Consumer trust is declining across the board – in institutions, in government, in brands – for all sorts of reasons. “Multiple statistics show that brands can be made or broken within minutes, within seconds, in social environments,” Rob Key, CEO at Converseon, an AI-flavoured social sentiment tracker, told the I-COM Data Creativity Awards (Malaga, May 2019). “Into this environment comes a company like Uber.” 

Given its ubiquity, it’s hard to remember Uber didn’t exist six years ago. The pace of the company’s advance has been vertiginous. It’s now in 173 countries, and 785 metropolitan areas. Every day it realises millions of rides. It is also the most famous ride-hailing app on the planet, a poster-child of what is euphemistically known as the sharing economy. In the last year, it has been gearing up towards its initial public offering, a massive moment for any company, but especially for one as scrutinised as Uber. It needed to know what was going on.