‘A watershed moment’: Tech execs react to Uber CEO’s resignation

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
Former Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick.

It’s official: Travis Kalanick is no longer Uber’s CEO.

The news that Uber’s longtime chief executive had stepped down rocked Silicon Valley on Tuesday evening, based on conversations Yahoo Finance had with Silicon Valley executives, investors and entrepreneurs. Kalanick’s resignation, stemming from intense pressure from investors, may not have come as a complete surprise given Uber’s scandal-ridden year so far.

But it marked the end of an era for one of the fastest-growing, most influential tech companies in recent memory.

“It’s a watershed moment,” offered Travis Katz, CEO of the online travel booking startup Trip.com. “There has always been a sense that in Silicon Valley, growth is the only thing that matters. Kalanick’s resignation sends a message that we have entered a new era, where growth, without a fundamental sense of decency, is simply not good enough.”

Stephanie Tilenius, a former eBay (EBAY) and PayPal (PYPL) executive who founded and runs the healthcare startup Vida Health, expressed similar sentiments. She blamed Kalanick’s cavalier behavior — which included advising employees about their sexual behavior in an email in 2013 — for his dramatic resignation.   

“Travis’s management style and poor choices are now a case study for every start-up that sexual harassment and bad ethics will never be tolerated, regardless of how successful or fast a company grows,” Tilenius argued.

Is this Uber’s Apple moment?

Kalanick’s resignation, however, leaves “big shoes to fill,” according to Mighty Networks CEO Gina Bianchini, who said the debate raging behind closed doors at many tech companies now is whether this is Uber’s “Apple moment.”

That moment came in the spring of 1985, when then-Apple CEO John Sculley and Apple’s board essentially pushed out Steve Jobs. Twelve years later, Jobs returned to Apple (AAPL) as CEO and steered the ailing Mac maker to unprecedented heights of innovation and profit. Could Silicon Valley be witnessing a similar turn with Uber and the wayward Kalanick?

“In all cases, there is a point when growth at all costs is too expensive,” Bianchini explained. “It seems Uber hit their limit in 2017.”

Yet for all his shortcomings and mistakes, other members of the technorati offered a more generous assessment of Kalanick and his tenure as Uber’s CEO.  

“Travis is a visionary and pioneer,” DCM Ventures Principal Kyle Lui contended. “Many of the characteristics that made Travis such an amazing entrepreneur are also the traits that create challenges as companies mature. Was Travis perfect? Definitely not. But he was generally viewed internally as a fearless and talented leader. Hopefully the next CEO will learn from some of the prior missteps while maintaining Uber’s competitive drive that has led to one of the fastest growing companies of this current generation.”

Who succeeds Kalanick at this point is anyone’s guess, yet even Benchmark partner Bill Gurley, who reportedly played a role in Kalanick’s ousting, acknowledged that like Jobs, Kalanick unequivocally made a “dent in the universe.”


JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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