Uber had the technology and the vision to make it work, and became the darling of Silicon Valley.
Some big-government liberals pushed back in places like Boston and Austin. But Uber was cool, into self-driving cars, and generally a better option than smelly cabs with sticky seats.
Then CEO Travis Kalanick made the mistake of not hating Donald Trump enough. Add to that his mistake in breaking a cab protest at NYC’s Kennedy airport over Trump’s botched travel ban, and the left had had enough of Kalanick.
Now Uber is suffering…badly. They just posted a $708 million loss for the first quarter of 2017, which albeit is better than the $991 million loss for the Q4 2016, on revenue of $3.4 billion, up 18 percent from the past quarter. But they’ve lost much momentum and talent.
The head of Uber’s self-driving unit, Anothony Levandowski, was fired after failing to comply with a court that ordered him to produce documents in an ongoing dispute between Uber and Alphabet (Google)’s Waymo subsidiary. CFO Gautam Gupta announced his exit to join another startup. In fact, “about a dozen” top executives have fled Uber since February, according to Reuters.
“It should have been Travis in that boat not his mother.”
“If this was on a driver’s side he wouldn’t shed a tear.”
“Too bad Travis wasn’t on the boat too.”
Speaking with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, just a week ago, Kalanick defended himself from allegations of “audacious ambition” and “tone-deaf ruthlessness” with “I don’t think I’m an a**hole. I’m pretty sure I’m not.” What CEO should have to fend off that kind of venom?
Drivers hate Kalanick, and by extension, Uber–although they continue to drive. Riders hate “surge pricing” but continue to ride. But is the idea of Uber sustainable?
The old proverb “we lose 5 cents on every one of these we sell, but we make it up in volume” could spell a bad future for Uber. As it continues to expand, both Kalanick and his 12,000-person technology company may pit itself against drivers now feeling entitled to cash the market-making company isn’t prepared to pay.