The Uber Story: Lessons From Travis Kalanick's Life
Created on 09 Jun 2022
Wraps up in 4 Min
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Updated on 11 Sep 2022
Once upon a time, two gentlemen stuck on a snowy evening in Paris were waiting for a miracle to happen. Or in other words, they were waiting for a taxi. Until they realize, “What if you could request a ride simply by tapping your phone?”
These two gentlemen were Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, who disrupted the transportation market through a revolutionary idea called “Uber”.
Back when Uber started off, only 8% of the world’s adult population was booking an Uber around once a month. Today, that number’s blown way up, and we are ordering Ubers wherever we want, whenever we want and however many times we want!
But this journey of creating a revolution was not as dreamy as it seems. There were a lot of things that Travis alone had to go through as Garett later parted ways from Uber.
Let’s take a look at some life lessons from the super pumped founder and a normal human being, Travis Kalanick, aka TK. If you are thinking, why is this article about Travis not completely Uber-focused, then let me tell you that TK is Uber.
Uber’s Secret Formula & Success Story
Uber was born in 2009 and grew to become the world's most valuable startup in just a few years. Starting in 2010, in three years, they had already established their business in more than 66 countries.
But after growing initially, Uber faced fierce opposition from the established taxicab industry and often found itself at odds with regulators.
Many European drivers protested against Uber in 2014 to bring the focus of the government to the matter. Many countries, including Netherlands and Thailand, have banned Uber partially or completely. They were accused of practices that constituted unfair competition.
Travis was not affected by this backlash; he motivated the rest of the team and continued to be content with his “Grow or Die” ideology.
By this time, he had already gained a reputation for being both aggressive and combative. But whatever may be the case, he would always put his aim of growing Uber before anything.
Don’t Go The Wrong Way
Everything went well until 2016 when Kalanick joined US President Donald Trump’s economic advisory council.
This again created a huge backlash for Uber, especially after Trump’s controversial immigration order. In 2017 Travis stepped down from this council to save Uber’s reputation.
Following this, the same year, one of Uber’s ex-employees posted a detailed blog post on how she was sexually harassed by her co-workers and how the culture at Uber is not good for women. The 3000 words blog post called Uber a highly hostile, sexist, and quite offensive workplace to most people.
Travis made a deal with Google's self-driving cars engineer head to join Uber. He always considered drivers the only problem with their current system and believed that self-driving cars would be the future.
In addition to all the backlash, Uber dealt with an intellectual property lawsuit from Waymo, the self-driving car business that operated under Google.
Shortly thereafter, an announcement was made that Eric Holder - a former U.S. attorney general, and his team would lead an investigation into the allegations that had been made against the company.
Though Travis’ “Grow or die” mentality made Uber what it is today, the culture at Uber was considered an overly aggressive workplace environment.
While some employees might like it, this type of culture is not sustainable, especially with women working in the office.
Holder’s report was released to Uber’s board after a few months, and the conclusion demanded the resignation of a few employees from Uber. It also demanded to “review and reallocate the responsibilities of Travis Kalanick.”
This report revealed many wrong practices of Uber, including grey-balling and privacy exploitation of customers.
What To Do In Crisis?
Travis always looked for solutions instead of crying about the problems. Regardless of the problem Uber faced, he would always come up with something or the other to survive and grow.
Once a driver released a video of him shouting at the driver for “Not taking responsibility for his own life” and blaming others - Uber, in this case, for everything.
The driver bought a black car with Uber’s help in financing, and later when Uber dropped the price of rides, he was unable to pay back the money. One can see Travis completely drunk and sitting with two ladies in the car.
In this situation, he knew he was wrong. So he accepted his mistake and moved forward to grow Uber. As for him, Uber was before anything in the world.
Following the suggestions from Holder’s report, on June 21, 2017, Kalanick resigned after a shareholder revolt. He first took an indefinite leave of absence, partly to move away from Uber and partly to grieve for his mother, who died in a boating accident just a few days before this.
“I love Uber more than anything in the world, and at this difficult moment in my personal life, I have accepted the investors' request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” Said Travis in a statement after resigning.
The Bottom Line
Uber went public in 2019, and the investors on Wall Street valued Uber’s IPO as high as $120 billion. However, Uber made history with the biggest first-day dollar loss in U.S. history.
After Uber, Kalanick launched a venture firm called 10,100 and City Storage Systems, a company that redevelops distressed real estate. He is now the CEO, serving as a parent company of CloudKitchens.
Today, Uber is operating in 72 countries and more than 10,500 cities. Its services include ride-hailing, food delivery (Uber Eats and Postmates), package delivery, couriers, freight transportation, electric bicycle and motorized scooter rental via a partnership with Lime, and ferry transport in partnership with local operators. It is still growing exponentially.
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