The Hubris of Uber

How Travis Kalanick went from start-up golden boy to reviled exile.

Uber’s success, not only financially but culturally, can be measured by its verbication. “I plan to uber to the party” or “My car’s in the shop so I’ll be ubering all week.” Doesn’t even matter if you’re using another app like Lyft … ride sharing and Uber are inherently linked. In fact, you can trace back much of the digital, on-demand boom of recent years to Uber’s early success.

That’s what makes the decent of founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick so startling. How did everything go so wrong, so fast for one of the start-up world’s most revered inventors?

“Founders enjoy an exalted status in Silicon Valley,” notes a recent cover story on Kalanick for Bloomberg Businessweek. “Apple Inc. once fired Steve Jobs; then he came back and led it to historic greatness. The dismissal of a successful founder has been considered a cardinal sin ever since. Benchmark is very Silicon Valley: You’re either 100 percent behind a CEO or against them. There is no in-between.”

Following a series of widely reported scandals, from a dashboard video of the CEO berating an Uber driver over fares, to an exposé on prevalent sexual harassment at headquarters in San Francisco, to Kalanick’s decision to accept then rescind an offer by President Donald Trump to be on his business advisory board, to widespread surge pricing furor, the #deleteuber became a rallying cry or revolt in early 2017. Suddenly a word that was synonymous with success and entrepreneurship had negative or even villainous undertones. Kalanick’s days at the company he started in 2009 were numbered.

You can read more about Kalanick’s final months at Uber and what’s next for the company here.