The more Uber’s CEO heard rumours about Google’s plans for its self-driving cars, the more Travis Kalanick begged to get a meeting with Larry Page.
New emails revealed in a court filing on Thursday show Kalanick’s suspicions and reaction as it became clear that Google — an early investor in Uber — was exploring launching a competing ride-sharing service using the self-driving cars it was developing.
The two companies are bitter enemies today, with each racing to develop competing self-driving car technology. Google’s self-driving car spin-out, Waymo, has also sued Uber over alleged theft of intellectual property and patent violations.
Before all the bad blood though, Kalanick sought to partner with Google on self-driving cars, instead of competing, according to the emails dating from 2015. A high-ranking Google executive appeared to see the value of a partnership as well.
“I hope I’m wrong here”
But Kalanick’s distrust and fears about Google’s motives were inflamed as he suspected that Google cofounder Larry Page was purposefully avoiding him and that Google was secretly plotting to move into his turf.
“A meeting with Larry would calm this down if it’s not true but he has been avoiding any meeting with me since last fall,” Kalanick wrote in a March 2015 email, referring to Google cofounder Larry Page.
“Without any dialogue we get pushed into the assumption that Google is competing in the short term and has probably been planning to do so for quite a bit longer than has been let on,” Kalanick continued in the March 2015 email. “I hope I’m wrong here, just need to do a meeting with Larry ASAP to get clarity and a mutual understanding of how to do a proper partnership here.”
The emails document how the relationship between the two tech giants unravel led and the brewing sense of mistrust and betrayal that has ultimately led to an acrimonious legal feud that has captivated Silicon Valley.
Here’s one of the emails contained in Thursday’s filings:
Kalanick’s emails were sent to David Drummond, Google’s head of business and an Uber board member at the time. Drummond agreed that the “value of a partnership now far outweighs concerns about an uncertain future.”
A Google calendar invite, also contained in the court filing, shows that Page, Drummond, Kalanick, and Uber’s head of business, Emil Michael, met for lunch three days later at Google’s Mountain View headquarters.
What happened next, though, is what Uber wants to question Page about in a legal deposition. In the company’s argument for why it should be able to depose Page, Uber said that not only did the Alphabet CEO attend the lunch meeting to discuss the idea of a partnership, but he also “has knowledge about why Waymo rejected that avenue and instead chose to compete with Uber.”
“Any such competitive business decisions are relevant to the issues in and motivations behind this lawsuit, and to damages,” Uber’s attorneys argue. Now it’s up the judge to decide whether or not Page has to answer Uber’s questions about why the partnership fell apart from the beginning.
Waymo did not respond to request for comment. Uber declined to comment.