Winner Travis Kalanick of Uber collects the award for Best Overall Startup of 2014

Following Scandals, Uber Needs Help In A Very Real Sense

Uber’s tumultuous spiral continues as founder and CEO Travis Kalanick admits he is seeking “leadership help” amid a myriad of scandals, outbursts, allegations, and tragic realizations.

Uber drivers protest the company's recent fare cuts and go on strike
[Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

On Tuesday afternoon, Bloomberg published a video showcasing Kalanick arguing with Uber driver, Fawzi Kamel, about the company, Travis’ mercurial behavior, and the frequent change in strategy, wages, and pricing. “I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you. You keep changing every day,” Kamel despondently professed, to which Travis began questioning. “You changed the whole business.”

Prior to this fiasco, earlier in February, now former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler, authored a lengthy blog post about her sexism-riddled experience during her tenure with the company. “It was clear that [my new manager] was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR. […] When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part,” Fowler wrote, detailing her rather horrifying stay at Uber.

Following the viral post by Fowler and Kalanick’s seeming acceptance and willingness-to-work-with President Donald Trump, a burgeoning trend accelerated as #DeleteUber saw upwards to 200,000 users deleting their accounts. Because of Fowler’s writing, Uber claimed it was “deeply hurting after reading Susan Fowler’s blog post” and “what she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.” Travis promised the company would “do better” going forward, and a few days later, Kalanick was grilled by more than 100 female engineers regarding issues of sexism at Uber. “I want to root out the injustice. I want to get at the people who are making this place a bad place. And you have my commitment to make that happen, and I know it doesn’t end there,” he proclaimed to those in attendance, voice lowered, slightly cracking.

In a memo sent to employees via email Tuesday afternoon obtained by BuzzFeed News, Kalanick apologized for his behavior displayed in the video and said, “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. […] This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.” The full memo reads as follows.

Team –

By now I’m sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully. To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement. 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 want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.


It’s unclear what exactly he means by this statement, whether he is stepping down or hiring others with more managerial/leadership experience than himself, but nevertheless, it’s blatantly evident the company is in dire straits, and something needs to happen now and happen fast. Currently, Uber hasn’t filed an initial public offering (IPO), the official documentation that makes a business publically tradeable with purchasable stocks, so it’s unknown how the company is financially impacted because of these turbulent times. However, it can be inferred that the company’s finances have taken a huge hit.

“You know what,” Kalanick interjects, seemingly unbuckling his seatbelt. “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!” He slams Kamel’s door, blowing the tension back into the car, along with the lone, lingering tick-tick of the vehicle’s signal, a perfect metaphor for the bomb Kalanick has placed in his own company.

In case you haven’t seen the video, you can watch it below.

[Featured by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch]