. The margins are also smaller on Uber Eats orders because the company pays commissions to restaurants as well as delivery drivers.

Uber’s self-driving car program, which will probably not yield revenue for years, continues to burn cash. The company returned its autonomous vehicles to public roads in December after a 10-month hiatus prompted by one of its vehicles fatally striking a pedestrian in Arizona.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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