Between getting caught on video berating a driver, his deputy obtaining a rape victim’s medical records in a possible attempt to discredit her, getting ridiculed after his “sex guide” for employees resurfaced, embroiling the company in a stolen tech dispute with Google, and generally overseeing an operation plagued with constant scandals and emblematic of everything wrong with Silicon Valley’s dudebro-asshole culture, the question has long been: when will the investors at Uber grow a spine and fire founder and CEO bro Travis Kalanick? When will enough be enough?
Apparently on Tuesday, enough was finally enough. In a letter given to The New York Times and reported on by other outlets, five of Uber’s major investors demanded Kalanick step down, and while he just announced a leave of absence several days prior, the embattled CEO complied. He will remain on the board.
From the Times’ story:
In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.
“I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” Mr. Kalanick said in a statement.
Kalanick founded Uber in 2009 and it has since become the world’s leading on-demand car service, but with a seemingly never-ending stream of controversies, scandals, lawsuits, criminal investigations and habitual line-stepping.
Uber has drawn the ire of the state and local governments who sought to regulate it, its own underpaid and underprotected non-employee drivers, and its disgruntled former employees burned by its often ugly and abrasive culture rife with allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment.
There’s also the not inconsequential fact that Uber doesn’t really make any money with rides largely subsidized by the company itself, despite a reported valuation of nearly $70 billion.
Other than all that, everything is good and fine.
As the Times notes, as CEO Kalanick had become the public face for much of those problems. It had become readily apparent to everyone inside and outside of the company that its problems were getting in the way of what could be a nearly unstoppable transportation juggernaut.
Kalanick’s stepping aside will not fix the company’s many problems overnight, but it could send a signal that it is finally poised to create meaningful change—or at least appear to be. With any luck, the company’s next leader will be an actual grown-up this time.