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Airbnb与Uber,谁更强?

Uber将面临持续的全球性竞争,Airbnb则有可能以相对垄断的方式实现增长。

2017年年初以来,公关问题一直让叫车服务提供商Uber头疼不已,而这只是一种温和的说法。从网上的卸载Uber运动,到数量猛增的性骚扰索赔,再到该公司躲避执法调查的Greyball软件遭曝光,Uber发现自己一反常态地不稳定。同时,受到批评的不光是Uber的文化。泄露的财务信息显示,该公司2016年亏损高达30亿美元,这体现出了Uber在美国以及海外叫车服务市场遇到的困难。

尽管如此,Uber仍是互联网上最大的交易场所之一,而且就其规模和成熟度将要触及的拐点而言,大多数处于这种状态的公司都会在2018年上市。

有意思的是,Airbnb有可能沿着类似路径前进,但这两家在按需经济中取得了惊人进展的年轻公司可能有着天壤之别。

2008年成立以来,Airbnb的成长一直都没遇上什么真正的竞争。随着一间间新的房屋加入Airbnb平台,对初来乍到的竞争对手来说,成长和从前者手中夺取市场份额的难度已经显著增大。2011年至今,Airbnb的地位一直没有受到过真正的挑战。在这一年,Airbnb完成了B轮融资,最接近它的竞争对手HomeAway则首发上市。

与之相反,虽然Uber在叫车软件领域处于主导位置,但在它进入的所有主要市场中,Uber实际上都面临着激烈竞争。在美国,Lyft仍和Uber齐头并进。同时,Uber已经牢牢把握的主导性市场份额仍不足遏制新生力量的出现,比如纽约市的叫车服务软件Juno。在国外,Uber的仗更难打,特别是在中国——Uber和滴滴出行那场颇为公开的争夺以Uber败北告终。

虽然不再和滴滴开战,但Uber仍在和其他主要竞争对手抗衡,比如印度的Ola Cabs、东南亚的Grab和拉美的Easy Taxi。此外,旨在征服全球市场的Uber预计还会出现巨额亏损。

Airbnb和Uber的差异对今天的创业者来说是重要的一课。投资者也可以从中窥见两家公司今后几年的表现。Airbnb面临的竞争比Uber少,主要原因在于所提供产品和服务的独特性。就Airbnb来说,这个平台上的公寓或住宅基本上各不相同,比如所在位置、家具、装饰、价格和服务质量等。换句话说,Airbnb提供的是差异化的产品和服务。

Uber则相反,和大多数叫车软件一样,它提供的是大体类似的,或者说同质化服务,因此不像Airbnb那样在市场上有竞争力。比如,就怎样把顾客从A点送到B点来说,Uber的车辆和司机较为相似。虽然一些细微差别偶尔会变得很重要,比如车子是否够大,可以坐下五名乘客而不是一、两名,或者它是否方便坐轮椅的乘客上下,但Uber的单位产品/服务基本上如出一辙。

在今天的投资者和消费者眼中,Airbnb和Uber在市场地位和未来增长潜力上的主要差距正是源于二者在供应层面的这个基本区别。

更广义地说,如果市场上的产品和服务存在明显差异,起步就极为困难,因为消费者提出的要求可能相当多样。举例来说,如果Airbnb想让一位消费者实施交易,就需要在后者的预算范围内于恰当的时间,在恰当的城市和社区提供带有恰当家具而且可供住宿的场所。

匹配供需是个棘手问题,但Airbnb拿出了很好的解决方案。理论上,一个市场可进行匹配的水平被称为流动性,如果房东和租客所在的城市不同,情况就会变得更复杂。最初,Airbnb面临的困难在于让合适的房东(打算出租房屋的人)找到合适的租客,原因是双方经常住在不同的城市。为做到这一点,Airbnb必须在一个城市取得供应,同时预测另一个城市的需求。刚刚成立时,Airbnb得以完成这项任务的途径是关注住宿需求高度集中的事件,比如2008年在丹佛召开的民主党全国代表大会(DNC)。当时,丹佛大多数酒店都预定一空,而且消费者的住宿意愿很强烈,具体表现就是他们在Airbnb搜索和DNC、住宿以及丹佛有关的出租信息。Airbnb提供的解决办法很完美。

随着Airbnb吸纳的供应(住宅)不断增多,匹配房东和租客的可能性缓慢上升,从而加大了竞争对手的追赶难度。从下图可以看出,随着Airbnb供应的增长,每一单位新增供应都会提高流动性,竞争对手追赶起来就会难得多。因此,对于Airbnb这样的供应异质化交易场所来说起步也许很难,但随着供应增多,回报将不断上升,达到一定规模后就会具有难以想象的防御性。

So far, 2017 has been a non-stop PR headache for Uber, and that’s putting it mildly. From the online #DeleteUber campaign to explosive sexual harassment claims against the ride hailing company to the public discovery of Uber’s Greyball program, the company finds itself on uncharacteristically shaky grounds. And it’s not just Uber’s culture that’s under attack. Leaked financial information that Uber lost as much as $3 billion in 2016 reflects the difficulties Uber has faced in the ride-hailing market in the U.S. and abroad.

Nonetheless, Uber is one of the largest Internet marketplaces ever created — and it’s hitting a scale and maturity inflection point that would, for most companies, point toward a public offering in 2018.

Interestingly, Airbnb could head toward a similar trajectory, but these two young companies that have made incredible headway across the on-demand economy couldn’t be more different.

Since its creation in 2008, Airbnb has been able to grow without much real competition. With every new property or unit entering the Airbnb platform, it becomes that much harder for an ankle-biter competitor to grow and take share from the company. Airbnb hasn’t experienced a real challenge to its position since 2011, when it raised its Series B and its closest competitor, HomeAway, went public.

By contrast, while Uber dominates the market for ride-hailing apps, it has actually experienced fierce competition in just about every major market it has entered. In the U.S., Lyft continues to give it a run for its money. And Uber’s established, dominant market share still hasn’t been enough to prevent newer entrants, like Juno in New York City, from popping up. Internationally, the battle has been even harder-fought, particularly in China, where Uber lost a much publicized battle with Didi Chuxing.

While Uber is no longer battling Didi, it is still butting up against major competitors like Ola Cabs in India, Grab in Southeast Asia, and Easy Taxi in Latin America — and major financial losses are expected to continue in its quest to conquer global markets.

The contrasts between Airbnb and Uber serve as important lessons for today’s startup entrepreneurs. It also offer investors a glimpse for how both companies will perform years from now. The main reason Airbnb faces less competition than Uber comes down to the uniqueness of products and services both offer. In Airbnb’s case, each apartment or house on the platform is largely unique based on factors like location, furniture, design, price point, quality of service, etc. In other words, Airbnb offers a heterogenous supply of products and services.

Conversely, Uber, like most ride-hailing apps, offers a largely similar or homoegenous set of services and therefore aren’t as competitive in the marketplace. For instance, Uber’s cars and drivers are relatively similar in terms of how they get the customer from point A to point B. While there are some subtle variances that become important from time to time, like whether the car is large enough to fit five passengers instead of one or two, or whether it has wheelchair access, Uber’s unit of product/service is basically the same.

And it’s this basic difference in supply that accounts for the majority of differences investors and consumers see today with respect to Airbnb and Uber’s market positions, and their future growth potential.

More broadly, a marketplace in which the products and services offered vary widely can be extremely hard to jump-start because the demands from costumers can be quite diverse. For example, if Airbnb wants a customer to transact, they need a space available in the right city and neighborhood, at the right time, with the right furnishings, and within the budget a customer has set.

Matching supply and demand is tricky, but Airbnb has offered a good solution. Conceptually, the degree to which a match can be made in a marketplace is known as liquidity, and this gets more complicated when the host and renter are often located in different cities. Initially, the challenge for Airbnb was matching the right hosts (people looking to rent their properties) with the right renters, since both were often based in different cities. To do that, Airbnb had to acquire supply in one city, while predict demand in another. Airbnb was able to figure this out in its early days by focusing on events with a high degree of concentrated lodging demand, such as the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Most of the hotels in Denver at the time were booked, and consumers demonstrated high intent by searching on Airbnb for terms related to the DNC, lodging and Denver. Airbnb offered the perfect solution.

As Airbnb continued to onboard more supply (properties), the likelihood of matching hosts with renters grew slowly, making it harder for competitors to catch up. Below, the chart shows that as Airbnb’s supply grew, each new unit of supply provided more liquidity, making it that much more difficult for competitors to catch up. So, while marketplaces with heterogeneous supply like Airbnb may be difficult to jump-start, they yield increasing returns as their supply increases, which make them incredibly defensible at scale.

Airbnb的供应规模(蓝线)和边际流动性。

 

相反,竞争对Uber的同质化供应产生影响要容易得多。刚起步时,服务和产品基本相同的交易场所不那么复杂,建立的难度可能要小得多,资金效率也可能要高的多。就Uber而言,它负担的司机数量有可能达到临界规模,从而在供应(上路的车辆)上实现高点起步,需求也在缓慢增长。由于单位供应大致相同,匹配司机和乘客的可能性就较高。这就意味着流动性迅速上升,原因是消费者需要的只是一辆来接他们,然后安全并及时地将其送到目的地的汽车。

每增加一辆车和一名司机,Uber就可以缩短等待时间并降低价格。但在某个点上,它的流动性就不再产生回报,因为等待时间不再缩短,价格也不再下降。出现这种情况后,市场就会对所有小型竞争对手敞开大门,前提是它们的服务有竞争力,能为消费者提供有吸引力的替代出行方案。下图就展示了这样的情况。

By contrast, Uber’s homogeneous supply is much more vulnerable to competition. In the early days, a marketplace that generally offered the same services and products is less complicated and can be much easier and more capital-efficient to build. In the case of Uber, the company could afford to pay a critical mass of drivers to jump-start its supply (cars on the road) and slowly build up demand. Since each unit of supply is largely similar, the likelihood of matching a driver with a passenger is relatively high. This means liquidity improves quickly, since a consumer just needs ANY car to pick them up and safely take them to the final destination in a timely manner.

With every car and driver Uber adds to its fleet, it is able to reduce wait times and prices. But at a certain point, its liquidity stops paying off, as wait times and prices stop falling. When this happens, the market opens for any small competitor to offer a competing service and an attractive alternative for consumers. Below, the graph shows how this could look.

Uber的供应规模(蓝线)和边际流动性。

现在把多人拼车服务Uber Pool考虑进来,它让陌生人一起拼车,也让流动性曲线有所改变。这项服务在规模较大时效果较好,原因是Uber需要比如说三个人,而不是一个人,而且这三个人要同时去差不多同一个地方才能拼车。在这种情况下,竞争者更难以让每辆车的乘客人数达到Uber的水平。Uber Pool提高了流动性门槛,竞争对手需要烧更多的钱才能达到图中桔黄色流动性曲线变平的那个点。

Factor in the Uber Pool service, through which strangers carpool together, and it changes the liquidity curve a bit. This service works better at scale, since Uber needs, say, three people—not just one—headed to roughly the same place at the same time to create a carpool. In this scenario, it’s harder for competitors to generate the same amount of riders per vehicle as Uber. The liquidity bar is raised with Uber Pool, requiring competitors to burn more capital to get to the point in the graph where the orange liquidity line flattens out.

Uber Pool的供应规模(蓝线)和边际流动性。

 

上述分析表明Airbnb的交易场所比Uber的交易场所更有防御性。如果竞争对手想推出可以与之抗衡的服务,就必须在全球范围内积累同样数量的供应(房屋),这样才能对租客要去的那个城市中的待出租房屋进行匹配。然而,就Uber来说,竞争对手只需在当地市场具备与之相当的供应,就可以达到边际流动性开始变平的那个点。

我们认为,Uber将面临持续的全球性竞争,在它进入的每一个大城市都是如此;Airbnb则有可能以相对垄断的方式实现增长。在竞争非常激烈的市场中,Uber仍然可以获胜,原因是它拥有令人望而却步的资金和规模。在一段时间里,Uber仍然可以保持较高的顾客和供应获取成本以及较低的毛利润率,其竞争对手则无法做到这一点。不过,Uber已经陷入混战,今后需要使用所有可以调动的武器。

作者:Deepak Ravichandran、Jeff Lu、Roger Lee

译者:Charlie

审稿:夏林

杰夫·卢是硅谷投资机构Battery Ventures副总裁。迪帕克·拉维奇安德兰和罗杰·李分别是该公司合伙人和普通合伙人。三位作者及Battery Ventures均未对Uber、Airbnb以及本文提到的其他公司投资。

What this shows is that Airbnb’s marketplace is more defensible than Uber’s. If a competitor wants to offer a service that is competitive, it would have to accumulate the same amount of supply (properties) on a global scale as Airbnb so that it is able to match host properties located in a city that the renter is looking to visit. With Uber, however, a competitor only needs to have as much supply on a local scale to get to the point where the marginal liquidity starts to flatten.

We think Uber will experience sustained global competition in every major city it enters, while Airbnb could grow relatively monopolistically. Uber can still win in its most competitive markets because of its formidable cash position, and its scale. The company can sustain high customer- and supply- acquisition costs, and low gross margins for a period of time that its competitors will not be able to match. Nonetheless, Uber is in a dog fight and will need to use every weapon it has at its disposal.

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