Uber only has itself to blame for London license loss

Uber only has itself to blame for London license loss

The tech industry’s over-processed supply of irony might not be enough to service all the ramifications of Uber being stripped of its London license by the city’s transport regulator.

Uber advocates were immediately scrambling to bust out the reactionary clichés — painting the regulator as “anti-innovation” and claiming London is now ‘closed for digital business’. (A point that might have more substance if they were talking about Brexit.)

Guys. Spare us. Please.

NB: A regulator’s job is literally to uphold a set of standards on behalf of the public, not to bow down before your shiny app.

The old ‘They’ve caved to the taxi cartels and/or the unions!’ refrain was also wheeled out and waxed off. Harder to spot: Any mention of how much Uber spends on lobbying lawmakers to influence regulatory decisions in its commercial favor.

Nor how Uber mobilizes its app infrastructure to create thousands-strong lobbying armies to apply pressure to city authorities at key moments of regulatory threat.

So — quelle surprise! — there’s already a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures against TfL’s decision. A petition set up and promoted by, er, Uber, of course…

At the same time, some genuinely outraged London Uber users, who have become accustomed over the past five+ years to a VC-subsidized regime of unsustainably cheap cab rides, have taken to social media to cry that it’s simply not fair!

And to wonder aloud how they’ll be able to go anywhere without Uber. This in a city that has one of the most extensive and accessible public transport networks in the world — not to mention a large number of private hire vehicle companies other than Uber, some of which can also be summed by an app (such tech! much innovation! wow).

How will we get home safety now, fretted others — apparently untroubled by the fact that London’s Met Police had informed the regulator Uber was failing to report sex attacks by drivers on its platform. TfL cited Uber’s “approach to reporting serious criminal offenses” as a contributing factor to its decision to withdraw licensing.

The deepest irony of all is that Uber can continue to operate in London while it appeals the regulator’s decision. Which will, at very least, take months. It could take years.

Being told you’re not “fit and proper” to operate a service yet allowed to keep operating your service? Tell me again exactly how London is ‘closed for digital business’?

Uber for a laundry list of scandals

Corporate social responsibility? Uber’s company fabric has demonstrably been cut from a very different kind of cloth. That’s why its new CEO is right now having to triage a laundry list of scandals — from dealing with an internal culture of sexism and bullying; to privacy and security failings so massive Uber just had to agree to two decades of oversight by a US regulator; to what appears to be a disturbing habit of building software tools that aim to blur the line of legality — such as by helping it evade regulators or slurp data from rivals.

Meanwhile Uber intones that TfL’s decision will “put more than 40,000 drivers out of work”. And claims it’s going to court to “defend the livelihoods of all those drivers”.

Yes, this really is the same company that studiously avoids ’employing’ any of those thousands of platform dependents — rather it categorizes them as ‘self-employed contractors’. Being ‘in work with Uber’ means accepting the risk and responsibility of being precariously managed by a technology entirely beyond your control.

Uber has even tried to monetize that insecurity by selling personal injury and illness insurance to its drivers. How very innovative indeed! Such a shame it doesn’t provide sick pay in exchange for sweating toil in the first place.

In a test case last year, a UK employment tribunal disagreed with Uber’s classification of drivers as self-employed contractors — ruling the company must pay the individuals in question the national minimum wage, as well as cover holiday pay and provide adequate work breaks.

Uber’s business has of course been structured to try to avoid the expensive rights of millions and millions of workers landing on its balance sheet. Despite the fact that, without the labor (and possessions) of all those drivers it wouldn’t be able to deliver its service.

Displaying a very black sense of humor, Uber calls its powerless platform precariat “partners”. Even as it routinely instructs its lawyers to appeal decisions seeking to expand drivers’ rights. And even though it fought for so long against adding a tips option to its platform. (It routinely challenges any moves by cities trying to raise safety standards for Uber users too.)

But politicians are waking up to gig economy regulation. As indeed are gig economy workers. That Uber employment tribunal ruling looks like both warning klaxon and tip of a titanic iceberg.

So if you’re an entrepreneur, and circumventing employment regulation is your benchmark for ‘innovation’, it’s really time to get a new playbook.

In Europe, governments are as un-fond of seeing their tax bases shrinking as workers are their rights evaporating. While legal minds do appear to have grokked how a tech business which replaces human managers with an app that barks orders is still, er, managing workers.

Europe also appears to be approaching a consensus legal view that a tech platform whose primary business is the delivery of transport services is — wait for it — a transportation company. And should therefore be regulated as a transportation company.

The legal mists Uber has exploited for so long look to be clearing.

And so if your ‘innovative’ business model is intent on siphoning ‘disruptive fuel’ from the tightly managed labor of thousands of people who you won’t classify as workers, you might find VCs aren’t as elated by your pitch as you imagined.

Mark Tluszcz, CEO at VC firm Mangrove Capital Partners, had this cautionary warning following the Uber decision: “There are fundamental issues with the business models of many gig economy companies. While they offer great services and excellent value for money, they are often dependent on not paying salaries, taxes and insurance.”

Oops!

But no matter — none of that stuff is a barrier to Uber using the precarious livelihoods of its non-employees as an emotive cry for a brake on the TfL regulatory decision right now, and as the claimed justification for what could be years of legal action and uncertainty as it seeks to force the regulator into reverse.

Now don’t get me wrong. TfL isn’t perfect by any means. You can certainly — and people have — call out the regulator for letting Uber operate for more than five years in the face of mounting concerns. (Or, well, you could say it was demonstrating that London is open for digital business?)

Arguably it could and perhaps should have stepped in sooner to investigate issues being raised. Although it would surely have faced the same or an even more fierce cry of ‘anti-innovation’ had it moved to strip Uber’s license earlier.

The most biting response to TfL’s decision came from James Farrar, co-claimant in the Uber employment tribunal decision, who described it as “a devastating blow for 30,000 Londoners who now face losing their job and being saddled with unmanageable vehicle related debt”.

Although his assessment does also underline exactly how precarious it is for anyone to put their faith in a rights’ less platform to be their forever reliable non-employer.

I mean, this is also a company that has publicly stated its ambition is to remove human drivers from its business equation entirely — and replace them with autonomous machines. So its ‘partnership’ offer has always come with plenty of caveats.

But Farrar’s suggestion that TfL should have sought to “strengthen” its regulatory oversight earlier does have some merit. Specifically he says it should have curbed Uber’s “runaway licensing” and sought to protect “the worker rights of drivers”.

It’s the best critique I’ve seen of TfL’s ruling. However it does risk eliding the public safety issue.

As indeed do many of the male voices that have been so quickly raised to speak up for Uber and to brand TfL as ‘anti-innovation’.

Perhaps that’s unsurprising, given it’s women who are disproportionately the victims of sex crimes.

For most men a ride home with a stranger probably sounds like a welcome convenience. For most women the first consideration before getting into a car alone is: Is this going to be safe?

And on the topic of safety, did you hear the story of how an Uber user in the U.S. who was raped by an Uber driver in India is now suing the company for privacy violations after it emerged Uber’s president of business in AsiaPac had accessed, and was carrying around, her medical records? It’s hard to imagine a more textbook example of failing on all counts at corporate social responsibility.

The bottom line is a regulator’s responsibility is to ensure the entities it grants licenses to are up to its accepted standard. And TfL evidently believes it’s seen enough bad stuff attached to Uber’s business operations in London to merit revoking its pass to operate.

Given how tattered Uber’s corporate reputation is, who can blame them?

Even Uber’s new CEO has conceded this point — in an internal letter to staff about the London license loss, which was leaked to a journalist, he writes: “The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.”

The end of the road for antisocial?

Regulators are also, as a rule, underfunded and overworked. These public bodies don’t enjoy the kind of VC largess that allows an entity like Uber or Facebook to aspire to ‘move fast and break things’. So it’s unrealistic — and more than a little ridiculous — to demand that a small public body like TfL funds lengthy interventions aimed at educating far better resourced corporate giants on being socially responsible and on ensuring public safety.

The massive asymmetry between the understaffed regulatory overseers of civic society and the elite techno disruptors, stuffed to the gills with the finest engineers money can buy (but apparently no one who passed a course in ethics), has clearly enabled certain tech entities to accelerate their business growth at the expense of responsibility.

At times some are essentially dispensing with legality.

Uber grew by ignoring extant transport rules. Indeed, in the past, it was proudly and loudly breaking such rules. Told by a German court in 2014 to cease operating nationwide, Travis Kalanick era Uber told the judges to stuff their injunction and pressed the pedal to the metal.

So there’s another rich irony to Uber’s new CEO now pleading with the London regulator not to apply its rules, and calling for it to “work with us to make things right”… But hey, at least he’s gaslighting nicely.

While, in the case of another platform giant — Facebook — the result of being powered by a business logic that’s 100% geared towards commercial optimization at massive scale is currently being liberally painted across U.S. political headlines.

And across the prematurely aged visage of its remorseful-in-retrospect founder…

Facebook is a content-curating company that, until very recently, resisted being classified as a media company. For as long as possible it sought to eschew any kind of editorial responsibility for the user generated content flowing across its platform — even as its fleet of engineers worked to tune algorithms to distribute content at an unprecedentedly vast scale and with an invasively exact degree of interest-targeting.

‘But we didn’t think of that’, it bleats now, in response to the revelation that its ad system allowed the micro-targeting of ads to users with a stated preference for ‘burning Jews’.

‘We just didn’t imagine this vast anyone-can-advertise-to-anyone platform might be used by Kremlin agents — even though, well, they paid us in Rubles and hailed from a known pro-Putin troll farm,’ it now finds itself having to say.

It’s a vastly disingenuous response to a crisis entirely of Facebook’s own making.

Social responsibility? Oh hell no! We’re just engineers.

Here’s the postmortem on Facebook’s antisocial fuck-up: If your business is building powerful tech tools that you make freely available to almost anyone who wants to use them, and yet you also refuse to accept responsibility for ensuring those tools are not also misused at scale, then don’t be too surprised when the monster you’ve unleashed comes back to bite your personal political ambitions in the ass, Zuck.

Turns out if you’re truly fixated on moving fast and breaking stuff — and you have enough VC cash behind you to fuel your one-way rocket — you actually can end up breaking some really, really, REALLY big stuff — like, er, democracy…. Thing is, no one is clapping now are they Facebook? (Well, no one outside Russia.)

Uber’s bending of the transport rulebook might seem to pale in comparison beside Facebook’s insistence that ads on its platform are just another type of ‘user content’ to be inserted into anyone’s eyeballs so long as you hand it a little bit of fiat currency.

But the harm is actually more immediately obvious.

Those thousands of London Uber drivers who bought into its platform on the vague promise of a ‘partnership’. Who took out loans to fund the shiny vehicles that Uber’s business relies on. They’re the ones saddled with horrible uncertainty and terrible risk.

They have all the responsibility, and none of the rights.

And let’s not forget all the unseen risk being absorbed by individual Uber users getting into cars with strangers and taking at face value the company’s claims it is be safe for them to do so.

The regulator’s verdict is that no, actually, we are not convinced it is safe for you to get in the car.

Frankly this has nothing to do with innovation. And everything to do with how poorly Uber has operated as a company to have reached such a very low pass.

“We wouldn’t say that a car with no speed limits or seat belts is an innovative car. Innovation is precisely about coming up with new solutions to problems. Solutions that create more problems than they solve are not really solutions,” says Gemma Galdón, founder and CEO at data consultancy Eticas Research commenting on TfL’s Uber verdict.

“While Uber is free to design its business model, regulators need to ensure that the framework they operate in protects fundamental rights and values, including workers rights… If Uber cannot come up with a business model that, is both innovative and compliant with the law, this may say more about Uber‘s innovation capacity than about the regulator, who is just doing its job.”

“Not all tech innovations try to thrive regardless of their impact on labor rights, the environment or social inequalities,” she adds. “In the future, non-civic tech should be as unthinkable as cars without speed limits or belts.”

There’s yet another irony here: By failing to apply its ride-hailing technology in a socially responsible way Uber has made it more possible for fast-following competitors to elbow in and address those corporate failures — such as by offering a better ‘partnership’ package for drivers. Or by finding ways to make London’s more rigorously regulated black cabs more affordable for people to use.

Although Uber’s main weapon to stave off competition thus far has been to drive down fare prices. But even Uber can’t burn VC cash forever. It will have to raise prices to turn a profit or it can’t hope to deliver the necessary return to its many investors.

Analysis suggests its investors are subsidizing the cost of rides to the tune of around 60 per cent. Which means that that Uber trip which cost you £8 actually cost £20. Not so ‘price disruptive’ now, eh.

And given how many of the London Uber users complaining about TfL’s decision to strip the company of its license say it’s Uber’s “affordability” that they love, I’d wager that an Uber that charged fares far closer to the rates of London’s black cabs wouldn’t find itself half so popular.

On demand ride-hailing apps? They aren’t as innovative as they used to be. The question now is: What else does your business offer us?

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned due to investor pressure, and a search for a new leader is on

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned in response to demands from key investors for a change in leadership, Recode has confirmed.

 It’s about time.

Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo.

Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay.

But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called “Moving Uber Forward” on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit.

While a lot of the focus at Uber has been on pervasive sexism and sexual harassment — due to an explosive blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler (kudos to her, by the way) — many think the Waymo litigation is a bigger threat to Uber.

Uber will now be searching for a new leader to replace Kalanick, which should greatly widen the pool of candidates from its COO search — many of those people did not want to be the No. 2 to the volatile Kalanick. Among the names who had been considered: Former Disney COO Tom Staggs, CVS’ Helena Foulkes and a range of media and transportation execs.

In addition, many expect Uber will need to raise more cash soon. It has already raised over $12 billion at a nearly $70 billion valuation, but it has heavily spent to expand globally and loses enormous amounts of money in the process.

Now, it will have to move on without key employees like Kalanick and his closest confidante Emil Michael, who was also forced to resign last week. Uber also does not have a CFO, CMO, head of engineering and attrition is increasing dramatically with all the scandals and investigations.

In a statement Kalanick provided to the New York Times, he wrote “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.”

Fights that Kalanick largely started, an unfortunate attribute of his pugnacious leadership style.

But Kalanick has yet to tell Uber employees about his departure, which seems to put a perfectly awful end point to his rocky tenure.

Uber confirmed the resignation, and the company’s board issued a statement that said, in part: “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber.” (For those who don’t speak fluent tech director, there are four things in those two sentences that are not true.)

That board includes Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, who had grown weary of the growing range of troubles at the company, and of Kalanick.

Still, Gurley managed to dance the classic Silicon Valley two-step when he tweeted tonight about Kalanick. (For those who do not know it — you kill someone far later than you should have and then praise them.)

Kalanick’s supporters on the board included Arianna Huffington and Uber co-founder Garrett Camp.

Whether there will be a board shake-up due to the Kalanick departure is also a good question to ask right about now. That is because, in the end, the entire board of Uber has been complicit in this mess that has manifested itself over years. The directors coddled Kalanick’s antics — part of a founder-above-all ethos in tech — and looked the other way as evidence of trouble continued to grow.

Kalanick announced that he was taking a leave of absence last week, as the company revealed the findings of an investigation into what many call a broken culture and a deeply dysfunctional management. Kalanick — who wrote in an email to staff announcing his leave that he intended to return to the company as “Travis 2.0” — will remain on the board of the company.

Many inside and outside the company did not agree with this move, noting the many legal and ethical messes that had been created under Kalanick’s leadership, and that he had not paid the price for them and had become too radioactive to stay.

Well, now that Kalanick is gone, Uber can close a chapter and presumably start building a fresh start to its uncertain future.

Uber CEO to leave post

要说地球上哪个CEO近来最闹心

恐怕非Uber创始人特拉维斯•卡兰尼克莫属

从年初开始他就麻烦不断

被集体抗议卸载软件

被指责对员工性骚扰置之不理

被Google兄弟公司起诉偷窃技术

对Uber司机发飙引起民愤

陷害竞争对手被揭穿

9个高管相继离职

……

总之是

里里外外鸡鸣狗跳、不得安生的样子

这个曾经火上天的创业天才怎么了?!

【从神坛到混蛋】

7年前的夏天,一个叫特拉维斯•卡兰尼克(Travis Kalanick)的美国小子用一款软件颠覆了地球人的出行。当时,他才33岁。

这款软件就是Uber。靠着它,卡同学没有一辆出租车,却可以将全球各地的出租车操控于股掌。这种对历史的碾压让他一夜间风靡世界,并集各种荣耀和崇拜于一身。

但随着媒体的一次次曝光,“混蛋”也渐渐成了他的形容词。

比如,他把拒绝Uber的人统统当成敌人,无论政府还是民间,火力全开,带着脏字反击。以嘲讽的口吻说“首尔政府还生活在过去”,谴责堪萨斯政府是“反科技”,而德国的竞争对手在他眼里就是“一个叫出租车的混蛋。”

他还敢得罪用户,即便用户有理。2013年美国东海岸暴风雪期间,打车需求增多让Uber的智能动态定价水涨船高,涨到了8倍。乘客们指责他趁火打劫,发灾难财。但他对此置之不理。

Uber平台还曾在两年多的时间里,接到了6000多起与“性骚扰”有关的投诉,但平台却没有任何回应。

粗鲁、挑衅、火药味十足,卡同学由此得到了“好斗分子”的名头。

这也让卡粉们渐渐跌掉了眼镜,那个神一般的存在哪去了?

但卡同学面对种种指责,一如既往地理直气壮:我们给了人们更多的出行选择,这特么就是我们全部的目标。

更让人郁闷的是,如果好斗不懂事是因为年轻气盛也就算了,但卡同学显然不是。

如今,哥们已是不惑之年,Uber也已进入70多个国家450多个城市,估值接近700 亿美元,但这家伙,始终没把自己修炼成国际公司掌舵人该有的样子。

相反,他还公司越大,脾气越大,年纪越大越混账,我行我素,惹事生非,仿佛要将任性进行到底,不但给自己拉仇恨,也让Uber陷入了水深火热。

今年1 月,纽约出租司机联合会呼吁包括Uber在内的全体出租车罢工,抗议特朗普“穆斯林入境禁令”,但Uber当地主管在推特上宣布照常营运。

这让民众联想到卡同学是特朗普的经济顾问,这显然是得到了他的支持。

众怒下只有一个字——“卸”。据说有20万用户在此期间卸载了Uber软件。

而对手Lyft则机智地向美国公民自由联盟捐款100万美元,支持反对者搞事,让自己在苹果免费APP中的下载量排名从39位窜到第4位,Uber则跌到了13位。
进入2 月份,Uber一名女工程师在社交平台曝料,自己工作时遭到性骚扰,人力部门却袒护男性同事。已经了解这一事件的小卡同学至少应该说点对不起什么的吧,但他却兴高采烈地参加奥斯卡派对去了

这在我们这里可能不算什么事儿,但在美国,事儿大了。

Uber因此又被推向了舆论风口。

紧接着,Google 母公司旗下的自动驾驶公司Waymo,也对卡同学发起挑战:向法院起诉Uber利用从原告处挖走的技术高管,盗窃其无人驾驶技术的关键部分。

这都还没完,很快,一段卡兰尼克粗暴指责Uber司机的视频,又在网上引起民愤。

而到了3月,又有员工爆料,Uber用一种特殊软件躲避执法机构的”钓鱼执法”,让官老爷们打不到Uber的车,没办法罚款,Uber将面临联邦调查。

外部忧患不断的同时,Uber内部也开启了动荡模式。

当地猎头机构说,他们收到Uber员工求职申请的数量激增,一周内收到简历的数量比过去一个月都多。“我看到有相当多的人打算离开Uber,一个主要原因就是他们失去了对高级管理层的信心。”

高级管理层自己就有信心吗?答案也是:不见得!

应接不暇的非议和指控,让高管们压力山大,他们选择了撤退。

近5个月来,除了实施性骚扰和涉嫌窃取Waymo公司机密的两位高管离开外,已相继有7位重要高管离职,其中包括仅次于卡兰尼克的二号人物Jeff Jones总裁。

据说这位总载是一个非常温和的人,乐于沟通,不喜欢冲突。

这基本上就是宣告:我不喜欢卡兰尼克!

快成孤家寡人的卡同学不得不独自面对一连串的问题。尽管在各种逼迫下,他后来对有些事情已经发声处理,但形象早已一落千丈。

更有人担心,在小卡这厮眼里,规则和常理都是狗屁,以后,他还会做出什么不走脑的事?

【跑偏的企业文化】

无视规则在硅谷并不算稀奇,初创公司为打开市场、站住脚,偶尔打个擦边球一般不会遭到非议。但Uber从诞生那天起就远不是打擦边球那么简单,它挑战了政府条款和整个出租车行业,这注定了卡同学的事业理想是在战斗中前进。

面对这场战役,卡同学斗志昂扬,甚至冲破底线。

当初在美国,Uber刚上路没几天,就被要求停止运营,因为公司名字“UberCab”中有“cab(出租车)”字眼,而Uber没有出租车执照。

勒令单让卡兰尼克兴奋:“一次战斗的机会。”

卡同学的应对战术是将名字中“Cab”去掉,但出租车仍偷偷运营。

随着势力范围逐渐扩大、有更多的金主撑腰后,他干脆将这种偷偷变成了理所应当,“你要么按照他们的要求去做,要么就为信仰而战斗。”

在Uber员工和投资人眼里,卡兰尼克的主要信念就是“增长高于一切”。

这直接反映到了Uber公司制度中:“斗胆急进”,“痴迷”顾客以及“永远猛推”。业绩出色的可以获得更高的权位或相应的金钱回报。

在Uber以城市经理为中心、赋予当地团队众多决定权的运营模式下,这种激励为Uber的开疆扩土发挥了重大作用。

但要命的是,钱权激励下缺少相应的约束机制,也没有提升凝聚力的核心价值观,员工们可以为钱而来,也会因钱而散。

而一心为钱而战的人,则很容易走向极端,为达目的不择手段。这在Uber得到很多体现:
为了能在欧洲快速推广,Uber允许私家车在没有车牌、没有特定驾照的情况下上路服务。
为了打击竞争对手,Uber就像个间谍,要么派卧底充当对方乘客让司机倒戈,要么直接用大把现金收买,甚至先假装挖人,等司机从Lyft辞职了,再残忍地反悔。
包括设法破坏对手Lyft的融资活动,卡兰尼克也不觉得丢人,而对媒体公开。

其时,Uber在美国已经占据了将近80%的网约车市场份额,而Lyft仅有10%多。

还有报道称,卡兰尼克曾用“邪恶”来形容竞争对手,并假设他有一天和对方打起来了,他会将对方打翻在地,然后再好好地羞辱一番。

甚至记者,也都成了Uber攻击的对象。Uber的一位前高管曾对媒体动不动就做关于Uber的负面报道相当不满,他的解决办法之一是:悬赏100 万美元,去挖掘曝光那些不友好的记者的隐私。

一家了解Uber的猎头公司还说:“Uber崇尚由男性主导、干劲十足的投资银行式的企业文化”。这样的文化中,卡同学把性骚扰抛到脑后也就不难理解了。

甚至还有媒体分析,卡兰尼克本人就对女性有物化和歧视倾向。他曾在一篇杂志专访中炫耀:人们将Uber称为Boob-er(boob在英文俚语中有女性胸部之意),因为Uber的成功让他对女性产生很大吸引力。

这好像直接激发了Ube员工的想象力,没过多久,法国的Uber员工就跳出来表示,可为客户提供由“性感女孩”充当司机的机会。

出现乘客和同事性骚扰风波后,曾有人劝过卡同学,不要那么冷酷,起码假装一下关心用户和员工。

但好言相劝似乎没起什么作用,所谓“江山易改,本性难移”,卡同学的这种性格并不是创立Uber后才有的,很多年前共事过的人就说他“无情,任性。”

【任性是怎样炼成的】

卡兰尼克儿时有个与众不同的梦想——成为间谍。

虽然美梦泡汤,但从他种种“越界”来看,他的确很适合这个职业,他把间谍天份,包括奸诈和凶悍,都淋漓尽致地发挥到了全部创业生涯。

说到卡同学以前的创业经历,这又是一个俗套的剧情。

他和盖茨、乔布斯、扎克伯格一样,是个中途辍学的天才。他就读的学校是世界前十、美国公立前三的加利福尼亚大学洛杉矶分校,刚读到大四,就从计算机工程专业退学。

退学后,小卡和好友创办了科技公司,美其名曰是世界上第一个提供P2P文件下载资源的搜索引擎,其实就是提供盗版图片、音频、视频的平台。

他做得很顺,不久就发展到了数十万用户。

不料,两年后好莱坞怒了。29家影视公司联合起诉他侵犯版权,索赔2.5亿美元。

这笔巨款对小卡同学来说,只有抢银行才能凑够。但他这个底线还是有的,没去抢劫,最终通过法庭和解赔偿100万美元,直接把公司赔到了破产。

第一次创业让小卡很受伤,他连续好几个月没敢去看电影,“光是看到几大制片公司的名字就让我血往上涌”。

他发誓,要加倍报复那些起诉的人,得“让他们破点儿小财”。

第二年,小卡就开始了复仇计划。

他召集原班人马,开了一家帮助企业提高文件传输速度的公司,取名RedSwoosh。其中一个如意算盘是,让那些起诉他的好莱坞公司都来买他的服务,把当年拿走他的钱都吐回来。

但上帝好像不喜欢他这么做,想方设法阻止他。

先是技术团队要叛逃,紧接着资金链要断裂。好不容易找到一个投资者,对方却在来时的飞机上遭遇劫持,成为“9•11”事件中不幸的遇难者之一。

没钱救急,小卡开始了任性地冒险,置顾问和伙伴的劝阻于不顾,挪用了员工工资里应缴税款,没有一丝丝歉意。但他又触犯了法律,迎来法院传票,最后硬着头皮东拼西凑交了罚款。

之后,他费尽九牛二虎之力拿到融资,却不久却被最大投资人、NBA达拉斯小牛队的老板要求撤资。

小牛的老板其实很欣赏小卡的能力:“哪怕需要撞穿一堵墙也要达成自己的目标。”但这也让他对小卡恐惧:“哪怕撞墙他都要达成目标。”

硬撑了6年后,终于有一家公司当接盘侠,用1900万美元把RedSwoosh公司买下了。

虽然小卡同学的复仇计划基本实现,当年起诉他的29家好莱坞公司中已经有23家成为他的客户,但他的第二次创业,还是算不上光荣地结束。

两次不成功的创业,让小卡同学产生了无法丈量的心里阴影,他很害怕再失败。

于是,再次创业有了Uber后,他拼命让自己成功。一旦遇到问题或现实违背了意愿,他的焦虑和愤怒会反映在行动上,比如在办公室里快速绕圈走,速度之快闻名硅谷。

他父亲曾说,这个龟儿子曾经把地毯都磨穿了。

随时进入战斗状态也是小卡的常态。

美国杂志《名利场》曾这样描述即将开战的卡同学:眼睛会眯起来,鼻孔会张大,嘴巴会撅起,整个脸就像准备打出去的攥紧了的拳头。甚至他海军陆战队士兵风格的头发似乎都倒竖起来。

不可否认,这种“任我行”的性格对小卡带领Uber突出包围起到了重要作用,但现在的问题是,公司都做到这个份了,您是不是该有点CEO的样子呢?

【第二个乔布斯?】

卡兰尼克创立第二个公司时的顾问曾评价他:“是那种不顾一切追求自己目标的人,哪怕会伤害到那些一路以来支持他的人也在所不惜,他是个被自己的花言巧语都迷惑了的人。”

这与硅谷曾经的另一个混蛋——乔布斯曾得到的评价极其相似。乔布斯的同事比尔•阿特金森说:“他可以欺骗他自己,这就让他可以说服别人相信他的观点。”

这句话出现的场景是,用来解释同事们送给乔布斯的专用语——“现实扭曲力场”,意指乔布斯拥有强大的说服力,就像小卡“不顾一切追求自己的目标”。

乔布斯的同事觉得,“现实扭曲力场”源于他内心的信念——世界上的规则都是用来打破的,因为他相信自己永远都是对的,没人可以阻止他达到目的。

这样的信念让“自我”、“出格”、“桀骜不驯”,“自命不凡”成了乔布斯的标签。

他用小伎俩让不上牌照的车在警察眼皮底下转;他为了少走几步到达办公室而长期占用残疾人停车位;他和伙伴制造非法偷打电话的蓝盒子并向学生兜售;他会在一瞬间对最好的朋友变脸;他越权插手公司事务;对外,他也会向任何不喜欢的陌生人开炮。

当然,任性不会成为天才的特权。乔布斯为自己的任性付出了代价。

由于他确信不需要调研就知道用户需要什么样的电脑,不顾同事们的意见,闭门造车,让苹果的MAC电脑失去市场;由于他的臭脾气和古怪,几十名工程师相继离职,包括联合创始沃兹尼亚克也悄然离去……最终,他把自己搞成了孤家寡人。

在决定乔布斯与CEO斯卡利谁去谁留的那一刻,压抑了很久的同事们将反对票全部投给了乔布斯。乔布斯含泪摔门而去,最终彻底离开亲手创办的苹果公司。

这一事件,至今广为流传,普遍结论是:CEO,创始人,不能太任性。

但卡兰尼克似乎并没有以此为鉴,甚至正以比乔布斯更坏的角色横行霸道。他对规则的漠视比乔布斯有过而无不及,并和乔布斯一样挑战道德,爱谁谁。雇员,客户、司机、同行、合作方、甚至媒体、监管机构、政府,360度立体全方位得罪。

这样的后果,当然也不轻。

在卸载运动、高管流失等伤及公司根本的内外事故持续爆发之下,一些投资人已公开批评公司,不满卡同学的管理能力,要求他尽快改变。

卡同学已到了堪比乔布斯的处境。

尽管他请来哈佛商学院的专家来帮助改善企业文化,还说正在寻找一位COO(首席运营官)来协助他。

但这好像没什么用。

Uber“jerk culture(混蛋文化)”的罪魁祸首正是卡兰尼克本人,如果他还继续在CEO的位置待着,Uber能和这种文化说再见吗?

华商君因此认为,让小卡下课,或许是改善Uber文化的最好方式,并在两周前以此为论点做了这个选题。

让我们意外的是,本文刚刚完成,还在排审中,天上就掉下个新消息:据华尔街最新报道,Uber董事会可能在考虑让卡同学休假三个月。

这,是不是华商君认为的,小卡同学要下课的前兆呢?如果他的停职反省没效果,还真特么有可能!

做人做事做生意,还是不能太任性,哪怕你是天才!

台湾的郭台铭有句话形容太任性的天才,我们挺欣赏。大意是,这样的天才,你就干脆待在天上吧。

 

Uber’s books still top secret, but its biggest weakness isn’t

Uber has raised $12.5 billion at an implied valuation of $66 billion, all without having to show the world its books. But without intending to, Uber may have revealed a major weakness that may bring it back down to Earth: wider adoption of its business model.

The creation of Uber in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis can be compared to an earlier disruptive innovation: the supermarket.

In 1930, in the early months of the Great Depression, Michael J. Cullen leased a vacant garage in Queens, New York, and built King Kullen, what is widely considered the first-ever supermarket and example of the “resource integration” model that has created the Uber ecosystem.

In the case of King Kullen, “the resource integration included the use of the customer to self select, pay cash and carry the groceries home. Previously, the merchant selected, gave store credit and often delivered the groceries,” explained Bob Lusch, entrepreneurship chair at the University of Arizona and a member of the CNBC Disruptor 50 advisory council. The new model also led to much-needed cost savings for consumers and created much-needed new jobs.

Sound familiar?

Like King Kullen, Uber is the result of “clever resource integration” on the part of its founders, serial entrepreneurs Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp. “They integrated a mostly unused stockpile of personal automobiles, a large pool of potential drivers … [and] the resources of a digital ecosystem that can be accessed on a smartphone,” Lusch said.

At the time of Cullen’s innovation, none of the existing big dry grocery chains, including two of Cullen’s former employers, Kroger and A&P, had thought to do what he did. But its merits were clear, and the idea caught on quickly, the textbook definition of a disruptive innovation. And here is where Uber should hope the comparison ends. The King Kullen business model proved easy to replicate, and eventually the big chains did. Today, Kroger is America’s largest supermarket chain, with a 16.1 percent share of the national market; King Kullen remains a small local chain.

Uber’s fundamental flaw

Erkko Autio of Imperial College Business School in London and also a member of the Disruptor 50 advisory council, said, “Uber’s business model is fundamentally flawed.” What is fiercely guarded as one of its biggest strengths — the controversial model of making all drivers operate as independent contractors — also means Uber allows drivers to work for its competitors. “Uber does not remove drivers from the driver pool. The platform is novel and revolutionary even, but not difficult to replicate. It will get replicated,” Autio said.

Speaking to CNBC from last week’s Code Conference, Jean Liu, the president of Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, pulled out a smartphone to show that the Uber app is directly referencing Didi Chuxing in aggressive discount offers: “I find it quite cute because I’ve never seen a company put their competitor’s brand on their own homepage. … This is very strong proof to show that we have better service.” Didi Chuxing recently received a $1 billion investment from Apple.

Uber’s patent protection is not in the top tier among CNBC Disruptor 50 companies, according to MCAM International, which provided CNBC with a database of patent, trademark and other intellectual property information and analysis. Uber receives a lower-tier score on defensibility of technology, MCAM found.

Uber did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise to see Uber atop the CNBC Disruptor 50 list in 2016. To anyone who follows Silicon Valley, it’s an obvious choice as the first company that comes to mind when you think of a disruptor. Uber is in more than 450 cities across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia/New Zealand and the Americas. In the United States alone, more than 450,000 drivers use the Uber app daily, according to the company.

Some innovation experts contend the independent contractor model remains worth much more than it could ever cost Uber. “I have no trouble believing they’re here for the long term,” said Andrew McAfee, a scientist with the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. “It’s brilliant that [Uber] didn’t try to lock down drivers into an employment situation,” he said. “A huge part of their success and growth is, all you have to do is turn on an app and you can start making money with your car — on a schedule that you the individual choose.”

The question, then, is what will Uber be in the long term?

Uber, Lyft? Never heard of them

A Pew Research study last month found that despite all the attention, 51 percent of the U.S. population has heard of ride-hailing apps like Uber and its closest rival, Lyft (No. 27 on this year’s Disruptor 50 List) but never used them; one-third of the county hasn’t even heard of them; and only 15 percent of adults told Pew they have used a ride-sharing service. (The popularity does go up as the age of adult goes down: Roughly one-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds (28 percent) and 1-in-5 30- to 49-year-olds (19 percent) have used ride-hailing.

Is Uber destined to be just another app in a sea of sharing-economy choices used by a fraction of the population? Or will it instead retain its competitive edge and become the next company like Amazon or Xerox or GE — a company that starts with a core business model and through innovation, clever resource consolidation and smart execution becomes something much bigger and more important?

The key to Uber’s long-term success may lie in how the company deploys its mountain of cash. Last week Saudi Arabia’s investment fund revealed a $3.5 billion investment. “Free venture money is like doping,” Autio said. “They have so much money, they can do anything. But that will not last.”

Recently, Uber has watched cash flow to its competitors, as big public incumbents take aim at both its core business and its potential paths to future growth. In addition to Apple deploying $1 billion of its cash stockpile to invest in Didi Chuxing, which already had the upper hand on Uber in China, Lyft got a $500 million investment from General Motors last year, as well as $100 million from famed investor Carl Icahn. Lyft and GM recently announced a short-term car-rental program together that would bring more drivers into the driver pool and at the same time keep those new drivers from using Uber.

“Execution really matters,” said Matt Glickman, a serial entrepreneur and guest lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (and member of the Disruptor 50 advisory council). “It’s the sustained, continued push to adapt and to improve that leads to long-term success.”

We’ve heard this before: “Innovate or die.” Or become just another supermarket … from the 1930s.