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User/Subscriber Economics: Value Dynamics

Jul. 06, 2017 6:38 AM ETUBER1 Comment
Aswath Damodaran profile picture
Aswath Damodaran

In my last post, I tried valuing Uber (UBER) by estimating how much an existing user was worth to the company and then using that number to extrapolate the value of all existing users and the value added by new users. As always, I got many useful comments on what I was missing, what I could do better and what could be simplified, and I thank you (really). While I could spend this entire post rehashing assumptions, I don't intend to! To me, the most useful part of valuation is not the destination, i.e., the value that you get at the end, but the journey, i.e., the process of doing valuation, since it is the process that allows us to isolate the key drivers of value, which, in turn, focuses discussions on those variables, rather than on distractions. Consequently, I decided to revisit my Uber user-based valuation to see what I could eke out as implications for user or subscriber-based businesses.

Estimation versus Economic Risk
I will start by conceding the obvious. I made a lot of assumptions to arrive at the value of a user at Uber, but I will go further. There was not a single fact in that valuation, since every number was an estimate. That said, you could say that about the valuation of any company, with the divergence really being one of the degree of uncertainty you face, not in whether it exists. At the risk of restating points that I have made in my other writing, here are three general points that I would make about uncertainty in valuation.

1. Estimation uncertainty versus Economic uncertainty
To deal with uncertainty in a sensible way, you first have to categorize it. One of the categorizations that I find useful is to break the uncertainty you face when you are

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Aswath Damodaran profile picture
I teach corporate finance and valuation at the Stern School of Business at New York University. I am a teacher first, who also happens to love untangling the puzzles of corporate finance and valuation, and writing about my experiences. As a result, I happen to be at the intersection of three businesses, education, publishing and financial services, that are all big, inefficiently run and deserve to be disrupted. I may not have the power to change the status quo in any of these businesses, but I can stir the pot. Please note that the article that you are reading here was originally written on my blog and is republished in Seeking Alpha and other forums. Consequently, I neither track nor respond to comments here. I am sorry!   ==Editors' Note: Seeking Alpha monitors Dr. Damodaran blog and posts relevant articles on his behalf.

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