How to lead like Travis Kalanick

Uber's CEO is the Marmite of entrepreneurs - do you love him or hate him?

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 05 May 2017

Uber's beleaguered boss has created the definitive tech disruptor, but at what cost? Here's what he got right - and wrong.

Execute like your life depends on it. Kalanick's key asset is his preternatural drive. In eight years, Uber has gone from zero to 528 cities, 40 million rides a month and a $70bn valuation - more than General Motors. A work rate that leaves even his most obsessive Silicon Valley rivals just where he wants them - eating Kalanick's dust.

Share the credit, if you have to. History is littered with tales of partners who fell out over who was first to the big idea. But the hyper-competitive Kalanick has acknowledged that Uber's car-sharing concept was the brainchild of co-founder Garrett Camp: 'Garrett is the guy who invented that shit.'

Always. Be. Fundraising. Kalanick never stops shaking the money tree, getting investment of $8.8bn in 13 rounds of funding from the likes of Google Ventures, Benchmark, Tata and Goldman Sachs. It a good job because even with annual revenues of $5.5bn, 2016 losses have been estimated at $3bn.

Antagonise incumbents, even employees... Kalanick has never been afraid of picking a fight. But while scraps with 'closed shop' taxi rivals have won plaudits from customers fed up with high prices and poor service, when directed at his own drivers, this pugnacity can become counterproductive.

... But keep your investors onside. To many, it seems that only the awe in which he is held by Uber's backers keeps the accident-prone Kalanick behind the wheel. Nothing impresses Alpha males more than a winning display of even-more-Alpha maleness. That and the prospect of a lucrative IPO.

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Image credit: Adam Tinworth/Flickr (Creative Commons)


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