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Image credit: Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick steps down

A slew of scandals drove shareholder pressure to a breaking point.
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Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

The New York Times reports that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is stepping down, following heavy pressure from a large group of shareholders. Despite a reputation for scandals that appeared to be accelerating -- sexual assaults by drivers, "greyballing" regulators, disputes over driver pay and a corporate culture teeming with sexual harassment -- Kalanick had remained the company's leader, and announced a week ago that he would take a leave of absence.

As recently as February the 40-year-old executive was promising to "fundamentally change as a leader and grow up," but as Axios reported tonight, a group of investors including VCs from Benchmark, First Round Capital, Fidelity Investments, Lowercase Capital and Menlo Ventures teamed up, writing a "Moving Uber Forward" letter demanding a change in leadership. He still owns a significant portion of the company, and will reportedly remain a board member. In a statement given to the New York Times, Kalanick said: "I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight."

Kalanick's second-in-command Emil Michael already departed the company following an internal investigation into its culture, while self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski has been fired in the midst of a lawsuit accusing him of stealing trade secrets from his previous employer, Google/Waymo.

The list of scandals and unsettling behavior is so long we can't recount it here, but despite the clear need for change, it's still a surprise that Uber's CEO has been forced out. We'll see what happens next -- or what the company says publicly, it has not yet responded to our requests -- but we do have a few ideas about how to turn things around. Uber kicked off a "180 days of change" program to improve its driving experience just yesterday, so it's anyone's guess what the next 179 will include.

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