Jun 22, 2017

How Uber's culture doomed Kalanick

AP

The Wall Street Journal this morning calls Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's "abrupt surrender ... a stunning fall for one of the most celebrated careers in Silicon Valley." Kalanick keeps his board seat, retains control of a majority of Uber's voting shares, and had the pleasure of seeing a critic, venture capitalist Bill Gurley, leave the board.

  • But this was a very personal rejection of a corporate culture that was long viewed as aggressive and unrestrained, then harshly scrutinized amid complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination.
  • I just finished the well-timed new book by Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, "Wild Ride: Inside Uber's Quest for World Domination."
  • My big takeaway: The fiasco at Uber is a product of the same phenomenon we're seeing in the Trump West Wing: Corporate cultures, whether healthy or sick, flow from the top — and are set in the organization's earliest days.

A few memorable passages:

  • "Travis Kalanick ... came to define what it meant to be a tech entrepreneur in the second decade of the twenty-first century ... the philosopher/execution guy, a jerk to many."
  • Over the years, there was "a sense of shiftiness about Kalanick, a can't-quiet-put-your-finger-on-it untrustworthiness that would irk some who deal with him."
  • Ilya Hykinson, a Kalanick colleague at an earlier start-up, recalls: "He'd write a large dollar figure on the whiteboard, circling it and outlining it for effect, just in case somebody came by and saw it ... That's kind of a weird, sleazy move."
  • "Kalanick ... seemed incapable, in public or in private, of holding back ... His widely quoted whoppers sometimes had an intellectually defensible ring to them. Yet they suggested a shocking lack of empathy or, at the very least, an inability to know when to keep quiet."

Be smart: The values you project, whether they're intentional or not, will quickly pollinate through your organization. Know what they are, and make sure they're what you want.

For a look at our culture, read "The Axios Manifesto" here.

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  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
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Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

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