Travis Cordell Kalanick is Uber’s co-founder and former chief executive officer (CEO). However, he resigned from Uber in 2017 due to his involvement in the company’s unethical corporate culture. His story has also been adapted into a TV series named Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber.
Before founding Uber, Kalanick had found two different peer-to-peer file-sharing companies, Scour, and Red Swoosh. Both companies had to shut down due to legal and financial troubles. However, Kalanick managed to sell Red Swoosh to Akamai for $23 million.
How did Travis Kalanick become the founder and CEO of Uber?
The idea for Uber came about when Travis Kalanick and his friend Garrett Camp were attending a tech conference. However, after the event, they were unable to get a cab. Both friends had also become frustrated with taxi services in San Francisco.
They then came up with the idea for a timeshare limo service that anyone could order via an app. After that, Camp was fixated on the idea and even bought the domain name UberCab.com. At that time, the idea was limited to upscale luxury black cars.
Travis Kalanick was brought on to the project as a ‘Chief Incubator’ and later became the CEO of UberCab. As the CEO, Kalanick had a significant degree of control over the company due to his shares. He also ensured that new investors had limited financial information about the company and a tenth of the voting power compared to the founders.
Controversies of Travis Kalanick and Uber
In 2010, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency served UberCab with a cease and desist order. The company violated several city regulations and labor laws by operating as a taxicab company without appropriate permits.
Kalanick told the company to ignore the order and changed the company name from UberCab to Uber. This prevented the company from falsely advertising itself as a taxi company. After that, the company expanded aggressively and is now in every major country and city.
During this time, Kalanick developed a reputation for being both aggressive and combative towards competitors, regulators, customers, employees, and Uber’s drivers. Due to this, Uber’s corporate culture was also suffering.
Under Kalanick’s leadership, employees worked nights and weekends without compensation. According to New York Times journalist Mike Isaac, Kalanick often ignored reports of sexual harassment and favored employees who were willing to do anything to advance in the company.
According to a New York Times report, Kalanick also authorized the use of industrial espionage tactics against competitors and regulators. During an interview with the GQ in 2014, Kalanick joked that the company’s nickname was “Boob-er” for the female attention it was bringing him.
In 2017, Travis Kalanick resigned as the CEO of Uber in a boardroom coup after five major investors demanded his resignation. This was after publishing a sexual harassment investigation report that suggested that Kalanick needed to take a leave of absence.
Even after his resignation, he continued to interfere with company operations. The executive leadership later blocked his access to company servers. In 2019, he sold off approximately 90% of his shares in Uber, making a profit of about $2.5 billion.
Where to watch Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber?
Those who want to know more about the story of Uber and Travis Kalanick can watch the TV series Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber. You can watch this thrilling drama series on Hulu, Voot, or Amazon Prime Video. The show stars many famous actors, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays the role of Travis Kalanick.