Travis Kalanick couldn’t just disappear gracefully. The former CEO of Uber, and still a major shareholder and board member has reportedly been in contact with other board members, attempting to sway their allegiance and build support for a potential return. Multiple sources close to the developing story, say that Kalanick has been reaching out to both board members and employees that he sees as loyal to him, and is working to grow a power base, and attempt to regain control of Uber.
This is the last thing that the ride-sharing business needs right now, as they are on the verge of securing some lucrative additional funding, and are still trying to find a replacement CEO. Of course, the role would be appealing to most people, but it’s unlikely that a respected practitioner would take up the role if the shadow of the former CEO were still hanging over them.
Benchmark, the investment business that controls a seat on the board and were responsible for the action that removed Kalanick, are reportedly considering their legal options, as his actions may have a significant detrimental impact on the business. They will also likely be concerned as to the impact Kalanick will have moving forward – he is leading the process to identify his own replacement, which is not only strange – which seems to be Uber’s modus operandi at the moment – but also will surely have a negative impact on the process.
Of course, this has now become about far more than a CEO behaving badly and being removed from his own business; it’s also become meaningful as an example of the ongoing discrimination against women in Silicon Valley and the tech community as a whole. The situation for Kalanick and Uber became untenable when news outlets began to receive leaked stories about the macho culture within the organisation, apparently encouraged by the CEO and his senior leadership team. It had an immediate impact on revenues, as thousands of people boycotted the organisation to show their solidarity for those who had been victimised. The thought of a return from Kalanick would send a shiver up shareholder’s spines, and rage into the hearts of those trying to create cultural improvement in Silicon Valley.
This goes to the heart of the issue – it seems that the founder of Uber is now more concerned with his own legacy, potentially at the expense of the business who created. Also, he is putting in jeopardy the jobs of thousands of people and starting to look more like a spoiled brat than a senior business leader. Of course, this will have implications far beyond Uber, with many blogs pointing out the potential for disaster when allowing the founder to remain within the business after acquisition or investment. It remains to be seen how long this will go on, but there can be no doubt that this battle is far from over, and if it turns into a proxy war, the only victims will be investors, employees, and Kalanick.