How a single tweet launched Ryan Graves' seven-year career at Uber

Ryan Graves’ career at Uber began with a tweet.

In January 2010, when Uber was less than a year old, then-CEO Travis Kalanick tweeted: “Looking 4 entrepreneurial product mgr/biz-dev killer 4 a location based service.. pre-launch, BIG equity, big peeps involved–ANY TIPS??”

Graves saw Kalanick’s tweet and responded: “Here’s a tip. email me :)”. He included his email address too.

Graves stepped down from Uber on Thursday, but his unconventional job application led him to one of the longest-running tenures at Uber — he even outlasted Kalanick himself. 

Graves most recently served as the company’s SVP of Global Operations, but he held several positions at Uber, even briefly serving as CEO before handing the reins back to Kalanick in 2011. 

“Ryan Graves’ first day was March 1st and he hit the ground running,” Kalanick wrote in a blog post detailing Uber’s origins. “From the day he got going, we spent about 15-20 hours a week working together going over product, driver on-boarding, pricing model, the whole nine. He learned the startup game fast and worked his arse off to build the Uber team and make the San Francisco launch and subsequent growth a huge success.” 

From working for free to $US1.58 billion

Back in 2010, Graves’ work experience included a database-administrator position at General Electric and a stint in business development at Foursquare, which he acquired by working for them for free after the company initially turned him down.

Kalanick presumably followed up with Graves after his initial tweet, and Graves became Uber’s first hire. Graves was known throughout his time at Uber as the “Mr. Nice Guy” in contrast with Kalanick’s aggressive personality, and is said to be well-liked by his peers both within Uber and the larger tech community as a whole.

Chris Sacca, an early investor in Uber, wrote several glowing tweets about Graves on Thursday following the news that Graves is stepping down. Graves and Sacca are longtime friends: Graves and his wife even spent the night at Sacca’s house before Graves started at Uber. 

Graves is “the director most consistently respected by the others and is great at building consensus,” Sacca wrote.

Investor Kevin Rose also tweeted his support:

Graves has been noticeably absent throughout Uber’s tumultuous past six months. He transitioned to a new “resident builder and entrepreneur” role last year, and multiple people told Business Insider in March that Graves’ wasn’t often seen around the office for long stretches of time, and seemingly had a decreased role in the company.

Graves wrote in an internal memo obtained by Business Insider that he’ll officially leave the company in mid-September, but he’ll remain involved with the hunt for Uber’s new CEO following the resignation of Kalanick earlier this year.

These days, Uber’s $US68 billion valuation makes Graves a paper billionaire. While cofounders Kalanick and Garrett Camp have a larger stake in the company than Graves does, Graves is worth $US1.58 billion, according to Forbes.

Maya Kosoff contributed to an earlier version of this story. 

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