Uber serves millions of happy customers in 375 cities around the world, but it’s only been able to do this through aggressive moves against regulators and unions.
It’s why “fierceness” is a core value of the ride-hailing service, which is valued at $64.6 billion.
One of cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanick’s top dealmakers is SVP of Business Emil Michael, who has partnered Uber with companies like American Express and is focusing on Uber’s difficult mass expansion in China.
At the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers CEO Workshop last July, KPCB partner Mood Rowghani asked Michael what he looks for when building his team of Uber’s top dealmakers, and he explained how he primarily looks for that “fierceness” that he and Kalanick share.
These hires are people “who have the confidence to go and do things that are seemingly impossible,” Michael told Rowghani. “I think if you asked anyone would Uber have a shot at being the only American tech success in China at a grand level, they would say ‘Hell no,’ and Travis said ‘Hell yes.’ And I like to hire people who have that same mentality.”
Michael said that Uber has a sophisticated interview process that allows managers across the company to test for the traits they look for, which according to a 2014 internal document are, in addition to fierceness: vision, obsession with quality, ability to innovate, ability to execute, ability to scale growth, ease of communication, and a passion Kalanick calls “superpumpedness.”
When Michael is interviewing a candidate for his team of dealmakers, he looks for people who are multi-disciplinary. He has former bankers, lawyers, and enterprise salespeople who report to him, he said, because they “have had to use every tool in their belt to get something done.”
In interviews, “I ask seemingly innocuous questions like ‘How do you work with a lawyer on a deal?'” he said. And if the candidate gives an answer as cut-and-dry as, “I’ll let the lawyer handle indemnities and liabilities, and I’ll set the business terms,” then he decides they’re not the right fit for Uber.
“Because that means they’re not curious,” Michael explained. “They don’t really dig in to understand what it takes to get a deal over the finish line — which is part sales, part finance, part legal.”
In those interviews, he looks for a candidate who will go through an entire hypothetical example, illustrating how they would be involved in every step of the process of closing a deal.
It suggests to him that not only will this person have the drive to get something done, but they possess the relationship skills necessary to work with equally motivated colleagues. Only then will Michael determine that they’re right for Uber.
You can watch the full Kleiner Perkins interview below:
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