Uber takes a detour with plan to provide temporary staff

Uber Works could to persuade potential backers to invest in next year’s IPO

The project has been in development in Chicago for several months following an earlier trial in Los Angeles.

The project has been in development in Chicago for several months following an earlier trial in Los Angeles.

 

Uber is developing a new short-term staffing business, dubbed Uber Works, that would help to diversify its business ahead of next year’s planned initial public offering.

Uber hopes to apply its “on-demand” model and large database of contractors to provide a temporary workforce for events and corporate functions, such as waiters or security guards.

Uber Works could help to persuade potential investors in next year’s IPO that Uber is more than just a transportation service, instead pitching it as a broader platform for all kinds of flexible work and on-demand services.

The project has been in development in Chicago for several months following an earlier trial in Los Angeles, according to people familiar with the matter.

While it is unclear how soon Uber Works could launch, the company has started to step up its recruitment for the venture.

Job ads describe a “special projects” team based in Chicago with “ambitious goals and objectives”. Prospective candidates should have a “strong interest in the on-demand labour space” and be prepared to be “on call when the product is busiest (often nights, weekends, and holidays)”, the job ads say.

Developing the idea outside of Uber’s San Francisco headquarters and far from the Silicon Valley spotlight could help to keep it secret as Uber irons out any early kinks.

The company already has a large pool of drivers in Chicago who could potentially become Works contractors. However, the current pilot programme does not involve active Uber drivers.

The new venture is operated as an “internal start-up” akin to its successful Uber Eats delivery business and Freight, which connects shippers with truckers.

Uber Works falls under the purview of Rachel Holt, a longtime Uber executive who currently heads its “new modalities” division, which includes bike and scooter sharing. On-demand labour is one of several initiatives that the unit is exploring and may not become a fully fledged business line.

While some on-demand workforce companies such as TaskRabbit have offered an extra pair of hands to consumers to help with house cleaning or building flat-packed furniture, Uber Works is pitched as a business-to-business service, like Uber Freight.

The effort could also help to retain Uber’s drivers – which the company calls “partners” – by offering alternative sources of income. Drivers on the Uber ride-hailing network can already opt to deliver food for Eats customers.

The kinds of roles available through Uber Works – which would often be available in the evening or weekends, outside of the peak ride-hailing demand of rush hour – might also provide another way to alleviate the monotony of sitting behind the wheel.

Uber declined to comment.

On Wednesday, Uber announced another effort that is one step removed from moving people and goods from place to place.

Its Powerloop division will rent tractor-trailers to small and medium-sized carriers that use Uber Freight. Uber has signed up big shippers including Budweiser brewer AB InBev to use the service. – Copyright Financial Times Ltd