Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick is one of the most polarising figures in Silicon Valley.
Uber provides a fantastic service to its users. You push a button and a car comes to pick you up. And a company like Uber doesn’t get to a $US17 billion valuation without a great CEO.
But Kalanick has a reputation as an overly aggressive businessman. The Verge reported this summer that Uber had been sending its “brand ambassadors” undercover to recruit drivers from competing companies like Lyft.
He’s been characterised as “douchey,” and has said some less-than-savory things to the press — he’s referred to his business’s main opponent as “an arsehole named Taxi,” and bragged to GQ about how his service has helped him pick up women.
San Francisco magazine recently sat down with Kalanick, and noted during his interview he was uncharacteristically mild-mannered.
During the magazine’s cover shoot, according to San Francisco magazine’s Ellen Cushing, Kalanick was concerned about his image, and made it clear he didn’t want to look like a jerk.
Quietly but clearly, the CEO has launched something of an apology tour — tamping down the aggro “arsehole named Taxi” rhetoric just a little, appearing contrite at conferences and industry events. (The story that you’re reading is in fact part of the company’s charm offensive: At the photo shoot for our cover, Kalanick repeatedly expressed concern about looking like an “arsehole.”)
It appears Uber is trying to tone down the aggressive, ruthless image of Kalanick that’s coloured tech press for the past few years. Not a bad idea, especially now that Uber is reportedly trying to raise at least $US1 billion in new capital.