Jun 21, 2017

Uber after Travis

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

As you've probably heard by now, Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO of Uber after a group of investors yesterday sent a letter asking for his resignation.

  • Uber's troubled COO search now becomes its gold-plated CEO search: Some possible candidates that come immediately to mind include Jeff Immelt, Meg Whitman, Mark Fields, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Bain.
  • Why it matters: Venture capitalists once had a reputation for canning CEOs, but that was left behind in this "founder friendly" era. Each of the participating firms took a big reputation risk here when it comes to future deal-flow, despite how the chattering class seems to think removing Kalanick was a no-brainer.
  • I'm still a bit unclear on how this went down: Remember that Kalanick technically controlled Uber's board of directors, so long as Garrett Camp (Uber's founder and chairman) and Ryan Graves (Uber's first employee and SVP of global ops) remained in his corner. (More below the fold)

What happened: Five Uber investors — Benchmark, First Round Capital, Fidelity Investments, Lowercase Capital and Menlo Ventures — yesterday sent a letter to Kalanick, asking for his resignation. Most other Uber investors were unaware of the proceedings until they were publicly reported (or told by a reporter).

More on how it went down: Remember that Kalanick technically controlled Uber's board of directors, so long as Garrett Camp (Uber's founder and chairman) and Ryan Graves (Uber's first employee and SVP of global ops) remained in his corner. Theoretically the board could vote Kalanick out as CEO, but then his ruling troika could effectively dissolve the board. It remains unclear if one of his longtime allies flipped yesterday. One source said yesterday was like Game of Thrones, which may be bad news for Daenerys (assuming that Camp and Graves are her dragons in this analogy). It's also possible that Kalanick realized how difficult recruiting and fundraising would be if a large investor group made a public vote on non-confidence in him.

Legacy: I was asked on BBC Radio earlier this morning about "how we will remember Travis Kalanick," as if he had died. The guy remains on Uber's board and, until we learn differently, still has a major portion of voting stock. In other words, he's going to have a say in the company's future (which he'll want, given that, as of last check, he's never cashed in any shares).

But if we must: Kalanick changed global transportation for the better in a remarkably short period of time, but that same laser-focused ambition too often ignored and marginalized those who had helped realize his goals. As someone close to Uber recently said to me: "It's wrong to say that that Uber doesn't care about women. It doesn't really care about people, and women are people. It's incidental."

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