We Can Invest in Uber Before Its IPO

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Too many people view taxi service as nothing more than a pedestrian, everyday type of business.

Those people would be very wrong.

It's actually a complicated, multi-billion dollar sector that right now is going through perhaps the most profound changes of any business model in the United States.

Indeed, this revolution is moving the industry from its original days of horse-drawn carriages to the age of global positioning systems (GPS) in automobiles.

The biggest name in the revolution is, of course, Uber, whose mobile cab service app is turning the taxi-for-hire model on its head, all while waiting for a much anticipated IPO.

But right now there's another way to play on Uber's success and future, with a well-known company that's going to surprise you....

Uber Has Disrupted the Industry Model Forever

If ever there was an industry ripe for high-tech disruption it would have to be taxicabs.

Here's the thing: The first known use of taxis for hire involved horse-drawn carriages in England more than 400 years ago.

Today, many taxis use autos equipped with GPS and other high-tech gadgets, a quantum leap from its humble beginnings. And yet, despite all these taxicab advances, many critics argue that when it comes to providing fast service, not much has changed in the past 400 years.

But that all got turned 180 degrees when Uber was founded in 2009, and its mobile app was launched in 2010 in San Francisco.

Think of Uber as a digital chauffeur service. Users simply tap on the Uber app and find drivers in the area who are willing to drive them to their destinations for a small fee.

Ironically, Uber has made headlines lately not because of its innovation, but because of what many investors believe is the startup's sky-high valuation.

After recently receiving $1.2 billion in additional venture funding, Uber is now worth some $18.2 billion.

But let's not get bogged down in debating just how much Uber will eventually be worth if it does in fact have a successful IPO.

Fact is, Uber represents the disruption of a centuries-old global industry, and the result of its technology is a staggering revenue growth model that merits a closer look.

Uber Is on Track for $1 Billion in Revenue

Uber is a company with a very simple concept but with huge financial opportunities.

See, the company uses data mapping software to create what amounts to an electronic exchange that links potential passengers with drivers who are willing to give rides for a fee.

The robust technology is a vast improvement over what any one cab company could hope to emulate.

Hence the company's slogan: Everyone's private driver.

This app's power derives from the fact that it can identify as many as a dozen drivers a short distance from the person who needs a ride.

People who use this service rave about it to anyone who will listen. On Apple's App Store, Uber earns a five-star rating with headlines like "Best car service in the world!!!"

Make no mistake, the company faces a bright future. The New York Times estimates that if the company could grab half of the taxi market share in the United States, it will generate more than $1 billion in yearly sales.

And that figure doesn't include the 36 other countries the firm currently serves. Nor does it include the potential for selling other services later.

What's more, Uber's leaders say the firm's sales, which TechCrunch recently pegged at $213 million for fiscal 2013, have been doubling every six months - a compound annual growth rate of nearly 145%!

But Uber offers an even more intriguing long-term play: a direct tie to an even newer technology - robotic chauffeurs - being developed at the same time at another high-tech company.

So while all the fuss today is focused directly on Uber's valuation and IPO dates, we've found a unique back-door way to play this robot-centric technology with a familiar name that shares some critical ties to Uber...

Google's Links to Uber Run Deep... and They're Getting Deeper

Investors targeting Uber's "killer app" would do well to look at Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG, GOOGL) as a great backend play. The two companies are linked by money and technology.

First, the money...

Last year, Google's venture-capital unit invested roughly $258 million in Uber. At the time, it was the largest investment Google Ventures had ever made.

Second, the two companies have a natural high-tech affinity. That's because beyond its leadership in online search and mobile phones, Google is way ahead of the curve on robotic cars.

Consider that Google plans to test 100 self-driving prototype cars this summer in California. Just weeks ago, Uber announced that it hopes to tap driverless cars in the very near future.

Talk about synergy!

Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick insists that passengers could end up paying less by summoning a driverless vehicle.

"When there's no other dude in the car," Kalanick explains, "the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle."

And in car-challenged New York City, Uber has quietly introduced a messenger service integrated into its own app. Kalanick has even touted the benefits of developing Uber into a platform for shipping and logistics.

That type of tech could dovetail nicely with Google Shopping Express, the tech giant's shipping service.

Meantime, Google recently integrated Uber into the search firm's highly popular Maps application. Users can link to Uber rides under the app's options for travel directions.

Now then, I downloaded the app and put it through its paces.

I can honestly understand why people love it so much. I tested the technology by sending a black SUV to pick up my daughter, 15, from a friend's house.

A screen popped up with a map showing where the car was located. At the bottom was a small picture of the car's front end and a box with the driver's name and Uber rating. It also had his license plate number.

Not only that, but the closer he got to picking up my daughter, the larger the map became. This was incredibly cool - I followed the icon of his car as it drove up to the front of the house.

I had pushed a button on the app that allowed me to share the driver's route and had texted that to my daughter's iPhone. Then I tracked her as he climbed 1.6 miles to the top of the Oakland Hills for the drop off.

Bear in mind, this all occurred phone-to-phone, seamlessly. Since I had an account, the service just billed me digitally, including a 20% tip.

All in all, an outstanding service!

Uber Is Another Piece in Google's ETF-Like Portfolio

Just because Uber is not yet publicly traded, that doesn't mean we can't invest in its future.

In fact, its relationship with cutting-edge companies like Uber is one of the reasons why I say tech investors should continue to take a good look at Google.

From online search to mobile phones to robotic cars and smart home devices, Google is becoming as much a high-tech ETF as it is an individual stock.

Trading at $582 a share, Google has a nearly $400 billion market cap. It has operating margins of 23%, a 15% return on equity, and $50 billion in net cash on hand.

Thus, Google offers investors high profit margins, the chance for appreciation, and access to disruptive tech firms like Uber.

There's no reason for investors looking to profit from Uber's bright future to wait for an IPO that will likely shut out retail investors.

Head for Google instead.

The Google play here is only the latest "backdoor" IPO investment Michael's looking at. His Strategic Tech Investment readers are making money on some of the biggest tech IPOs ever. To start getting Strategic Tech Investor, along with Michael's Secret Way to Profit from the Biggest Tech IPOs report, simply click here. It's free, and you'll get two updates per week.

About the Author

Michael A. Robinson is one of the top financial analysts working today. His book "Overdrawn: The Bailout of American Savings" was a prescient look at the anatomy of the nation's S&L crisis, long before the word "bailout" became part of our daily lexicon. He's a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and reporter, lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review for his aggressive style. His 30-year track record as a leading tech analyst has garnered him rave reviews, too. Today he is the editor of the monthly tech investing newsletter Nova-X Report as well as Radical Technology Profits, where he covers truly radical technologies – ones that have the power to sweep across the globe and change the very fabric of our lives – and profit opportunities they give rise to. He also explores "what's next" in the tech investing world at Strategic Tech Investor.

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