Travis Kalanick is a jerk. Got it. His behavior was often juvenile, sometimes egregiously so. Got it. He got whacked because of that harassing and intimidating behavior. I got it—he’s a tool. But what does all that mean?
I’m reading all these articles and newly-minted pundits jump on the Uber-is-dying bandwagon. “The culture is shot.” “The entire management team must go.” “No way they can recover.” The list of attacks is endless, and helps us all understand the real meaning behind “blood in the water.” Some people smell it, and they want to help that alternative reality materialize.
Yeah, rotsa ruck with that.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, methinks the rumors of Uber’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, some things need to change—as is true with all large organizations, particularly in the tech space. A brief google search reveals current lawsuits and EEOC claims for sexual harassment (and other employee transgressions) against Apple, Microsoft, Tesla, google, facebook, twitter, and just about every other deep-pocketed company, many of those name some very senior (C-level) executives.
This doesn’t normalize or excuse Kalanick’s boorish (and potentially unlawful) behavior, but frankly, Silicon Valley doesn’t have the best reputation for stellar employee treatment. Their diversity records suck, women and minorities are routinely marginalized, and I believe they routinely hide behind outlandish peripheral perks and a designer office environment (oops, I mean “campus”) to mask otherwise toxic behaviors and cultures. Kerry Flynn, writing for Mashable, says it better:
Silicon Valley’s worldview tends to applaud when founders move fast and break things. To this crowd, issues like gender discrimination are acceptable roadbumps for companies that are going to change the world. That’s why much of the industry tends to treat discrimination and harassment claims with a sense of dismissive detachment.
Props to Kerry – perfectly stated. All of this just goes to say that Kalanick was a tool, his personal behavior certainly didn’t represent Uber well, and his transgressions were neither new nor unique to the seemingly outraged observer community. Unsure why that translates into a complete destruction of an otherwise fast-growing company. Frankly, it shouldn’t.
Some things to consider…
Kalanick led the commercialization of real-time ridesharing. No, he didn’t actually invent the concept, his partner did (the obscure partner), but Kalanick is the one who made it viable and a household name. Who knows Ted Dabney? No one. He founded Atari Computers, but everyone knows Steve Jobs, who came along well afterwards and made it work. Similar to Kalanick.
Has he screwed up some of that? Hell yes. He’s had to change course with drivers, cities, legislators, et al, a dozen times. But he kept Uber growing.
Uber employs over 12,000 with revenues exceeding $6B. It’s currently worth nearly $70B. Kalanick did that, like it or not.
Michael Wolff in USA Today called Uber the Tech Company of the Year in 2013.
This allegedly evil company consistently (even today) outscores Lyft, Tesla, twitter and facebook on glassdoor.com. Whouldathunkit??
Uber ranks 4th in LinkedIn’s Top Companies 2017 Global Edition list, published just one week ago; trailing only google (actually “Alphabet.” who thought of that moronic name?), Facebook and Amazon. In fact, they improved their position from 5th in 2016. The Human Rights Campaign named Uber in their Best Places to Work 2016.
The company still has zero problems recruiting… People self-select where they want to work, oblivious to punditry and hater attacks.
It is – and remains – one of the most valuable startups in the world. 10 times larger than the nearest competitor, it’s growing rapidly in unchartered waters within a space being developed as we go. They are cutting edge, in almost every part of their approach and technology.
It’s a kick-ass company, and it’s not going anywhere.
Kalanick was a problem, no doubt. I don’t often support a founder in high-growth leaving, under almost any conditions, but I do understand it in this case. Not ideal for the business, but poorly managing media, PR and affected stakeholders can be a terminal error, as big as the harassing behavior that created the hooplah.
Anywhoo, he’s gone, Uber’s still here. To those who support, stay the course. To those who think the company has one foot in the grave… well, get used to disappointment.
Take the good, when available. Kalanick is gone, those who remain have a job to do, a company to run and a life to live. Take the good when you can, learn lessons from others, and at the risk of overuse of idiotic idioms, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water…