Along with its new branding, it looks like Uber has picked up some new funding, too. LetterOne (L1), a fund based out of Luxembourg and headed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, is putting $200 million into the transportation and logistics juggernaut to help it push further into emerging markets. This is a new, strategic investment, rather than a past investment only being disclosed now, the companies confirmed to us.
Uber has been putting a lot of effort into building out its operations globally. In some cases, it has been coming head to head with stronger regional rivals, such as in countries like China (Didi Kuaidi being its arch rival) and India (where Ola leads the charge). But there are still many more markets to tackle, so this funding looks like it will go towards bolstering those existing operations as well as making headway in new places, such as the wider expanse of Eastern Europe.
“Every day millions of people rely on Uber to get from A to B. Hundreds of thousands of drivers use our app to make money,” said Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, in a statement. “Our goal is simple: reliable and affordable transportation everywhere, for everyone, at the push of a button. L1’s knowledge of emerging markets will be crucial in helping us make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more opportunities for drivers.”
Neither Uber nor L1 would comment on whether this is a bigger round, or a standalone investment. “It’s early days so we’re waiting before we say more,” said the spokesperson for L1. (In December it was reported that Uber was looking to raise another $2.1 billion at a $62.5 billion valuation, so potentially this could be part of that round. The company also closed a $2 billion round specifically for its Uber China business in January.)
Uber has raised some $8.6 billion in funding prior to this latest investment. It has a long list of over disclosed 50 investors at this point, with some more financial and others, like LetterOne, on the financial and strategic side.
LetterOne was formed in 2013 with its most public face in London. In 2015 it really burst onto the investment scene with a reported fund of $16 billion that it planned to invest across interesting tech plays — just in time to get involved in huge growth rounds for the very biggest of the e-commerce startups (the ones that many argue cannot be called “startups” anymore).
L1, as of the end of December 2014, was a $25 billion operation, the company says. And today it’s giving a much more modest but still massive number as its investment target. It “is seeking to invest US $2-3 billion in late-stage technology growth opportunities globally over the next couple of years,” the company says, with its target “technology investments between US$100 and 500 million [and] new strategic partnerships.”
“I’m excited by our strategic partnership with Uber,” said Mikhail Fridman, Chairman of L1. “As entrepreneurs, with experience in retail, banking, telecoms and energy sectors, and knowledge of diverse developed and emerging markets, we believe that Uber’s highly talented management team possesses the necessary vision and skills to build the company into one of the world’s preeminent technology businesses.”
The head of L1’s tech investment group also underscored how we may be seeing more of L1 in the weeks and months to come. If the funding is strategic, it could be that we will be seeing a lot more expansion into the markets that L1 knows best.
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“We have access to considerable funds, and are looking at opportunities of a certain size and certain stage,” said Alexey Reznikovich, L1 Technology’s Managing Partner. “Digitalisation is creating opportunities globally for new digital businesses to provide innovative forms of customer orientated services, and for existing businesses, and for many sectors, to reinvent themselves. We aim to invest in young but proven businesses. Our focus is on investing in exciting and innovative technologies. We don’t want to focus on any specific sector – but on technologies – because they can jump from one sector to another. We take a long term view and have permanent capital.”