In a somewhat foreseeable move in light of his leave of absence from Uber, founder and CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the executive position on Tuesday as a consequence of strong criticism by shareholders.
Mr. Kalanick's exit was the subsequent product of hours of drama involving Uber's investors, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Earlier on Tuesday, five of Uber's major investors insisted that Kalanick resign promptly. The investors entailed one of Uber's biggest shareholders, the VC firm Benchmark, whose partner Bill Gurley is on Uber's board. The investors made their demand clear to Mr. Kalanick in a letter delivered to him while he was in Chicago.
In the letter entitled "Moving Uber Forward", the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needs a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick consulted with at least one Uber board member, and following long discourse with some of the investors, agreed to step down. He will persist as one of Uber's board of directors.
The move is representative of a larger effort to try and quash the controversial and morally questionable culture that presides over the Silicon Valley startup scene. Google has sued Uber for intellectual property theft. A senior VP at the company was asked to leave after he failed to tell hirers that he left Google a due to sexual harassment allegations. In a more recent blow, Uber director David Bonderman last week resigned after being accused of having made a sexist remark at a meeting specifically set up to discuss how Uber can transform its culture amid that discrimination probe.
The question that remains is who is to fill Kalanick's shoes? Whoever is up for the job would be inheriting not only a company valued at $70 billion, but also one that is riddled by a discriminatory work culture and unsatisfied consumers and employees alike. Bill Gurley, one of Uber's board directors primarily motivating the remodeling of leadership, is eager to find someone who could lead Uber into an eventual IPO. Possible candidates include Thomas Staggs, who spent many years as Disney's CFO, during which he oversaw the acquisition of Pixar Films. Another is Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube who, as a woman, could help clean up Uber's image and ameliorate its discrimination issues. Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford, might also be a good choice due to his experience with revamping company images, particularly for investors. His "One Ford" plan was a hit with employees, boosting morale and encouraging teamwork.
Finally, Kalanick's exit is significant because it fortifies the case of any regulator looking to crack down on disruptive Silicon Valley startups. Companies mirroring Uber's playbook may now begin to reevaluate their culture, management and operations as well as their leadership. Investors will most definitely be on the defensive when it comes to new startups, which could stifle innovation but produce a higher level of efficiency and success in the long term.
However, not all is negative, as Uber's biggest rivals GrubHub