who really is Travis Kalanick, the boss who wanted to “uberize” the world
A strategist applauded by Emmanuel Macron
This is one of the startling lessons of the “Uber Files”, these revelations based on internal documents of Uber published by The world and his international partners: Emmanuel Macron had a certain admiration for Travis Kalanick, praising his “impressive achievement” when he was not even 40 years old. In record time, the American founder of Uber has allowed his company to establish itself around the world.
Also listen “Uber Files”: how Minister Macron helped Uber in secret
To do this, in the early 2010s, he had two weapons: a first solid experience in fundraising, which would allow him to build up a gigantic war chest, and to sponsor the establishment of his service at a loss. in dozens of countries simultaneously. The other weapon, which Travis Kalanick wields with dexterity, is self-assurance. Uber is setting up without much regard for local legislation: the instruction given to its teams is to negotiate with the authorities only once the service is too established, and popular, for it to be banned.
“Uber Files”, an international investigation
“Uber Files” is an investigation based on thousands of internal Uber documents sent by an anonymous source to the British daily The Guardianand forwarded to International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 42 media partners, including The world.
Emails, presentations, meeting minutes… These 124,000 documents, dated from 2013 to 2017, offer a rare dive into the mysteries of a start-up which was then seeking to establish itself in cities around the world despite a regulatory context. unfavorable. They detail how Uber has used, in France as elsewhere, all the tricks of lobbying to try to change the law to its advantage.
The “Uber Files” also reveal how the Californian group, determined to impose itself by a fait accompli and, if necessary, by operating illegally, has implemented practices deliberately playing with the limits of the law, or which may amount to judicial obstruction of the investigations of which he was the subject.
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A billionaire ex-“pirate”
The genesis of its success is the very American story of a pirate turned businessman. A brilliant student, Travis Kalanick stood out at the turn of the 2000s, when illegal downloading was booming, by creating Scour, a file-sharing software, which was to close very quickly in the face of complaints from rights holders. Scour is reborn in a legal version. But the bursting of the Internet bubble, a little too creative accounting and dissensions between founders will cause the fall of the company, resold in extremis to the giant Akamai for a comfortable sum. Sheltered from need, Travis Kalanick devotes himself to the search for a new project. In his apartment, he receives creators of start-ups. Among them, Garrett Camp, the author of the StumbleUpon site, with whom he developed, around beers, the idea of an application allowing to call a driver.
His aggressive methods of conquering markets, Travis Kalanick also applies them internally. In a Silicon Valley where there is no shortage of colorful bosses, he is one of the most feared. Over the years, the scandals accumulate – sexual harassment, toxic management… In 2017, he is filmed during an altercation with an Uber driver about the price of the races – he will be forced to apologize publicly. In June 2017, while Travis Kalanick is taking time off to mourn his parents, who died in an accident, an extremely critical report on the management of cases of harassment by the company is submitted to Uber. His allies on the board let him down; he is stepping down as CEO, but will remain on the board until 2019.
An “uberizer” at heart
Having become an investor, through a fund called “10 100”, Travis Kalanick continues to get involved in so-called “collaborative” economy projects. Among its biggest investments is CloudKitchens, a company that specializes in “ghost kitchens,” which prepare food for delivery only. We do not know what he thought of super-pumped, the recent Showtime series that portrays his rise and fall in unflattering fashion. On the other hand, we know that he had little taste for the publication of the “Uber Files”, estimating in a press release that the methods he applied at the time were not only legal, but necessary to move the ” status quo “. “They gave birth to an industry that has now become a verb”, wrote his spokesperson. A verb often used in a pejorative sense.