Pop! Goes the Uber

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Balloons; stock photo.
Balloons; stock photo.
Photo: Johannes Simon (Getty Images)

Things haven’t been going so hot for Uber, which is burning through billions of dollars a year with no fleet of driverless taxis in sight to stop it. Now, the party is really over: According to a report in Crunchbase News, Uber has decided to stop buying hundreds of thousands of dollars in celebratory balloons annually.

Crunchbase wrote that in an email to all staff last week, chief financial officer Nelson Chai said that the company will stop buying helium balloons to celebrate staff’s “Uberversary” (apparently, what Uber staff call work anniversaries). Chai wrote that switching to stickers instead would save the company more than $200,000 a year at its San Francisco offices alone and is “a great way to find dollars we can invest back into the business,” asking employees to chip in with more ideas to keep costs down:

“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.”


That’s right: $200,000 in balloons. That is a two, followed by five zeros, with a dollar sign in front of it.




As Crunchbase noted, with that money Uber could afford approximately one more full-time engineer in San Francisco, if it hadn’t abruptly stopped hiring new engineers and other technical staff for the year. Uber portrayed the hiring freeze as a matter of the company simply hitting its quotas for the year, though it laid off 400 of its previously 1,200-strong marketing team late last month in what staffers told Business Insider was a “bloodbath.” According to Crunchbase, a source who attended a recent all-hands meeting at Uber said that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, when prompted, did not confirm or deny that layoffs in the engineering department could begin soon. Instead, he stated that Uber has to become a “more efficient” organization.


$200,000 in balloons.

Uber posted a staggering $5.2 billion loss last quarter, which could buy about 26,000 San Francisco office’s worth of balloons. Most of that was one-time costs related to its initial public offering earlier this year, but $1.3 billion was regular operating costs. With some $13.7 billion left in the bank, Uber can keep burning through cash at its current rates for over two more years, though odds are pretty good they’re gonna have to start popping more than balloons soon.