Don’t hail Uber for its Kalanick ouster, it took too long

Travis Kalanick, the embattled bad boy founder of Uber resigned late Tuesday night, ending three years of questionable actions at the ride-sharing company.

My colleague at The New York Post, Jonathon Trugman wrote on Sunday:

When the board finally got around to getting a handle on the matter, one of its members, private equity giant David Bonderman, ended up having to step down after making a sexist slur about female board members.

For starters, one needs to understand the incestuous relationship between Silicon Valley’s boards and their company’s executives.

Generally speaking, there are two currencies used to get a board seat at many prominent Silicon Valley companies: money, and the credibility lent by fame. Most board members of tech firms are the executives, along with early stage investors. That’s how TPG co-founder Bonderman found himself in the hot seat.

Well it looks like the Uber board of directors finally acted by asking Kalanick to step down, according to reports. One wonders though if the did for the right reasons.

You see the private shares of Uber have taken a hit over the last month or so as news of the booze-filled company trips and sexual harassment as charges have dripped out from a report by former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder’s report.

As Trugman said, the board members are early investors with a huge stake in the company, so was it out of respect for common decency or a need to bolster creditability and a flagging share price that brought the board to its senses?

Here is a somewhat complete list of the Uber woes over the last few months as composed by Zero Hedge:

  1. Another tale of sexism and unacceptable workplace behavior in Silicon Valley company has emerged. This time it’s at Uber, according to an explosive blog post published on Sunday by a former company engineer named Susan Fowler Riggetti.
  2. Uber’s newly hired VP of engineering Amit Singhal was asked to, and did, resign on Monday after the company learned from Recode that he was accused of sexual harassment shortly before leaving Google a year ago. Here’s more on the difficult position of former employers in this case.
  3. A video showing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick rudely arguing with a long-time driver at the end of his ride was published by Bloomberg. “I need leadership help,” Kalanick said in an apology he issued shortly after.
  4. Susan Fowler Rigetti, the former Uber engineer who wrote of discrimination, said she’s hired attorneys after a new law firm began to investigate her claims. Uber confirmed it has hired Perkins Coie, which reports to former A.G. Eric Holder, who’s leading the investigation.
  5. Uber said on Thursday that it will finally apply for a DMV permit to test self-driving cars in California after its cars’ registrations were revoked in December because it refused to get the permit.
  6. Charlie Miller, one of the two famous car hackers who joined Uber’s Advanced Technology Center in August 2015, announced he’s leaving the company.
  7. The New York Times uncovered a secret Uber program called Greyball, through which the company uses software and data to evade law enforcement in cities.
  8. Keala Lusk, a former Uber engineer, published a blog post detailing how her female manager mistreated her, signaling that the company’s problematic culture isn’t limited to the men who work there.
  9. Ed Baker, Uber’s head of product and growth, resigned. Though the reason is unclear, he was allegedly seen kissing another employee three years ago, which was anonymously communicated to board member Arianna Huffington, according to Recode.
  10. A report outlines a trip by a group of Uber employees to a Seoul karaoke-escort bar in 2014, which included company CEO Travis Kalanick and his girlfriend, Gabi Holzwarth. After arriving, several male employees picked escorts to sit with, and went to sing karaoke. Uncomfortable, a female marketing manager, who was part of the group, left after a couple of minutes, while Holzwarth and Kalanick left after an hour.
  11. California regulators have recommended that Uber be fined $1.13 million for failing to investigate and/or suspend drivers who are reported by a passenger to be intoxicated. The state requires ride-hailing companies to have a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  12. A new report says Uber used a secret program dubbed “Hell’ to track Lyft drivers to see if they were driving for both ride-hailing services and otherwise stifle competition. Only a small group of Uber employees, including CEO Travis Kalanick, knew about the program, according to a story in The Information, which was based on an anonymous source who was not authorized to speak publicly.
  13. Waymo sued Uber in civil court, claiming that Uber was using trade secrets stolen from Google to develop Uber’s self-driving vehicles.
  14. Uber fires Anthony Levandowski, a star engineer brought in to lead the company’s self-driving automobile efforts who was accused of stealing trade secrets when he left a job at Google.
  15. Uber said Tuesday that it had made a mistake in the way it calculated its commissions, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to its New York drivers, and the company vowed to correct the practice and make the drivers whole for the lost earnings.
  16. Uber fires over 20 staff following the release of a report about sexual harassment in the workplace.
  17. Reports emerge that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick fired off a bizarre email in 2013 to hundreds of employees where he listed the conditions under which they could have sex with each other at a company outing in Miami,

So I did not come to hail Uber, but to question the board’s motives again.

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