Silicon-Liberal Valley Got Their Scalp

This was inevitable. Once Travis Kalanick made his first, and unrecoverable, mistake of showing insufficient enthusiasm for opposing Donald Trump, Silicon-Liberal Valley was out to get him. And get him they did.

Kalanick stepped down as Uber CEO Tuesday amid demands from the company’s major shareholders that he resign immediately.

In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.

This particular railroading of a tech executive isn’t as egregious as, say, Brendan Eich, but it is fraught with hypocrisy.

The NYT called Uber “a prime example of Silicon Valley start-up culture gone wrong.” Sexual harassment, avoiding government regulators, mistreating employees (and drivers) were all part of this toxic mix. Except we don’t see Tim Cook being made to resign.

Just nine months ago, a stinging report that “Apple is a sexist, toxic work environment” hit the press. Apple genuflected, said a few Hail Gloria Steinems, issued a new “tough” policy, and was absolved. (I won’t even comment on one report that Apple was accused of being a “white, male, Christian, misogynist, sexist environment.” They might as well just said “Christian.”)

And Uber’s SVP of engineering, Amit Singhal, was dismissed because he didn’t tell anyone he left Google over a sexual harassment claim. Google has its own troubles with “start-up” culture. (That term is hilarious. Apple is the most valuable company in the world, and Google parent Alpabet is worth $660 billion.) Nobody is demanding Larry Page’s resignation, even though he played “Red Rover” tossing Singhal to Kalanick.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX was cleared of wrongdoing by a jury in a sexual harassment trial, and faced another one at Tesla, recently sued by AJ Vandermeyden, a female engineer who alleged the company has a climate of “pervasive harassment.” And…nobody’s asking for Musk’s head on a platter.

I think you see the picture here. The difference between hero and zero in Silicon Valley isn’t necessarily what goes on in the rank-and-file. Uber’s board acknowledged that Kalanick “always put Uber first.” In other words, he was a good CEO. So the reason he’s gone must be that he’s a lousy person.

Silicon Valley is full of lousy people and SOB’s. They are the subject of movies. I mean, Steve Jobs, right? But you can be a lousy person and a liberal, and be absolved. What you can’t be is a little bit too close to radioactive President Trump.

You can’t defend a “working relationship” with Trump to your employees. “We’ll partner with anyone in the world as long they’re about making transportation in cities better,” he told them, “creating job opportunities, making it easier to get around, getting pollution out of the air and traffic off the streets.” Once Kalanick said that, just days after the inauguration, he was doomed.

One driver managed to get him into an embarrassing tirade. The driver recorded it, and three weeks later, slipped it to Bloomberg, which published it. At the time, in March, I wrote this:

I have to believe that there’s more than this. I’m sure there’s a whole treasure trove of damaging stuff that Kalanick’s detractors have sitting around, waiting to release to the press. Staff problems, sexual innuendoes (mentioned in the Bloomberg piece), and other issues will plague Kalanick until he quits.

And Tuesday, the Silicon-Liberal Valley viewpoint posse got their scalp. The message is clear: just about any sin will be forgiven by “start-up culture,” except appearing to be a social conservative.

Drivers Sue, Executives Flee, Fantastic Losses, Vicious Hate: Is This the End of Uber?

Uber was a good idea when it started. In the “gig economy,” letting people with cars become their own cabs (excuse me, ride share) and taking a piece of the action seemed perfect. 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.

Add to that the hateful and vicious attacks on Kalanick himself. The man just lost his mother in a tragic boating accident. Drivers who hate him have said some unforgivable things.

“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?

New York drivers who successfully sued Uber are pressing for even more cash, while the cab industry and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance cheer them on. Prosecutors around the globe are looking very closely at the company’s “Greyball” effort to avoid regulator scrutiny.

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.

It might be a good idea for Kalanick to move on (I’ve been saying that for a while), because his presence only makes things worse. If he stays, this could spell a long, tortuous end for Uber.

WIN: Uber and Lyft Have Returned to Austin, Texas

Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft are resuming operation in Austin, Texas, today. This comes after Texas lawmakers voted to override regulations placed on the two companies last year. Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) is expected to sign this important piece of legislation–House Bill 100— into law this afternoon.

Here’s more on this development:

The bill supersedes Austin’s fingerprinting requirement for ride-hailing companies. Uber and Lyft stopped operating in the city more than a year ago, after Austinites voted to require fingerprinting as part of background checks for drivers. The new statewide law requires annual background checks, but not fingerprinting.

Uber issued the following “apology” ahead of their return to the Texas capital:

We’re sorry, Austin—for leaving the way we did; for letting an honest disagreement about regulations and consumer choice turn into a public fight; and most of all, for not being able to serve you for the last year. It was never our intention, but we let down drivers, riders, and the broader Austin community. We’ve spent the last year listening carefully and learning from the mistakes we made. While we can’t change how we got here, we can and will commit to getting it right this time around.

Before we get to work, we want to thank all of the drivers who make ridesharing a reality in Austin: Tens of thousands of people rely on you to get around safely every week, and this city isn’t the same without your hard work and kindness. Earning back your trust is our number one priority. Whether you plan to drive with Uber in the future or not, thank you for everything you do for this amazing city.

Austin, we know that we have a lot of work to do, but we couldn’t be more excited for the road ahead. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.

As previously reported here at The Resurgent, the two companies were rooted out of the Texas capital after a ballot measure slated to embolden them failed at the ballot box. The contention over Uber and Lyft in Austin lied in the city’s interest in “creating a level playing field” at the expense of competition. Moreover, the contention with Proposition 1 went beyond a finger-printing system, ultimately as a scheme to coerce and collect data from the two ride-sharing companies.

The ridesharing bill–Proposition 1– failed by a 56-44 margin, with only 17 percent of registered voters in Travis County turning out to vote. Since the companies were forcibly removed from Austin in May 2016, drunk driving spiked 7.5 percent. Had this legislation not been signed into law, Uber and Lyft drivers would have been subjected to having their fingerprints scanned. The reversal of this bad policy should help curb drunk driving as it did before.

This is a small but positive step in the right direction. Local governments and their union acolytes need to get off the backs of these innovative companies once and for all. People depend on these services to make a living. Why continue to deprive all Americans–including Austinites– of their lifestyle and career choices?

 

Uber Under Criminal Investigation For Avoiding Regulators

Uber, the popular ridesharing app that has become the bane of taxi companies and car services, is in trouble again. What has already been a bad year for the company is getting worse as Reuters reports that the US Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation over software that allowed Uber drivers to avoid regulators and law enforcement in areas where the service had not been approved.

The investigation centers around “Greyball,” a program that used the Uber app and other techniques to identify and avoid government officials. The New York Times first reported the existence of Greyball in March. According to the Times, Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Uber says that Greyball, which showed some users an alternate version of the Uber app that replaced the location of Uber vehicles on the map with fake ones, was used to protect drivers from harm and fraud. The program was part of a system that analyzed credit card data, device identification and location to determine whether a ride request was legitimate. In some cases, drivers allegedly canceled pickup requests after fares were flagged by Greyball.

Uber, which is valued at $68 million, is accused of using Greyball to evade transportation officials in Portland, Oregon in 2014 before the city granted the company approval to operate. Reuters says that Uber admitted to using the technology in Portland because it was “deeply concerned that its driver-partners would be penalized financially.”

It is not clear what potential charges Uber might face, but a Northern California grand jury has issued a subpoena for documents detailing how Greyball works and where it was deployed. Uber has retained an external law firm to conduct its own investigation into the matter. Reuters suggests that some aspects of Greyball might have extended beyond the Terms of Service agreement for Uber users.

Uber is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year the company’s CEO got into a heated argument with a driver and was forced to apologize. A division of Google sued the company over similarities in self-driving car technology between the two companies. Uber was also the subject of a sexual harassment scandal at its main office and boycotts on social media.

Just Resign, Travis: Uber CEO Is Doomed

I told you before that they (cue scary music) would not stop until Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was jobless. I told you that his collaboration with President Trump was considered unforgivable by the intolerant left.

I would not lie to you. Now a video has surfaced of Kalanick loudly arguing with an Uber driver on Super Bowl Sunday.

It’s funny that the video was made three weeks ago, and turned over to Bloomberg, then published now. It’s also funny (in a coincidental way) that the dashboard video was made by a driver–Fawzi Kamel–who had a definite beef against Kalanick, and waited until the ride was over and he got the CEO by himself to pounce.

After a rather civil conversation, the driver pushed Kalanick’s buttons and said he lost $97,000 because of the CEO.


Kamel: “But people are not trusting you anymore. … I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you. Yes, yes, yes. You keep changing every day. You keep changing every day.”

Kalanick: “Hold on a second, what have I changed about Black? What have I changed?”

Kamel: “You changed the whole business. You dropped the prices.”

Kalanick: “On black?”

Kamel: “Yes, you did.”

Kalanick begins to lose his temper. “Bullshit,” he says.

Kamel: “We started with $20.”

Kalanick: “Bullshit.”

Kamel: “We started with $20. How much is the mile now, $2.75?”

Kalanick: “You know what?”

Kamel: “What?”

Kalanick: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”

Kamel: “Good luck to you, but I know [you’re not] going to go far.”


It appears Kamel’s words are about to come to pass.

In an email to staff Tuesday after publication of this story, Kalanick apologized to Kamel for treating him disrespectfully. “To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement,” Kalanick wrote. “My job as your leader is to lead…and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away. It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”

I have to believe that there’s more than this. I’m sure there’s a whole treasure trove of damaging stuff that Kalanick’s detractors have sitting around, waiting to release to the press. Staff problems, sexual innuendoes (mentioned in the Bloomberg piece), and other issues will plague Kalanick until he quits.

My advice to him: just quit now and get it over with. Move on to something else, and keep your Uber stock. The company will do very well, but there’s got to be a liberal at the helm who passes the purity test. You clearly failed to #Resist.

They won’t stop until he’s gone.

Too Little Too Late? Uber CEO Kalanick Quits Trump Advisory Board

The liberal outrage machine (gun) has taken aim and fired for effect at Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, for the unforgivable crime of “collaborating with the enemy (President Trump).”

Statements alone are not enough penitence for this crime, which was compounded by his company actually allowing drivers to pick up passengers from JFK airport during a taxi strike in protest of Trump’s immigration executive order. That prompted a #DeleteUber trend on Twitter, which lasted approximately one day, when liberals reinstalled the app to take their next ride. (Because they can’t live without Uber and they know it.)

Now Kalnick has quit Trump’s economic advisory council.

In his email to employees, he said his participation was being interpreted as a sign that he had endorsed the president and the administration’s agenda. In fact, Mr. Kalanick said, the immigration order was hurting many people across America.

“Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s,” he wrote.

Not to be cynical, but this was just a business decision. Lyft took full advantage of the situation, wasting no time to build up their own business. The New York Taxi Alliance also benefitted from the anti-Trump sentiment. And engineers and employees of Uber threatened to jump ship if their CEO didn’t do something.

So Kalanick did something. But it’s not going to be enough.

I predict that this storm will continue until Kalnick steps down from Uber. It’s going to cost him his job. The anti-Trump forces need a scalp for their efforts, and–sorry Travis–the selection has been made for the sacrifice.

Some told Mr. Kalanick that they had suffered a personal cost — a stigma, they said — of working at Uber. One staff member asked him to present the benefits of working at Uber that could outweigh that personal cost.

Once the word “stigma” is used, there’s no turning back. It’s too little, too late for the Uber CEO. He should just quit now and cut his losses before it gets really ugly. Sorry, that’s just the way liberals roll. Someone’s got to pay, and this time it’s Kalanick.

#DeleteUber Is Really About Getting Rid Of CEO Travis Kalanick

#DeleteUber is trending on Twitter. In NYC, Uber drivers were picking up passengers from JFK airport while unionized taxi drivers were on strike in protest of the Trump administration’s refugee immigration ban.

Uber responded by eliminating surge prices since ride sharing operators were now the exclusive market owners for getting to and from the airport (illegal “gypsy cabs” notwithstanding).

Replies like this are common:

So now Uber is the enemy of all that is good and decent. But the real reason for the outrage is not because of what Uber is doing, it’s because of the political leanings of CEO Travis Kalanick. He is (gasp!) a Trump collaborator.

At the company’s weekly all hands meeting, CEO Travis Kalanick addressed concerns about his working relationship with Trump by claiming it’s necessary in order to fulfill Uber’s mission of improving global transportation.

“We’ll partner with anyone in the world as long they’re about making transportation in cities better, creating job opportunities, making it easier to get around, getting pollution out of the air and traffic off the streets,” Kalanick told employees.

“It’s about the leaders we have to work with around the world, not just here in the United States but everywhere,” he added. “And being optimistic — asking can we make urban mobility better?”

Kalanick is guilty as charged of showing insufficient enthusiasm for the single cause that should consume every tech sector company in America. And of course, that’s dumping Trump. Therefore I expect these #DeleteUber protests to morph into a serious campaign to unseat Kalanick, like liberals did with Mozilla’s Brendan Eich.

Liberals don’t like that Silicon Valley scions met with Trump at Trump Tower. They want to get a scalp for some leverage over the rest of the industry before the business-side starts cooperating too much with the Trump administration. Conveniently, Kalanick has provided a way. Watch for the media to viciously go after him.

Oh look…it’s already started: here and here. Kalanick has pledged $3 million to help drivers affected by the immigration order, and called the order “unjust,” but I’m afraid it’s too little too late. They need a head on a platter, and he’s been chosen.

Hey Leftists, Free Enterprise Saves Lives

New findings suggest that the city of Austin, Texas, is experiencing a surge in drunk driving after Uber and Lyft pulled out in May 2016. Per Austin Police Department findings, drunk driving rose  7.5 percent after Uber and Lyft suspended operations in the city:

DWI arrests have spiked since Uber and Lyft left Austin. The Austin Police Department released new numbers to KEYE TV that show there were 359 DWI arrests from May 9, the day Uber and Lyft shut down, to May 31st of this year. Last year during the same time period, there were 334 arrests. That’s a 7.5 percent increase in the weeks following their departure.

Both companies suspended ride-sharing services after Austin residents voted against Proposition 1 last spring. Had it passed, Proposition 1 would have overturned city-wide regulations like fingerprint-based background checks for drivers and a prohibition on picking up / dropping customers while parked in traffic lanes. The measure was defeated by a 56-44 margin, with only 17 percent of registered voters in Travis County participating in the election. All Austin ride-sharing drivers now must have their fingerprints scanned by February 1, 2017.

Here’s the impact Uber and Lyft had on drunk driving when they were operating in Austin, TX:

Before Uber came to town in 2014, Austin Police Department’s data showed that the city had an average of 525 drunk driving arrests per month. When these numbers were revisited a year after ridesharing came to Austin, drunk driving arrests had dropped by five percent. This trend continued the following year when the number of drunk driving arrests dropped by an additional 12 percent, bringing the average number of arrests to about 438 per month.

Not only did drunk driving spike in Austin after the companies pulled out, 10,000 people lost their jobs as a result of this vote last spring. Talk about a dangerous move for people and their livelihoods…

Those elected officials opposed to emerging technologies must be held accountable for putting public safety at risk. Why stifle ingenuity? Is it because these individuals hate being forced to compete in the free market? Or is it because the taxi lobby sends them a big, fat check to maintain the status quo? Creating artificial cushions to protect yourself in an industry is not only foolish, it’s antithetical to American free enterprise. Given these findings, banning Uber and Lyft is going to cost many people their jobs and their lives. The people of Austin must work tirelessly to reverse course.

Let’s hope emerging technologies like Uber and Lyft can continue be embraced in larger cities across the country without facing any more roadblocks to operation.