The Soul of Uber
I’ve only been at Uber a month, but I’ve known Travis for 5 years. My fiance was the first intern at Uber, and during my first few years living in SF, I was at the office multiple times a week. I have a lot of memories of late nights at the office and happy hours in the early days. There are a few memories I have of Travis that really stand out to me.
One night I went over to play board games around 10:00pm, and Travis was still there, talking through details of a project with one of my friends. I remember thinking that he wasn’t the type of leader that had all of his employees do the hard work; he was right there with them, in the weeds, solving problems. I was lucky enough to spend some time talking to him, too. Another night he was discussing a strategy with a handful of engineers and was having a hard time convincing them of how he wanted to approach a problem. I added in my two cents, and he listened, and respected me, even as some random person in the office that didn’t work at Uber. That’s when I decided that I wanted to work for him. After a month of working here, I can say that I’ve never felt like I belonged somewhere more than I feel like I belong at Uber, and that’s because of the culture that Travis built.
Uber has been cast in a negative light in the media since its founding. To just now decide that public sentiment is something that we should care about makes it obvious that the board is only thinking about a future IPO, and not what’s best for the company. If Travis, and Uber as a whole, cared about public sentiment for the past 7 years, Uber wouldn’t be worth even a fraction of what it is today. Everything the public has been outraged about has proven to be beneficial to the public and the company: creating surge pricing has increased efficiency and supply, launching in places where Uber wasn’t explicitly legal has increased transportation options for people around the world, turning OFF surge pricing during catastrophes has allowed people to get home safely, building a map for employees that shows where cars and riders are located increases safety and security. The list goes on and on.
The public is outraged by the stories that they’ve heard from former employees. But if you know Travis, you know that he isn’t a womanizer, he isn’t against racial or gender or sexual orientation equality. If you’ve seen his reactions during the listening sessions over the past few months, you know that these stories are deeply painful for him to hear, but he wants to keep hearing them because he wants to fix the problems we have. He’s our Chief Problem Solver, and he’s the one who should be here solving the problems we have, because he knows the company and its people the best.
I have serious doubts that anyone will be able to fill Travis’ shoes. I have serious doubts that anyone else will be able to take Uber to a successful IPO, or even continue to grow the company. Uber is what it is because of Travis, because of his hustle, and because of his passion. Taking him away takes away the soul of Uber.