Earlier this afternoon, Bloomberg reported that Google Ventures managing partner Bill Maris (the Glass man in the middle, above) thinks that Uber could one day be worth "$200 billion or more." Why would a sensible outlet like Bloomberg give an Uber investor the platform to pump up his investment?
Because guessing what Uber is "worth" is a the god-given right of every man who has ever laid eyes on a cap table. Nay, it is their duty. It does not matter that we can't foresee the longterm success of Uber's rapid international expansion. No one gives a damn that Uber's plan to make taxis and now individual car ownership a thing of the past is still up in the air. What kind of startup savior thinks about regulators—charm them or poach them—or wonders what happens when the promotions end?
In the past month, the investors who plowed $1.2 billion into Uber insisted Uber was worth $18.2 billion. Then Aswath Damodaran, who wrote not just the book, but many books on valuations, said Uber was worth closer to $5.9 billion. Venture capitalist Bill Gurley, whose firm Benchmark Capital also invested in Uber, told Professor Damodaran he was "off by a mile," using a tweet from philosopher-CEO Aaron Levie as evidence. And that brings us back to Bill Maris and $200 billion.
Sizing the market for a disruptor based on an incumbent's market is like sizing the car industry off how many horses there were in 1910.
— Aaron Levie (@levie) June 8, 2014
His firm, Google Ventures, has invested more than once, most recently in that $1.2 billion round. At the Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Maris said his math was based on the fact that Uber is also experimenting with delivery services with the potential to become a logistics company, without specifying which goods it will move around or how. Nonetheless, the investor allowed for the possibility that he may be off by a couple hundred billion or so.
"It's an incredibly creative team — their growth shows they are clearly onto something," he said of Uber. But Maris also warned that, like any startup, "it could also go down to zero."
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