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…
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.