We swung by a few startup parties last night, and despite the festive mood of the evening, all anyone could talk about was Uber.
Almost every startup founder or serial entrepreneur we spoke to was adamant that either Uber SVP Emil Michael or CEO Travis Kalanick — or both — needs to go.
Michael is in trouble for suggesting Uber should, or could, spend $US1 million on opposition research to dig up dirt on journalists critical of Uber.
Uber was also accused of looking at a journalist’s Uber data without permission.
At a private Google Ventures party held at its New York office, we sipped seltzer as a group of founders ranted.
“Fire the guy! And don’t just fire him, have a ceremony. Make it public. They should invite everyone they know and show this kind of thing is not OK,” a four-time founder said about Emil Michael as he munched down a red-and-green sprinkled cupcake.
“Travis is a kid — they need an adult in charge,” said another.
“The company seems arrogant and sloppy. I don’t think they are, but they’re making it seem that way and eventually it’s going to hurt them. I don’t think they’re going to be able to fix it unless someone goes. I’d get rid of Emil,” said a fellow founder.
An investor and former head of communications for a large publicly traded company had a more elaborate strategy: “First they should fire Emil and Travis. Both of them. Then make an advisory board and put Sarah Lacy on it, fill it with women.”
“I don’t have a real opinion myself, but I do have one friend who works there, so, sample size of one,” a young startup employee said, “but he says it’s not a positive culture.”
One successful co-founder did come to the company’s defence, “Journalists publish false and misleading stuff all the time! They should be held accountable. Why shouldn’t they be investigated?”
No one we spoke to had deleted the app or their Uber accounts.
Despite seemingly half of the room being under the age of 25, many commented on how childlike Kalanick has acted in the wake of the scandal.
Many felt that he has failed to provide an adequate public response.
Kalanick posted a 13-tweet apology on Tuesday that didn’t address many of the key questions surrounding the event, which left the media and consumers confused.
Firing Kalanick is a bit reactionary. After all, he’s the one who’s led the company to its massive success. Most people are in awe of Uber’s ability to execute. A new CEO might screw things up. So, while the reaction is harsh, tossing Kalanick would very likely make things worse.