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Startups Weekly: Understanding Uber’s latest fintech play


Startups Weekly: Understanding Uber’s latest fintech play – TechCrunch

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy startups and venture capital news. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I wrote about how SoftBank is screwing up. Before that, I noted All Raise’s expansion, Uber the TV show and the unicorn from down under.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.


Uber Head of Payments Peter Hazlehurst addresses the audience during an Uber products launch event in San Francisco, California, on September 26, 2019. (Photo by Philip Pacheco / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP PACHECO/AFP/Getty Images)

The sheer number of startup players moving into banking services is staggering,” writes my Crunchbase News friends in a piece titled “Why Is Every Startup A Bank These Days.”

I’ve been asking myself the same question this year, as financial services business like Brex, Chime, Robinhood, Wealthfront, Betterment and more raise big rounds to build upstart digital banks. North of $13 billion venture capital dollars have been invested in U.S. fintech companies so far in 2019, up from $12 billion invested in 2018.

This week, one of the largest companies to ever emerge from the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem, Uber, introduced its team focused on developing new financial products and technologies. In a vacuum, a multibillion-dollar public company with more than 22,000 employees launching one new team is not big news. Considering investment and innovation in fintech this year, Uber’s now well-documented struggles to reach profitability and the company’s hiring efforts in New York, a hotbed for financial aficionados, the “Uber Money” team could indicate much larger fintech ambitions for the ride-hailing giant.

As it stands, the Uber Money team will be focused on developing real-time earnings for drivers accessed through the Uber debit account and debit card, which will itself see new features, like 3% or more cash back on gas. Uber Wallet, a digital wallet where drivers can more easily track their earnings, will launch in the coming weeks too, writes Peter Hazlehurst, the head of Uber Money.

This is hardly Uber’s first major foray into financial services. The company’s greatest feature has always been its frictionless payments capabilities that encourage riders and eaters to make purchases without thinking. Uber’s even launched its own consumer credit card to get riders cash back on rides. It’s no secret the company has larger goals in the fintech sphere, and with 100 million “monthly active platform consumers” via Uber, Uber Eats and more, a dedicated path toward new and better financial products may not only lead to happier, more loyal drivers but a company that’s actually, one day, able to post a profit.


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The TechCrunch team is heading to Berlin again this year for our annual event, TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin, which brings together entrepreneurs and investors from across the globe. We announced the agenda this week, with leading founders including Away’s Jen Rubio and UiPath’s Daniel Dines. Take a look at the full agenda.

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Berlin 2019″,”slug”:”disrupt-berlin-2019″,”taxonomy”:”tc_event”,”rapidData”:”pt”:””,”pct”:””,”_links”:”self”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_event/576608071″],”collection”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_event”],”about”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/taxonomies/tc_event”],”up”:[“embeddable”:true,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_event/579419″],”wp:post_type”:[“href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts?tc_event=576608071″,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_events?tc_event=576608071″,”href”:”https://techcrunch.com/wp-json/wp/v2/tc_video?tc_event=576608071″],”curies”:[“name”:”wp”,”href”:”https://api.w.org/rel”,”templated”:true]]]}},{“id”:1907164,”date”:”2019-11-01T14:28:49″,”date_gmt”:”2019-11-01T21:28:49″,”guid”:”rendered”:”https://techcrunch.com/?p=1907164″,”modified”:”2019-11-01T14:58:09″,”modified_gmt”:”2019-11-01T21:58:09″,”slug”:”reaction-engines-mach-5-engine-is-just-the-tip-of-the-new-aerospace-boom”,”status”:”publish”,”type”:”post”,”link”:”https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/01/reaction-engines-mach-5-engine-is-just-the-tip-of-the-new-aerospace-boom/”,”title”:”rendered”:”Reaction Engines’ Mach 5 engine is just the tip of the new aerospace boom”,”content”:{“rendered”:”

Imagine a hypersonic passenger aircraft that would cut the journey time between London and New York to around two hours. At Mach 5, oru00a0five times the speed of sound, the aircraft wouldu00a0complete a trip across the Atlantic in around 120 minutes. Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird u2013 the worldu2019s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft. A flight across the Pacific would take roughly three hours.u00a0Flight times from London to Sydney could be 80% shorter.u00a0Who needs Elon Musk?n

Reaching these speeds would require an aircraft engine that has never previously existed. But last week, the world got a glimpse of a new future via a project which has been germinating for 30 years.n

Reaction Engines was founded in 1989 by three propulsion engineers from Rolls Royce: Alan Bond, Richard Varvill and John Scott Scott. Their idea was that in order for an engine to reach hypersonic speeds, the air going into it would have to be rapidly cooled, otherwise the engine would melt. Reactionu2019s breakthrough was inventing a “precooler” or heat exchanger which can take the air down to minus 150 degrees centigrade in less than a 20th of a second.n

These ultra-lightweight u201cheat exchangersu201d would enable aircraft to fly over five times the speed of sound in the atmosphere. Thus the SABRE – Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine – was born. The Sabre engine u201cbreathesu201d air to make 20 per cent of the journey to orbit, before switching to rocket mode to complete the trip.n

Last week, Reaction Engines passed a significant milestone. It successfully tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions representing Mach 5.n

The ground-based test at the Colorado Air and Space Port in the US, saw the precooler successfully operate at temperatures of 420u1d52C (~788u1d52F) u2013 matching the thermal conditions corresponding to Mach 3.3 flight.n

"Reactionn

But this technology wouldnu2019t just be applicable to hypersonic flight. The precooler technology, developed by Reaction Engines, would significantly enhance the performance of existing jet engine technology, along with applications in automotive, aerospace, energy and industrial processes. Reaction Engines has attracted development funding from the British government, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the European Space Agency. Itu2019s also raised over u00a3100m from public and private sources and has secured investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeingu2019s venture capital arm HorizonX. Reaction is expected to start building and testing a demonstrator engine next year.n

The success of Reaction Engines to date is a sign that the u2018AerospaceTechu2019 sector is now booming. It is most certainly not alone.n

Last month, Boeing and the UK government launched a u00a32m accelerator program to look for new innovations in this area. Boeingu2019s HorizonX is backing the initiative.n



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