Jun 15, 2017

Veteran journalists dish about Uber's wild ride

Jeff Chiu / AP

Capping off the last several days of headlines about Uber's long-awaited investigation about its workplace issues, Fortune executive editor Adam Lashinsky sat down with Recode executive editor Kara Swisher to discuss his new book, Wild Ride, on the ever-embattled ride-hailing company.

Why it matters: Despite its many controversies, Uber has become a highly influential company and the highest-valued startup in history. Its fate is sure to have an impact on the business world, whether it succeeds and goes public or goes down in flames.

Here are a few of Lashinsky's comments from their conversation on Wednesday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco:

On CEO Travis Kalanick's recently announced leave of absence:

"I read that as [him] not leaving at all."

On Uber's ability to go public despite all its notoriety:

"We can discuss the morality of it but we know that Silicon Valley venture capitalists will tolerate almost anything…. And the same is true for public shareholders."

On Uber's significance:

"I am far more interested in what the app enabled than phrases like 'the gig economy.'"

On Uber's aggressive methods of operating:

"I think it's possible to do what they're doing without being shifty--Lyft is doing it."

On addressing Uber's often sexist culture in the book:

"I could have done more and I could have done better." Lashinsky added that, "When you read my book you get a sense of an immature grownup running an immature company."

On whether Uber will actually change its workplace following the report:

"Given the scrutiny that they're under it's gonna be hard for them not to take them seriously… I don't believe that every person is rotten."

On the viability of Uber's business model:

"Even with what they released, we don't have a super clear of the plans."

On whether Uber can salvage its brand:

"Brands can rejuvenate."

On who he thinks would be a great COO for the company:

Thomas Staggs (formerly Disney's COO), or Alan Mulally (formerly Ford's CEO and president)

On what will happen to Uber:

"I'm gonna give you the cup half full: it's a company with global operations -- and I'm reaching for a cliche -- and mindshare…. If they can get past that and you bring in the right leadership to run that global operation, that would be the cup half full," said Lashinsky.
"I think they're gonna get sold… to Google," said Swisher.

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