“A company is only as good as its management.” We’ve all heard it. And, regardless of the extent to which you believe it, there’s a marked correlation between the behavior of a CEO and the success of their company. Uber’s former CEO, Travis Kalanick, errs on the side of a less-than-good CEO, and his company has been an utter wreck since well before he stepped down in June 2017. It’s up to Dara Khosrowshahi to save it—but it may already be too late.
Khosrowshahi has been chosen as Uber’s new CEO, and it’s expected that he’ll accept the position. Khosrowshahi wasn’t the only choice, but the short list of prospective leaders dwindled as time went on—mostly due to the chaos of the board and the hostile culture known to surround the company.
Former CEO Kalanick, without a doubt, helped transform the way we think about the sharing economy. In fact, to most of us, it was his creation that introduced us to the idea. But one can’t just start a company and call oneself successful. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can start a company. But success requires leadership, and it’s in the long run that a CEO’s leadership capabilities are truly seen. For Uber to be a successful company, it’s not enough to just have a good idea.
Has Uber played its role?
Maybe a good idea is all Uber has ever been. It’s been fun, and we truly love the idea! But Uber has played its role. It was the necessary spark. It upset the industry, fomented change, and revolutionized the field… all before fading into eventual obscurity in a cloud of sexual harassment claims, hyper aggressive business tactics, fragmented management, and internal politics.
There’s no doubt that Uber changed the industry for the better. It awakened the public to the concept of a sharing economy, and it encouraged local governments to look again at their regulations for traditional taxis, eliminating the most needless rules, hoping to remain competitive in light of this new paradigm of sharing.
But we don’t need Uber anymore. And frankly, with its problems, we don’t really want Uber anymore.
It’s time for something new, and Uber is increasingly old.
Khosrowshahi is Too Little, Too Late
Leaving Expedia for Uber, Khosrowshahi may have bitten off more than he can chew. Uber is still being run like the startup it was in 2009. That’s increasingly unsustainable.
If Khosrowshahi is going to turn Uber around, he needs to change it in a big way. Uber is operating on a knife edge. If nothing changes, Uber will fail in a big way. Ridesharing companies like Lyft in the United States, or Hailo and Haxi in Europe, are beating Uber at its own game—and doing so at a profit, and with greater public trust. While they’re profiting and expanding in the international market, the mighty Uber ended 2016 reporting a net loss of C$3.5 billion.
Uber has periodically tried its hand at different projects, but its focus has always been ridesharing, with the relatively recent expansion of UberEats food delivery. It may be for the better; its foray into self-driving cars, the goal of which is to replace or supplement current Uber drivers, is overshadowed by tech giants like Google and Apple.
Uber Is Dead
Will Uber recover from its wounds? I’m not convinced. And, if it goes under, I won’t be upset. It’s not my lack of faith in Khosrowshahi’s business prowess, it’s just that Nike-esque stories of epic corporate turnarounds are few and far between. Uber is dead, and it has been dying for a long time.
Regardless of a fresh CEO, Khosrowshahi’s best efforts will likely fail to save Uber. My predictions? Uber will fade out of existence, being replaced, rightfully, by other, better companies.
Perhaps, however, something totally crazy will happen. Perhaps, in a perfectly timed, well-calculated swoop, it will be bought by the likes of Google. But no, that’s just madness. Google totally doesn’t have a history of buying out poorly-run companies with popular names and revolutionary technology.