Uber's IPO filing can't decide whether it loves or hates Travis Kalanick, and it's pretty awkward
- Uber goes to great lengths in its IPO filing to show that it's cleaned up its act and fixed the problems that once plagued the company.
- That means indirectly indicting the era of former CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick.
- It's an awkward dance, since Kalanick is still a director on Uber's board.
But the cofounder and former CEO of Uber appears many more times, if your read between the lines of the company's S-1 filed on Thursday. And for the most part, it seems, he's there to serve as a punching bag.The 300-page IPO prospectus seeks to convince investors that the ride hailing company is a well-managed operation, free of the chaos and problems that plagued it a couple years ago - back when Kalanick was in charge.
"We are on a new path forward with the hiring of our Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi in September 2017 following many challenges regarding our culture, workplace practices, and reputation," Uber says towards the beginning of the document.
"It's a new day at Uber," the document declares.
An entire section labeled "Conduct and Culture" includes categories like "Tone at the Top" and refers to efforts to "fundamentally reform our workplace culture."
"We have made tremendous progress in creating a program that is designed to prevent and detect violations of corporate policy, law, and regulations," it says.
Kalanick served as Uber's CEO from 2010 to 2017, turning the ride-hailing company into the unstoppable juggernaut worth nearly $70 billion. But the company was rocked by a series of scandals on his watch, including accusations of sexual harassment and a toxic work culture, a high-profile trade theft lawsuit, and reports of operations designed to deceive regulators.
Dancing the Travis two-stepKhosrowshahi, the CEO who replaced Kalanick, indirectly refers to his predecessor's legacy in a personal letter to investors that acknowledges "missteps along the way."
It must make for awkward reading for Kalanick, given that he's still a member of the company's board of directors.
And it's a delicate needle for Uber to thread, since the company must also praise Kalanick and sell him to investors as a desirable member of the board.
"Mr. Kalanick was selected to serve on our board of directors because of his experience as one of the co-founders and early leaders of our company, and as such, his extensive knowledge of our business, and his innovation, technology, and high-growth experience, as well as his consumer and digital experience," the Uber S-1 says in Kalanick's director bio.
Depending on which part of the S-1 you read, Kalanick's experience as an "early leader" of the company is either a feature or a bug. Maybe that's the truest hallmark of a tech company.
More on Uber's massive IPO:
- Here's who's getting rich on Uber's massive IPO
- Uber gave CEO Dara Khosrowshahi $45 million in total pay last year, but it paid its COO even more
- Uber warns that its reputation may always be a risk for its continued success
- Uber warns its big push into scooters and e-bikes is creating unusual new headaches and risks for the company
- Uber spent $3.3 billion on acquisitions in 2018 and 2019 - 10-times more than Lyft
- Uber's original pitch deck from a decade ago shows just how much the ride-hailing giant has changed
- Read the email Uber's CEO sent employees about the company's $3.1 billion acquisition of a major competitor