Values and Culture

If the Uber mess over the past few days tells us anything, it is that values and culture matter more than anything. They seep into the product, the user experience, the brand, and ultimately define the company in the market. And all of this comes from the top.

It is absolutely true that when you hit the bigtime, which Uber most certainly has, the media will take it to you with a vengeance. I still cringe when I think about Jessi Hempel’s Fortune cover story about Twitter in 2011. They build you up and then they bring you down. That’s the media game. You have to expect it. And right now is Uber’s turn to get the takedown.

But Uber makes it so damn easy. The win at all cost approach is so deeply ingrained in the culture that they take that attitude with the media as well. And that’s not a winning strategy with journalists. I prefer the “turn the other cheek” approach when it’s my turn to get savaged. You just have to take the heat and move on. Fighting back will get you nowhere but a world of hurt.

USV has investments in not one, but two Uber competitors. So I’m not the least bit objective here. But I’ve watched this company closely for a long time now and what I see is ruthless execution combined with total arrogance. I am in awe of what they have done. It is about the best execution I’ve witnessed in a long long time. But I am not in awe of how they conduct themselves. And I wonder if the two are connected at the hip. Can they lose the swagger without losing the execution? I guess we will see. That is the $100bn question.

#mobile#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    What they’ve pulled off is so so hard–I’m in awe as well.How they are conducting themselves is so incredibly stupid, not at all awesome.It happens. It won’t bring them down.Does it open the door–even a crack–to the competitors?Not exactly a soup question but one I’m sure your investments are filling whiteboards over this.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree that this will pass.but i think it does open the door a bit for another playeri think the taxi app market will consolidate and there will be a big player that is essentially a rollup of the taxi side of the marketso there will be at least one large competitor in the long runthe question in my mind is what happens with Lyft and Sidecaras i said, we are not objective here

      1. awaldstein

        Objectivity is a myth Fred, just a matter of degrees of involvement.There’s always a crack to wedge open.

        1. fredwilson

          i like your optimism Arnold

        2. William Mougayar

          Yup, the competition can attack them on their weaknesses, whatever they are. But that doesn’t mean they can displace their position.

          1. awaldstein

            I didn’t say it was a weakness, I said they are amazingly stupid for someone so smart and capable and accomplished.No one can attack Uber head on.After using them now in a bunch of cities, i don’t think that is the way regardless of whether they are loved or not–doesn’t matter.Think about Facebook.No one loves them but to attack them head on is to fail. To understand what they do poorly and behaviorally like commerce, is the opportunity and their lack of capabilities has spawned the marketplace era.And to understand that things they suck at like commenting in no way has opened a market for commenting communities is the subtlety of it. It is more complex than meets the eye.

          2. leigh

            Facebooks traffic is massively down in core demographics. Their business model (and culture) have a huge amount to do with that.i worked on RIM at the point where they had a chance to change — again their culture had a huge amount to do with their failure.

          3. awaldstein

            Haven’t been tracking their #s.How is their business model that different from Twitter at its core?

          4. leigh

            Couple things:1. Twitter is in the data business and is learning how to monetize their data whereas Facebook holds on to that data2. Facebook changed their algorithm for businesses so that there is no longer a reason to have an actual page or build community. It means it’s become a mass media medium vs. anything else. Twitter so far has been respectful to the dynamic of their channel. Facebook, well, it’s just a different version of banner ads now and will see a huge decline in participation by the brands they want the ad dollars from.

          5. awaldstein

            Perfectly said–thanks.Although both are in the media biz pure and simple to me. One is just smarter and trying to make media a partner to the brands and the users, the other, pure network push stuff.

          6. JLM

            .It is not likely the competition that will take them to task, it is the myriad communities who talk up their problems. Like much would one pay for a favorable note and discussion on, how deadly would an unfavorable comment be on the same the bad buzz starts, it’s almost impossible to kill it.JLM.

      2. Richard

        Probably, but uber is vulnerable to completion from “regional” black and suv services. The service is already superior with these local regional conpanies. This are hundreds of existing regionals spread thoughtout LA, NY etc who can easily compete with uber. It won’t be long before someone white labels Ubers UI for these regionals and puts a consolidator on top (kayak etc.)

        1. Matt Kritzer

          I don’t think this hurts them too much in the US market. Most US consumers just don’t care enough. However, Europe is another story….

  2. jason wright

    did the power of the tech/ mass media to shape perception have any part to play in your decision to start blogging?

    1. fredwilson

      no, that was more or less an accidentbut it sure has kept me blogging!

  3. Tom Labus

    Can they change at this point and still kick some ass? Yes, but that’s not an easy one and in doing so they may lose their magic which tends to be fleeting.

  4. Sunil Founder Prijector

    Fred in the early stage of all companies it is always hard to not take things personally when people critic the product you build. I don’t think one Sarah Lacy’s article on safety can take Uber down. Uber is bigger than that. Travis should move out of the current phase and focus just on execution and not worry about the doubters. They really have a huge business that is growing and these are small distractions.

  5. Greg Kieser

    I guess it all depends if that ruthless efficiency extends to how they pay and treat their drivers. With growing competition that would seem to be the key.

  6. William Mougayar

    It more than just execution. It’s also a strong understanding of their “Positioning”. They went from being a taxi hailing App to becoming “your driver” and about “moving people”. So, they redefined their market and market position in it, becoming #1. All other competition has to “try harder”, because they are #2 and #3. So, it’s also clever marketing, coupled with ruthless execution. It’s related.

  7. Robert

    I think the main threat to Uber is government regulation, not press per se. Maybe if they get to write/lobby legislation this could be an opportunity for Uber? Bad press plays into the hands of those defending the strict legislation to keep Uber out (see Germany etc.)

    1. leigh

      yep see Toronto

    2. Jesper

      Yep… see Denmark. Uber just launched yesterday, and the police and regulaters are now looking into their business model. Pirate cabbies or ride sharing for a fee?

  8. William Mougayar

    Fred, what do you mean about them not handling the media right? Any specific examples? From my vantage point, I think they have to defend themselves because they need to continue winning public opinion and support in order to fend off the strong head winds from regulators and established players.I would posit that regulators and the “old system” is their competition.

    1. Robert

      I agree and think it’s the regulators that are their main competition and the regulators/legislators are strongly influenced by public opinion, which is formed by the press.

    2. Anne Libby

      Don’t ever go to the media to trash one of your own people who messed up. That would be one.

      1. leigh

        Don’t trash them but then kinda defend them at the same time.

        1. Anne Libby

          Praise in public, criticize privately.

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Or – tell the truth – Its tough but its undeniable and works out well

    3. leigh

      Oh i disagree William. They have handled the PR and ESPECIALLY social crisis management EXTREMELY poorly. The story should have died after a day but it’s just starting to get momentum… I wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘everyone makes mistakes’ becomes, Emil has been a really great employee but ….

  9. Redwoods

    Culture can kill. Absolutely. A very different space – but study the recent demise of mega-church Mars Hill for ‘uber-esque’ reasons:

  10. Salt Shaker

    Ethics in business matters. Uber’s response to and handling of the media speaks to a high level of immaturity in its leadership, which starts at the top. Not necessarily a huge prob as a private company, but post IPO it will be.

    1. LE

      to a high level of immaturity in its leadershipBut immaturity is important in order to be able to tilt at windmills for sure. Adults with maturity wouldn’t have done 99% of the things that freshly hatched have achieved. That’s one of the upsides. That immaturity.

  11. Anne Libby

    If there was ever a post I would tip, it would be this one.Inexperience also matters. Killing it on technical execution/hitting investor OKRs is not all of the experience you need to build a healthy culture. It’s is not exactly something you know how to do innately.And if you don’t build a healthy culture, or any culture, you’ll get one. It just won’t be the one anyone wants.Obviously I can’t speak to Uber. It is a truth.

    1. fredwilson

      Click the blue button and go!

      1. Anne Libby

        Done!!! I wanted to do 1000 — the automated 300 was all I could handle this am.Still haven’t figured out how to connect onename. (Gotta run, will do it later.)

      2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Also done !

      3. falicon

        The little blue button is so much better for society than the little blue pill…

  12. Chimpwithcans

    We integrate ethics and corruption into a company ratings system which investors are using more and more as another lens when valuing a company. This sort of thing is only going to get more important. Not less.

    1. Anne Libby

      Do you look at employee churn? Less important under ~30 people, increasingly important with growth.

      1. Chimpwithcans

        Sort of – we look at layoffs. Big cuts feed negatively into the model.

        1. Anne Libby

          I don’t play with big datasets on this one — I’m on the people side. I’d bet more than the bitcoin I got from Fred that ordinary churn is an indicator of management/leadership excellence.

          1. leigh

            Totally agree (if the churn is about people leaving vs. being let go)

          2. Anne Libby

            Call it attrition, the opposite of “employee retention,” — I call it churn because it’s a number analysts are comfortable with. We never looked at it in bschool (a million years ago) in any of our finance classes when measuring company health.

          3. leigh

            You never looked at churn? Well that would ‘spain why most large Corps have HUGE marketing dept. for acquisition and then this other teeny tiny group called customer experience 😉

          4. Anne Libby

            We didn’t look at people churn. We definitely looked at customer churn. I’d say people churn is important, maybe more important. Their behavior creates customer churn.

          5. leigh

            CX dept’s are as much about employees as consumers. Marketing dept’s have ‘loyalty’ depts although that’s mostly focused on ARPU vs. anything else (and ye old ‘will i recommend’ which again, is about acquisition)

          6. Chimpwithcans

            For sure – in startup world especially. We deal with listed, global companies – our scale makes it hard to look at churn, and easy to look at big movements in employee numbers. It’s only one aspect of employee management we look at – but it could be refined for sure.

  13. Twain Twain

    What are your views on how user perceptions of Uber might affect USV portfolio constituents that may have strategic partnerships with Uber, e.g. Spotify?The perceptions and connotations piece is the one my system is built around.Historically, it’s been treated as an “intangible” on the balance sheet — much in the same way as “How do we value Coca Cola’s brand when the tangibles are just “sugared, carbonated water and the costs of production and distribution of that.”One of the things about “network effects” is that negative perceptions around a company or stock or even an entire sector run the risk of contagion, e.g. as in global financial crisis where Lehman’s reputation fell and so did other institutions.The Uber case does make us wonder, “Is it now “too big” for its investors to allow it to fail — even when it’s the Uber executives who’ve created their own PR mess?”

    1. fredwilson

      We are not investors in Spotify

      1. Twain Twain

        Thanks, Fred, my mistake.I see now from Crunchbase that Spotify’s investors include Founders Fund, who invested in Lyft.Given that Geoff Lewis of FF was vocal about Uber copying Lyft at Web Summit, I wonder if Founders Fund investors connected the dots that the Uber-Spotify partnership might affect Lyft.My main point is that every node in the relationships network for a startup (founder-investor-strategic partner-user-client) is impacted upon by any one of the node’s approaches to values, ethics and culture and it informs the market perceptions of each of them.It’s a compound effect on their respective reputations, knowhow and ability to deliver to users.Just as investors invest in founders whose vision and values they share, so too do founders seek out investors whose values and mentorship they respect. So far, Uber’s investors haven’t come out to denounce / defend management’s behavior. Perhaps they’re having words with them behind the scenes or perhaps the ruthless execution of Uber makes them not want to discuss these issues in case it derails that ruthless execution and affects team morale.Investors have an opportunity and a responsibility to shape the values, ethics and culture of a company too — not just the guy at the top like Kalanick.

        1. awaldstein

          What possible objective could be met by investors taking a public stand on the behavior of their investments?I can’ think of any possible objective that could be met by that.

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            A parent that stands by their unruly child is invested. But sometimes a really wise parent will let the child carry the can for their misdeeds (Who said “success is based on experience and experience on mistakes”?).If I had investors and they said publicly “we cannot and will not defend behaviour x” – I am going to learn (fast or crawl away and die)I would expect my investor to “love me” – but in my book love could involve painful discipline and possibly public positions – Did you ever hear…”Now go and shake hands” ?Humility is a rascal of a learning curve.

          2. awaldstein

            Nicely said but I’m not there.I love my family. I am friends with, very close friends with some of my investments but it is not my job to parent them.Guide them. Support them. But not the same.

          3. Twain Twain

            We love our families unconditionally whereas the investor-invested relationship has specified business conditions.Your point about a million analogies applies here too. We analogize the investment relationship as being like a marriage or parent-child when actually it’s not the same.

          4. awaldstein

            Yup–an interesting topic.I don’t personally believe in work/life balance as I’ve been all in my entire career and still am.But I have over time and many companies developed my own ethos towards my actions and how I deal with things.They change over time of course and have a lot in the last 5 years especially but i balk at too easy generalization that don’t provide guidance that can spur comfortable decision making.

          5. Twain Twain

            I do understand your point because the investor imperative tends to focus towards ROI rather than behavior management of invested company.Investors set out their investment criteria and thesis: sectors, investment stages (angel, seed, Series A etc.), investment levels ($500K-$1 million, $10+ million etc), types of teams (first-time founders, seasoned teams, serial entrepreneurs) etc. Perhaps in the future they’ll also specify the values and ethics they’re seeking in teams they invest in.In the case of when their invested is being “taken down” by the media, there are examples of investors speaking up on behalf of the company — often simply to offer a more nuanced perspective on how the company’s going to behave/perform better.

          6. awaldstein

            Example where an investor of a large concern stood up and spoke for the company please?Not finding one.

          7. Twain Twain

            Vinod Khosla defending Square. It was in a Fastcompany article and he said he didn’t understand why CEOs are letting journalists affect their strategies when journalists have English degrees and no experience of actually running a startup.I’ll try to re-find the article link.

          8. Twain Twain

            Vinod Khosla: ““Good companies follow their vision and iterate on their tactics; they don’t only focus on the press. Reporters would like to think otherwise, and frankly, I’ve had to ask many CEOs why they’d let some writer, who has never run a business, dictate their strategy, especially in technology. Most writers are English majors. It’s mind-blowing.”Roelof Botha, Sequoia: “Jack’s mission is to make Square successful. His mission is not, ‘How do I build an edifice to Jack Dorsey?'”*

  14. Matt Kruza

    I am not convinced in the least in what they are doing is that sustainable long-term. They charge 20% for basically relatively simply software. Don’t give me this crap about how many PHDs they have on staff.. and fancy algorithms. Its basically: 1) smart phone 2) lots of individuals driving their own cars and better utilizing an expensive / semi-fixed assets of cars.There are relatively few network effects and winner take all effects compared to a facebook, google, twitter etc. 20% margin will be completed down to 5-10% long-term (over next decade) and with future of driverless cars (10-25 years off) there are low barriers to entry for another platform to dominate

    1. PhilipSugar

      I agree when I see somebody getting high margins for being a middleman. However there is a network effect and that is the more cars you have the better it is for the user. If I only have to wait one minute to get a car versus ten and the driver doesn’t has to only drive one minute versus ten for a fare that is a big difference.

    2. ShanaC

      some of the issues they face are not simple. Many logistics problems are closely related to np hard problems in combinotorics.

      1. Matt Kruza

        Can you elaborate a bit? Or link to any articles describing it? I by no means am not saying they are a bunch of stupid people doing really simply algorithms… but not convinced in the least that it is overly complex either. but that is my hunch and generaly intuition. Any more details agreeing or disagreeing would be great!

        1. ShanaC

          Not a problem.Many logistics problems fall under a class of Np-hard/np-complete problems of Combinatorial optimization…One of the ones listed in wikipedia actually is Uber’s problem, which is which car goes to which person.There are actual algorithms that can solve these problems: The issue is the car driver and the pickup could die by the time it figures out that they should meet. IN practice people use deterministic algorithms, but for Uber to stay the best, they have to develop their own algorithm set that is better than what is out there in these open source packages:…And better than their competition, and manages their fleet size, ect.Does that help?

          1. Matt Kruza

            Hey Shana, yeah that does a little. I had read the Wikipedia article but I appreciate your explanation. I guess my question (maybe my original point) is that technology really so hard in practiacality. I agree that the “optimal solution” would take forever, but I kind of feel like Fred’s article on satisficing applies here. My contention is not very difficult to satisfice which car should go where, especially when there are a lot of cars out there (ie if there are 20 cars for all of new York then maybea big deal, but once 2,000 then 10th best choice might only cost 20 seconds etc.) Again, all the specifics are hypotheticals, but in general I think my point may have merit. Idk for sure. Either way really appreciate you following up! Always appreciate those willing tofurther discussion / knowledge in the world!

          2. ShanaC

            I’m not a combinatorial specialist who also has an Mba. I don’t know how algorithm improvements would improve the level of quality. I do know it would localize surge pricing from say a city wide level to a neighborhood or block level, and possibly bring down the absolute amount of the surge price (since surge pricing is rejiggering the order of the match priority, so if driver a is a match for you, but is a better match for someone else, you can pay to cut. Localizing these matches more clearly means less need to cut in line for people not in those other areas)Also, it’s not just a matter of how many cars, but where cars are clustered in relationship to passengers and where passengers are eventually going. Optimizing for all of these things means actually needing less cars/more money per car

          3. ShanaC

            Actually, these slides are helpful. Apparently there are 9,00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 choices of routes for 1 truck stopping at 100 customers. Matching taxis with customers creates similar amounts of choices (Plus some more if traffic flows change…this assumes traffic is constant)…So yeah, they have really hard comp sci problems

          4. Matt Kruza

            Ok. Interesting take. Color me still unconvinced (I know I risk coming across as a dolt at this point). Howeever, while having limited but moderate computer skills, I am very knowledgeable of a variety of financial topics and I liken the computer challenge for uber in some regards to the way people talk about financial complexity… mathematical complexity doesn’t always relate well to “real world” practicality (like everyone says life insurance is complex with “tons of variables” and custom factors.. which is true for very small portions of the issue, but if you actually read / look / understand actuarial tables then its not really that difficult t get a “general”.. ie pretty specific pricing). I am blabbering, but I think the complexity is only s hard if you are truly looking for the one “optimal” solution. I primarily think the issue is that you don’t need to get that close to optimal to deal with the practical importance. And more broadly, once we have self-driving cars the optimal route will be MUCH less important since having a few extra cars parked will cost almost nothing. Btw, curious of the site you are working on thebayesianwatch. You have an interesting background.. are you still productizing? Some of your posts there made me interested to moreso see the product.

          5. ShanaC

            shoot me an email shana dot carp at gmail

          6. Matt Kruza

            Lastly, because I allways ask and never get an answer from others.. how do I add line breaks in disqus? When I type my comment I hit enter and show white space… but my comments never appear with lines between paragraphs!! really would appreciate help.. perhaps my iq is much lower than I think?? lol

          7. ShanaC

            i usually just press enter. it might be part of the set up of the site

          8. ShanaC

            Also, last suggestion.Print out a map at scale of NYC (all five boroughs). Please note there are areas in the Bronx, like riverdale, that are ridiculous expensive, so Uber would be as likely to serve there as JFK airport (totally opposite side, in lower brooklyn)Mark out 2000 dots randomly for cars, most of them centering around two airports, manattan below 96th st but not exclusively so. make sure you have some other clusters of car dots elsewhere where people are, like columbia university, or williamsburg, or lic, or astoria where cabbies live,or forest hills (again, another expensive area), or something.Now do the same for 2000 people – place them in dense areas, or not dense areas, or how you think they actually cluster, but don’t forget that there are people elsewhere.Now match the cars and the people. Remember that in the time cars could get to some of the people, new people and new cars will be available.You’ll see once it is on a map, your map gets messy very quickly.

  15. Howard Mann

    Every VC I heard talking about their involvement funding Uber was raving about the tenacious/aggressive approach of the CEO and how they could not pass up investing in anything he was involved in.As an outsider, the company does has a core value: Ruthless execution. It is proudly exemplified by its CEO (and was celebrated initially by the media). They seem to wear it as a badge of honor. A very hard needle to thread to expect that culture to not behave with aggression in everything they do and say.As you say, they are likely joined at the hip. It would be a unique leader that instills ruthless execution but allows the sacrifice that comes with being a good corporate citizen that maintains integrity at any cost. That would the CEO to invest in.

    1. leigh

      I call that a benevolent dictatorship 😉

    2. Anne Libby

      I’m trying to name a name here in my mind…good food for thought to take into the day. Do you have any examples (even in fiction?)

      1. Chimpwithcans

        Stevie J?

      2. Howard Mann

        I remember seeing GE CEO Jeff Immelt speak over 12 years ago and he pulled out their 4 core values on a small plastic card. If anyone breaks them they cannot work at GE. Period. Just weeks before, a top GE Capital exec, who was the top “rainmaker” was fired for breaking one.It was an answer to an audience question about running a 300,000 person company and being able to sleep at night.

        1. LE

          What you can and should do at a 300,000 person company is not the same as what you can and should do at a 300 person company. 300k company has a big bench and can recruit and hire the best and needs to send a message to keep the rest of the lemmings inline.I had a guy many years ago working for me that was essential. Short of a felony no way I’d get rid of that guy. Real life. Have to eat. [1]Besides that the idea that taking a concept like “honesty and integrity” (as one example) and thinking you can clearly define what is not “honesty and integrity” is a bit ridiculous on it’s face. There is a line and the line varies with the situation. Suffice to say that line is different depending on how high up in the organization you are, how important you are, how visible you are and so on. And a host of other factors.[1] I’m sure if JLM was building a large building and found out that a key project guy had done something wrong (go ahead and define “wrong”) but had an important deadline and a big client to please he wouldn’t throw the guy out on his ass for the sake of “doing the right thing”. Complete bullshit in real business life.

          1. Howard Mann

            Have to disagree that it is bullshit in real life. Everyone has to draw a line in the sand and then it is up to the business owner if they value that line more than money. If they make exceptions or keep moving the bar then you might as well not bother. And that is certainly a choice to make as well. Just not one I would ever advise.But if you are going to take millions from investors then you have been entrusted with other people’s money and your decisions put their money at risk.

          2. JLM

            .As the JLM to whom LE refers I would say the following:I never ever had such a problem with people because I hired really, really, really good people. To this day, I marvel at the quality of the people peers, senior subordinates and juniors I had the honor of working with.It was my honor to be associated with them.I used to give everyone a set of my values the day I hired them. I didn’t screw around with anyone having to “learn” what I wanted. I was a prick in that regard — not mean but just very precise.I could stand any mistake and often said we should be far enough out from under our comfort zones to make some mistakes but I would not tolerate anything related to integrity.Again, everyone knew what I would and would not stand for. I never had a problem because I was so damn obvious and apparent in my desires.I also stayed in touch and made everyone hold that values booklet close. This was thirty years ago. I often think folks in business today just discovered the efficacy of values.There is only time when such matters are truly important — every single second of every day. From the time of your first employee to your 1000th.Life is not a head fake. And if you think your ethics and values are situational, then you are nuts. You don’t espouse them, you live them.JLM.

          3. Howard Mann


          4. sigmaalgebra

            Actually a lot of people are fully convinced that daily life has to be about acting, a stage performance, and, there, just never showing the real self. And then the real self, when maybe off the stage, can be very different.Actually there is a long, famous, not easy to read book on this, E. Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. In particular, a lot of people are just really, genuinely convinced that anything much line integrity, honesty, etc. is just for ignorant, naive suckers.

  16. leigh

    Here’s the real shame of it. I have about 20 anti-Uber stories on my Facebook feed this morning (including the one I did yesterday). The City Of Toronto at the same time, has just come out saying they are going to try to get rid of Uber and services like this. If Hailo was still here, I might come to the defence at least of the business model. But, I can’t for Uber.I hope they go bankrupt. They are so out of touch with the market place it’s ridiculous and people that culturally damaged, shouldn’t have the power that money and success bring.

    1. William Mougayar

      I disagree & want Uber to succeed. Their drivers & cars are better than the current antiquated system. Change is not easy. It needs to be pushed thru. No one is going to hand it to them, and they know it.

      1. JLM

        .This is a very telling comment and quite interesting to dissect.The product at the customer level is excellent. It is the management and leadership which is flawed.This happens often.The US Army is the best in the world at the bayonet level. Its leadership at teh Sec Def and C in C level is appalling.JLM.

        1. William Mougayar

          I’m rooting for their drivers who make a decent amount of money, are decent people, and give a decent service that is not overly regulated. Their drivers behave well on the whole, and fear customer reviews a lot more than the regulated drivers who you don’t know who you’re gonna complain to, if you have a bad experience.

      2. leigh

        You want a service like Uber to succeed. Hailo was awesome. Uber. Can’t. Support. Ever. Rather pay an extra couple bucks then give my money to a group of Misogynists.

  17. kirklove

    Don’t think I could have said this better and echoes pretty much exactly what I was saying to you at breakfast. This company is one-half brilliant (and you have to really admire that half) one-half loathsome (and you have to really be disgusted by that).They are a real life Harvey Dent Two-Face.

    1. fredwilson

      Harvey Dent? I’m ignorant. Pls school me

      1. leigh


      2. kirklove

        It’s rare you disappoint me Buster. ;)…

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            More like this

      3. JamesHRH

        You just got a lifetime ban from ComicCon.

      4. ShanaC




      6. terry

        love that comment pls school me

    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Have you been watching Gotham – He just made his first appearance where I download it !

      1. kirklove

        Have not. Trying to limit my TV. Not always succeeding 🙁

      2. ShanaC

        do you like it?

  18. JimHirshfield

    People at my office were uninstalling the Uber app yesterday. That’s telling.

    1. fredwilson

      Hard to keep it off your phone though. I walked to the subway today in 20 degree weather and thought that if I didn’t have so many reasons not to, I’d Uber it in a nanosecond

      1. Anne Libby

        It’s only 20F? Aaaaagh.

        1. pointsnfigures

          That was the high in Chiberia yesterday.

      2. JimHirshfield

        It’s warm by the moral fire.

        1. fredwilson

          You are a poet and comic.

          1. JimHirshfield

            +300 bits with an upvote on top.

        2. Dan

          And tasty by the morel one.

          1. JimHirshfield

            You take me for a fun guy?

          2. Dan

            Sure, though there’s mushroom for disagreement.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Let’s stop before this becomes a crimini ‘gainst humanity.

        3. lisa hickey

          Jim “it’s warm by the moral fire” is one of the best lines I’ve read recently. I saw it come in through my Disqus alert and I had to check out what it was in reference to, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Because…It’s warm by the moral fire because we’re building something—we’re out in the woods or deep in the weeds or, when lucky, up there with the 60,000 foot view and it’s exhilarating and exhausting and we need a place to rest. It’s warm by the moral fire because we want to make “good” decisions—good for the business, good for the world, good for our customers, good for our employees—and talking about what is good infuses energy in everything we do. It’s warm here by the moral fire because, yes, it’s easy to take shortcuts—but why would you want to do so with decisions that are immoral, unethical or potentially illegal? Why would you risk everything you have so carefully built? Sit down by the fire, take a minute, understand the consequences. The problem of how to beat your competitors how to deal with the press are problems that can be solved. Gracefully, ethically, legally. And if you’re lucky, you can solve them for good. It’s warm here by the moral fire—there’s a community of people there, a culture, a set of values—and when you take a moment together to look at where true north is, the decision-making comes easy. You can rest for a minute and then continue to operate at lightening speed. You can then go back out and kill it.It’s warm here by the moral fire because when you create a community of strong, intelligent, like-minded people, you create a spark, a flame, a fire so bright it is yet unimagined.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Thank you Lisa – for your kind words and for unpacking the sentiment. 🙂

      3. awaldstein

        Yup.In LA Uber has become part of the culture. Was sitting in a coffee shot the other day and people were waiting for surge pricing to stop to head on to their next stops.Heard two recruiters that were talking about how an Uber account is now a perk for senior employees.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I recently attended an event at a client’s in Santa Monica and my assistant who lives there and was attending with me suggested that I drive to her apartment, park, and then we Uber the additional few blocks. And we did. Ha!

        2. Donna Brewington White

          And I repeat your words:Always feel comfortable reaching out to me when you are in town. 🙂

          1. awaldstein

            Will do.Last two times came in mid day and left the next on the redeye so not a lot of wiggle room.Really do like the LA community.

      4. Dave Pinsen

        You could have taken your Tesla.

        1. JimHirshfield

          He doesn’t drive. Fred is the co-pilot.

      5. JLM

        .Virtue can be a very cold bitch sometimes.JLM.

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          But she delivers on her word

      6. LE

        That’s known as frost biting your nose to spite your face.Let me reiterate that as the ultimate form of protest you should just get yourself a car and a driver as I’ve suggested in the past.

        1. JimHirshfield

          He has all that already…Car = TeslaDriver = Gotham Gal

          1. LE

            I’m not suggesting that Joanne drive Ms. Daisy. I’m suggesting Morgan Freeman drive Ms. Daisy (around the city).In a proper vehicle fit for a VC. Fred could actually get work done while being driven around.Calls, laptop, work desk and so on.So bad that is?[attached, photo which will show up before I’m bar mitzvah again in my 2nd life.]

          2. JimHirshfield

            I see the image. Mazel tov. How’s puberty the 2nd time around?

          3. LE

            I’ve often wondered about that. You know with the fountain of plenty now a days vs. the way it was back then with a few issues hidden from mom under the bed.

          4. JimHirshfield

            “I’ve often wondered about that.”Try your hand at it, but please don’t share how it turns out.

          5. LE

            Crack the sheets.

        2. ShanaC

          Parking in NYC?

          1. LE

            If you have a driver you don’t have to park you can justdrive around or drive to a spot and stay until someone chases you. That’s the idea.

      7. Donna Brewington White

        I used Uber during a last minute trip to NYC this past weekend and didn’t have time to figure out a better option for my particular needs (traveling with a child and with multiple destinations within a short time window) — for some reason, the Hailo app wasn’t working. All the Uber drivers were wonderful and Uber made my trip doable. But, sadly, I don’t see any choice but to uninstall. This sucks.

        1. ShanaC

          I live here without uber. and I walk around. Puffy coats and wool and silk long underwear and wool stockings?

          1. Donna Brewington White

            But you know where you are going, how long it takes to get there and you are no longer a wimp in the face of cold weather and cold rain. I could have braved it better on my own, but I had a boy in tow who was there for a not-so-pleasant reason and I was trying to fulfill his NYC fantasies to take away the sting. And boy did we cover a lot of ground! I kept seeing that you were somewhat nearby on Swarm and it was comforting. 🙂

          2. ShanaC

            should have said hey, would have been an excuse to cook more food.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Trust me, I thought about it. But had to cater to my boy.

          4. ShanaC

            he could have been fed too

      8. Lisa Abeyta

        Completely sympathize. We teach our kids that they need to live by their values even when it costs, whether that means sticking up for the underdog even if it means getting shut out by their ‘friends’ (the price of being shut out in middle school is probably higher than walking in the cold) or having the courage to call us for a ride because they’ve been drinking and don’t want to drive the family car we loaned them to go study at a friend’s house. I went through the miserable customer service process to get my account as removed as Uber will allow, because if I can’t live with a little inconvenience to put my values ahead of my convenience, how can I ask my kids to make much harder choices than this one?

      9. ShanaC

        lyft? Ll bean coat?

    2. Mark Gavagan

      Wow, people are voting with their smartphone real estate!Please keep us posted about whether you see this catching on or people reversing course.

      1. JimHirshfield

        That’s how the consumer votes…the only way. smartphone = wallet.

  19. Dave Pinsen

    Good post, and I can see why “turning the other cheek” might make sense for a Fred Wilson, or a Twitter, or an Uber. But as Pax Dickinson noted on Twitter yesterday, journalists have had their own ethical lapses, and their targets aren’t always big fish.

    1. Anne Libby

      No matter what I think about how they operate, the massive calls to fire the guy who messed up, painful to watch.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        The other thing that comes to mind here is that post by the Rap Genius/ Thought Catalog founder bragging about stealing from Whole Foods. Someone that open about his lack of ethics got funded by some major VCs. How many VCs actually care about culture and values qua ethics (as opposed to “we have a ping pong table” culture)?

        1. JimHirshfield

          Was that not parody?

        2. pointsnfigures

          Reminded me of the Jimmy Buffett song, Peanut Butter Conspiracy.

        3. ShanaC

          I think that guy has a personality disorder.

  20. Jon Michael Miles

    Uber, Oracle – the ‘tenacious’ CEO archetype works. However Uber is B2C, and the C’s of the world tire of jerks pretty quickly. Overtly attacking journalists gets them curious. Not mad per se, but really interested in what’s going on in a place. And curious journos always find interesting things in interesting places. And it’s always about following the money.

    1. LE

      Overtly attacking journalists gets them curious.Best thing that ever happened to Sara Lacy by the way.She is now vaulted into the mainstream and on the radar of the big time media in a way that she never was before. This is her moment of widespread fame. Outside of tech most people obviously never heard of Sara Lacy and now they have.

      1. ShanaC

        Let’s see what she does with it

        1. LE

          She can start by going after Ashton Kutcher if she hasn’t already. Then make sure she gets some TV appearances to talk about “the problem”. Small window of opportunity … I say go for it.

  21. drmarasmith

    Almost as if your post of 11/11 “Messing With a Competitor’s Fundraising” was a foreshadowing of this. The win-at all-cost, more is better, we are going to take you down mentality, creates tremendous collateral damage in all types of settings. Whether it is about values, company culture, integrity or respect, the bravado of compromise on any of those is just a bad prognostic indicator. I think there are many people who are disappointed, but fewer who are surprised. I am heartened by the collective push back. Curious if you, Fred, have been an investor in a company where a similar incident with its CEO/C-Suite executive has made a similar mistake. How did you respond?

  22. Salt Shaker

    Uber is an easy target for the media, fueled by its own success and arrogance. Conversely, biz ethics is also a two way street applying just as much to the media as it does to the companies the media is empowered to cover. Sensationalism in journalism today has become rampant and sadly for many a core editorial strategy, fueled by a need to garner eyeballs and ratings, with limited, if any, regard for ethics.The Tiger Woods faux interview in Golf Digest is a case in point. Again, Tiger (like Travis) is an easy target based on past behavior, both personally and professionally. Nonetheless, an allegedly reputable pub like Golf Digest (which I’ve never read) shouldn’t be engaging in this type of journalism. This wasn’t some April Fool’s prank, and I believe it frankly sully’s the GD brand (as much as Tiger’s) in an effort to drive eyeballs at the expense of its own integrity. The faux Woods interview can easily be misconstrued by readers as being quite real, which may be a worthy pursuit for an outlet like The Onion, but not for GD. Again, ethics in biz and journalism is a two way street.I’m not defending Travis or Uber, mind you, I’m also not defending all the pot shots frequently taken by the media.

    1. awaldstein

      How in any form of market penetration and customer acquisition is Uber an easy target for competitors?

      1. Salt Shaker

        An easy target for the media. (Re-edited above).

        1. awaldstein

          That clarifies. Thanks.

    2. leigh

      I haven’t found any of the media articles or criticisms of uber crossing journalistic lines…. Which ones are you specifically referring to (especially prior to this debacle)

      1. Salt Shaker

        I wasn’t suggesting that (I prob could use an edit). Fred’s post is about “Values & Culture” and my comment was about journalistic ethics, and how it has (and continues to) devolve.

        1. leigh


    3. JLM

      .The Tiger Woods interview is a very deep seated psychological problem for Dan Jenkins and the magazine for having printed it. I think it is slanderous.JLM.

      1. Salt Shaker

        In case you didn’t catch Tiger Woods response here’s a link to his post in The Players’ Tribune, a new media platform founded by Derek Jeter.http://www.theplayerstribun…I’m not a real TW fan, but he deserves better than that shabby attempt of journalism by Dan Jenkins.

        1. JLM

          . I saw it. Tiger is no saint. I knew his Dad who spent a career in SF. He made Tiger. I also know Dan who is a great sports writer.I cannot imagine Tiger is not going to sue both the magazine and Jenkins. The only complication is that Tiger’s a public figure.I remember watching Tiger drive a 600 yard plus first hole at a golf course in San Antone when he first came out on tour. I think it was La Cantera. He hit two drivers back to back and was on the green in two.He changed the game as much in the weight room as he did on the course. Some of those guys today could play linebacker in the NFL. Well, not too many but Rory could.JLM.

    4. LE

      Sensationalism in journalism today has become rampant and sadly for many a core editorial strategy, fueled by a need to garner eyeballs and ratings, with limited, if any, regard for ethics.100% true.And Sara’s post about this is exhibit A.…About as heart tugging and sensationalistic and milking as you can get.Can you imagine a network acting like this in response to something? A story on NBC News or 60 minutes speaking like Sara did? Or the NYT or the WSJ? That this is taught at the Columbia School of Journalism?

    5. sigmaalgebra

      For 99 44/100% of the media, regard it as junk or at best light entertainment, grab people by the heart, the gut, or below the belt, and their eyeballs are sure to follow.Instead, for actual worthy information, about have to look at particular authors and rely on their brand name, for a good example close at hand, just @JLM. That’s just the way it is.It’s just crucial for citizens to be well informed. Maybe my work can help a little. E.g., there are 100+ million blogs out there, and there has to be more than just one worth reading for solid news. Now, how the heck to find another one?

  23. Lisa Abeyta

    Somewhere along the line, we – as a culture – started glorifying the cut-throat, winner takes all behavior in entrepreneurs that make investors wealthy – and then we have the audacity to be shocked when that same mindset seeps out in these wunderkind entrepreneur’s personal lives. If we don’t want jerktech, bro-culture, or bullying as a culture in startups, we need to decide that we won’t glorify or support those who are clawing their way to the top in a brutal anything goes melee. We have to believe that no amount of talent, skill, vision, brilliance or drive is worth overlooking this kind of behavior. I cancelled my Uber account because I am holding myself accountable to no longer support companies that, through inaction, show their tacit approval for badly behaving executives – on or off the record.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I am very cool with competition. But, as you point out there is a line. Uber crossed it. The community can hold them accountable and make them pay the price. BTW, you can’t do that with the IRS.

      1. JimHirshfield

        You can leave the country. Not that you’d want to.

        1. pointsnfigures

          My point is, as a consumer I can choose not to use Uber. I can’t choose to avoid the IRS. Or the EPA, or any number of federal bureaucratic organizations that engage in similar threatening behavior. It’s not just the NSA.

          1. ShanaC

            not everywhere

          2. pointsnfigures

            You can walk, cab, public transportation, bike if the weather is good. Uber isn’t the be all end all, and people can choose. I am fortunate, in my city we have all the ride sharing apps. Turns out my family likes Sidecar the best. It’s not that Uber sucks-it’s just Sidecar is better for the way we use ridesharing.

        2. jason wright

          not that you’d want to. what?

          1. JimHirshfield

            Born and bred in the USA. It’s my home.

          2. pointsnfigures

            Agree. But, doesn’t mean I don’t want to shrink the size and scope of the government…..they aren’t angels. Just bureaucrats.

          3. BillyT2

            why not work to improve the govt. what’s with all this negativity.

          4. pointsnfigures

            Good government is an oxymoron. Govt is run by people, and they respond to economic incentives no different than the private market. Best govt is small, lean, and lets private industry do the heavy lifting.

          5. BillyT2

            looking around the world at different governments, i can definitely say that some governments are better than others. some are pretty bad in what they do and the effect they have on their country. some are much better. perhaps even good? depending on what you mean by “good” of course. but it’s not an oxymoron.”best government is small and lean” – this is obviously your opinion but i don’t think that the evidence – looking at governments around the world – necessarily supports this opinion. in saying this you really are saying “i have no idea _how_ to make government better so let’s just get rid of it”, but you are forced to admit that some government is necessary, so you have to say “make it small”.it’s funny really, because the topic of this post is about how important values and culture are to a business. the same can be said of the government. indeed the same can be said for any group or society. putting in place a “good” set of values is critical for having a “good” company culture, or a “good” you say, the govt is run by people, and people are people. but people respond to much more than “economic incentives”. indeed, as the post remiss us, if the underlying values are “we’ll do whatever we can to make the most money possible” then anything goes. generally that’s not “pleasant” for others (whether they be customers, competitors, or citizens). good corporate values are important. good civic values are essential.

          6. pointsnfigures

            we disagree. America has the best government in the world. It has the best overall society. It started out as a lean government, and recently (since 1933) has grown into a behemoth where 63% of the federal budget is entitlement spending.

        3. Russell

          Negative on that front my friend. If you are a US citizen and you leave the country you are still responsible for filing taxes and FBAR which is report of bank accounts to the treasury.

          1. JimHirshfield

            surrender your US citizenship.

          2. Russell

            you first!–

      2. JamesHRH

        They are not very far away from FB privacy mistakes.Both founders – Zuck & Camp – are open & flat in their approach. Silos – proper or not – are not their nature.FB fixed it. Uber will too.

        1. defcon_5

          It will be hard to fix Uber if Kalanick doesn’t make room for a Sheryl Sandberg type. And it’s hard to see him doing that of his own volition.

          1. JamesHRH

            I am not the hugest of Sandbergs fans, but I agree that is an excellent suggestion.

    2. Brandon Burns

      The “we” you mention who started glorifying this kind of behavior is VCs and the tech press. The voice of that “we” is over amplified. It needs an equally strong counter voice, or it needs to change, or both.

      1. JLM

        .Just because a few self absorbed folks are leading a brass section does not mean the world is in sync as you have correctly pointed out.I agree more with you than you agree with yourself.JLM.

        1. Brandon Burns

          Those trumpets, though. So loud. So distracting.

          1. JamesHRH

            Actual LOL – you the s#it S#erlock.

          2. Brandon Burns


      2. Donna Brewington White

        Only problem with this statement Brandon is that this scenario happens way outside of environments where there are VCs and tech press. Many industries have companies notorious for bad behavior but that notoriety may be within industry circles. As a recruiter in earlier days, I used to have to keep an ear to the ground to know the “truth” about companies whereas now the knowledge is so much more prevalent. I think of some companies in particular with amazing brands but a completely contradictory culture…and the world-at-large was unaware. Scarcity of information, jobs, or even access to certain goods/services has allowed companies to succeed in spite of the behavior of its execs. The internet has created a revolution — marketplaces that didn’t exist before, access to information, etc. — which allow us to be more selective in terms of what businesses we buy from, work for, partner with. The tech industry just happens to be in the limelight at a time when media has gone social and also is more prolific thanks to the web — which is contributing to a new era of accountability. Or at least I hope so.The opportunity still exists for the tech startup space to represent a new breed of company — and in many ways it does.

        1. JamesHRH

          Public broadcaster in Canada totally ignored the ‘misogynistic sociopath’ drum beat on super popular radio host. Google Ghomeshi – agree +100 Donna.Live by the sword; die by the sword.Can Kalanick change the culture? 100B question it is.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. Donna Brewington White


          3. JamesHRH

            Founder’s nature cannot change; founders behaviour can.We will see.

        2. awaldstein

          Really well said Donna.Executive stupidity is not the domain of tech. Being brilliant and lucky in business is not equal to common sense.Best example outside of tech that jumps to mind is the CEO of LuluLemon. Great brand and great products and a CEO who went public with his feeling that women need to get over their hangups with their bodies–from a huge corporation that sell yoga and urban gear, mostly to women.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Common sense. I think you’ve hit on a really important missing ingredient in all this. Although thankfully the lack of common sense exposes some other failings that may have remained hidden.BTW was in your town for a really quick and purposeful visit this past weekend with kid in tow. No time to reach out to friends… but thought about you!

          2. awaldstein

            Trust you had a great time.Always feel comfortable reaching out to me when you are in town.

          3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          4. JamesHRH


        3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        4. ShanaC

          well, if the press gets scared, or if culture leaks don’t happen, then what?Do you think there will be a culture revolution?

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Hi Shana. I think culture leaks will happen — and always have, but with more limited broadcast unless the press happened to get involved. But, even though “the press” is a more efficient broadcast agent, traditional media is no longer our only source for widespread dissemination. The social web creates a whole new platform — as you know.By culture revolution, I think you mean “company culture”? A culture revolution has more to do with how significant culture is to the larger population. Bad press is not enough. People have to be motivated to make different decisions based on what they know about culture. By people, I mean consumers, investors, business partners, potential employees, vendors, suppliers, etc.

          2. ShanaC

            it seems we’re looking at interlinking company cultures right nowTech scene and all. what one company does seems to be affecting company two. so is there a greater culture revolution that needs to happen

        5. Brandon Burns

          I definitely agree that the behavior is happing at the companies, but the VCs and press indirectly, but still strongly, influence who gets hired at those companies.Ever since Mark Zuckerberg got famous for wearing hoodies and being flippant, the not-so-personable-but-still-smart wunderkind has been a stereotype that has been promoted as the most desirable kind of leader. These are the people the VCs have been drawn to, blog about, tell everyone they should be like, and then the press picks up on it. And then these people start companies that take that press and those VC dollars. And then they set the tone for the culture. And then, once the press and VC roles are reduced, that culture is still there, growing like a virus.The wunderkind stereotype has variations. Dave Karp is probably a good example of the opposite side of the spectrum from Travis Kalanick, but the asshole side of the spectrum still exists and is promoted heavily as a “good” example of the next generation of leaders. Just look at the Rap Genius guys. Or the Snapchat CEO. Or the Tinder CEO. The list goes on and on. And the VCs and press keep putting these folks on pedestals, the keep giving them money, and they keep funding a culture lead by these kinds of people.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            I see, Brandon. Makes sense.And… rewarded behavior is continued behavior. Human nature.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Right on, Lisa.And I take exception to all this talk about how ‘brilliant’ the company and/or CEO is. It doesn’t take brilliance to be immoral and cut-throat. Just a willingness.

      1. LE

        It doesn’t take brilliance to be immoral and cut-throat. Just a willingness.It does take brilliance, emotional intelligence, and discipline to not get caught though. In the case of this Ubergate the perp clearly made a bit of mistake that led to the uproar here.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          My 7 year old manages not to get caught all the time. Now, I’m his mom and think he’s a genius (of course). But it doesn’t take brilliance to cover your tracks. Especially when there’s a whole culture out there that wants you to get away with it.

          1. LE

            But it doesn’t take brilliance to cover your tracks.I’m not sure I can agree with that Kirsten. Here’s why. My 12 year old step son is really really smart. Like not have to study, get’s all a’s, honors and so on (at least so far). (And he’s a really nice and cooperative kid btw.) But he is absolutely clueless in terms of knowing how to work the system and to be devious and avoid trouble.For example he knows I hate to come home and find him watching football on TV. Again I say? However he also knows that after I get home I always go down stairs and exercise. But given the same behavior every day (where I exclaim “are you watching football again! why don’t you read a book or watch about ships or airplanes! … and sometimes I’ll turn off the TV as well) he still doesn’t think or care enough to hear me open the door, turn off the TV for 5 minutes, and turn it back on once I am downstairs exercising. And remember I said “I turn off the TV” I didn’t say I just complain and do nothing. To me that is not smart. When I was younger than his age I immediately knew how to work the system like that. [1] [2] He has no clue though. To me that’s actually bad, not good. I wish he had more street smarts.[1] If you are busy nobody gives you something to do. So the best thing to do to avoid being given a bad job is to pick a job you like and keep busy with that. (With respect to shitty work that is, when you are a kid working for your dad..)[2] My sister was getting sick and was going to not be able to fly on a trip we planned. So I tried to bribe her essentially so she wouldn’t tell my parents thinking they might cancel the trip. File charges!!!

          2. ShanaC

            otoh, he’s honest with you

          3. LE

            Except that he’s not honest. One of the things that he has a problem with is actually fessing up when accused of something. He’s always denying culpability. So this is different and he just doesn’t recognize the nuance and how to play the game. Which is strange considering he is always watching the game.

      2. JamesHRH

        Look around though, willingness is in short supply.The siren song of total domination / no restraints has existed for millennia.

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          Yeah, and I think this is not a tech-only problem. And it’s not a vc-backed-startup-only problem.Most of the people I meet in tech and startups these days are the Anti-Kalanick. I have total faith in the future and the new generation(s).

    4. LE

      If we don’t want jerktech, bro-culture, or bullying as a culture in startups, we need to decide that we won’t glorify or support those who are clawing their way to the top in a brutal anything goes melee.That assumes that there is some kind of filter that identifies the “bad” actors at some stage in the investment or media publicity process.The fact is that the bad behavior is actually good at a certain dose level in individuals [1] and the bad behavior is typically good at all dose levels as far as media attention. Their job is to sell stories and make money from advertising. So they have a vested interest in any and all things that the common person finds interesting and wants to read about.[1] You don’t want someone who is “to honest” and you don’t want someone who is a “total cheat”. You want it to be “just right” but of course even that varies by individual and investment firm.

      1. Michael

        the problem is that marketing people have convinced us they are innovators and entrepreneurs when in reality they very rarely create wealth or innovate. They are largely empty suits, but they sure do make a lot of noise. But the obvious problem is that when someone is all bluster and no substance, they have to be aggressive or someone else is going to figure out the emperor has no clothes. They have to belittle the people who have actual ability and knowledge because those people are the enemy who can reveal the empty suit for who they really are.

        1. LE

          But the obvious problem is that when someone is all bluster and no substance, they have to be aggressive or someone else is going to figure out the emperor has no clothes.What’s interesting is that that actually relates to some behavior that is exhibited by certain Italians, the bluster part that is. Talking big “if you do that then, whoa, watch out we will do this”.[1] From a long time ago (apparently from what I have read and partly observed) sheep herders in Italy had to talk a good game to scare people off from stealing their herd. Because it was the way they earned their living. They had to make threats (or something like that) to keep people away. Talk big. Can’t find a link but I know that I read that at some point (and it makes sense). It’s really the ultimate bluff.[1] Sometimes of course it happens but mostly it does not.

        2. awaldstein

          A healthy dose of palaver here.’Marketing people’ are the generic cause of all problems?You are finger pointing without thinking against stereotypes that don’t exist.

          1. LE

            ‘Marketing people’ are the generic cause of all problems?Nothing wrong with being a member of, or practice a profession that people throw stones at (because of jealousy or how much power they have or what they can do).Think about all the professions that people don’t take pot shots at.Most of those are things that you wouldn’t want to be most likely. (I wouldn’t). [1][1] I mean “toll taker”, “librarian” and so on.

          2. Michael

            Forgive me, I was clearly far too terse.-The “generic cause of all problems” (which was a fun straw man but we’ll humor your Sophistry a little bit) would actually be the socialist system which is the modern corporate landscape. In a capitalist system, all the resources are earned through the labor of the capitalist who then uses those resources to create a business. The reason for efficiency in this model is that if you have a bad manager, they lose their own money and then are left with no business to run. You eliminate bad management while innovators and entrepreneurs are able to flourish.-In the corporate model, you don’t have capitalism because a decision-maker never has to create the wealth with their own labor in the first place, and they aren’t forced out of the market place through bad decisions. Because they are not put in charge by their own creation of a business but are rather elected or appointed to manage the wealth created by others, we don’t get great entrepreneurs… we get great politicians. People who are incredibly good at one task: selling themselves. Which is certainly a decent skill but which does not in any way, shape, or form demonstrate merit with regards to actually creating wealth. -You seem to be confused, as the words “stereotype” and “definition” are not synonyms but you are treating them as such in your complaint. Trump isn’t a stereotype, he’s the model of the modern corporate executive. A person who has destroyed more wealth than he could create in a hundred lifetimes but who gets treated like a success. A man who has managed into bankruptcy real estate in Manhattan and casinos. He’s a fine example of a marketer who the world believes is an entrepreneur… but in reality he doesn’t have a single trait of an entrepreneur. He takes no personal risks, he creates little to nothing, he has no innovative ideas (make the towers 1 foot taller)… but he sure can sell himself.

        3. ShanaC

          you need marketing people. explaining things is a problem.Why I should want a hypergraph to tree math algorithm is not the same as Tool to identify people I would like to talk to or tool for identifying proteins that should not be in this cell.

          1. Michael

            I never said we don’t need them, but I suggest that we should not let them run large, complicated things and we should not confuse them for entrepreneurs, inventors, and leaders.

        4. John_PopeXIII

          You mean like that blustering and insubstantial, naked-emperor, Steve Jobs?

          1. Michael

            Remind us where he got his marketing degree from again? Or where he rose up the political ranks to VP before being anointed CEO of Apple and driving that company to success?

          2. John_PopeXIII

            You really don’t enjoy being on the wrong side of cogent, do you?Careful. You could very well end up like the guy who penned this viral-diatribe……#StereoTypeMuch?

          3. Michael

            I guess that is your way of ducking the question.-Incidentally, you do realize that showing a marketing person blustering to defend bad behavior while pretending to be a technologist is reinforcing my point and not contradicting it, right? Him and his PR firm indeed…. You’d think an English Literature major would be able to sound less like a 5th grader ranting in the school yard. But it is a good example of someone who spends all their time marketing themselves by tearing at the creative industry they claim to belong to while not actually creating anything.

    5. John McGrath

      Totally agree. Do want to say, in relation to both your comment and Fred’s post, that it’s not an either-or proposition–there are many large, successful, high-growth companies that behave well, or at least acceptably.A question is whether a company can change, or is the die cast early

      1. John McGrath

        Also worth noting: in large markets, where I suspect the majority of their revenue comes from, switching costs are near zero. As large as they are, they are not Too Big To Fail.

    6. Rob Underwood

      I agree with you Lisa. Here’s my take on all “this” (i.e., tech behaving badly) I wrote after the Gopman episode. I feel like a lot of folks don’t realize how blessed and/or lucky they are. Hubris I guess.

      1. Salt Shaker

        The post on your blog was quite touching, timely and meaningful. Well done. I stepped out of the “bubble” a few years ago when I stopped working f/t. (Low overhead & sound investments afforded me this opportunity; I’m a far cry from being a trust fund baby.) It frankly is so easy to lose perspective in NYC’s self absorbed, work intensive culture. I see the world and myself in it quite differently now. Still grappling with “what next,” but I’m hopeful it entails something a bit more socially redeeming than what I’ve previously encountered. And yes, I do feel quite blessed and lucky!

      2. PrometheeFeu

        How lucky we are does not mean we have an obligation to strangers with whom we happen to be geographically proximate. Or at the very least, it is not a self-evident proposition requiring no arguments.

        1. Rob Underwood

          Whether one has been very lucky (and/or successful) or not, I believe all humans have an obligation to one another, whether the “stranger” lives next door or on the other side of the planet.From a practical matter, it’s simply more practical to be of service to those nearby. You’re probably also likely to have a bit greater shared set of needs and wants with the “stranger” next door than a stranger abroad, though of course some needs (clean air, clean water, food, education, etc.) are universal (again, in my opinion).My point is that if you have been lucky and/or successful, it would be great to make an extra effort to make sure to honor what is, in my opinion, an obligation to look out for other humans.

          1. PrometheeFeu

            Right. My point is that your assertion that we have such an obligation is introduced without evidence. I would retort that providing such assistance is merely superogatory.

    7. Richard Bottoms


    8. JamesHRH

      I agree but there is just one problem.It works.



    10. ShanaC

      it was 2009ish

    11. hypermark

      As others have noted, in virtually every other industry – wall street, tech, big business, entertainment, sports, government – winning is all that matters.I am not saying that this is right; just stating that the notion of social contract and being good is devalued, and winning is the measuring stick that counts most.Thus, it begs the question. Does it really matter that Uber has an ‘ick’ / bully factor so long as its Customers feel loved and its Drivers are making coin?

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I struggle with your last question. I have had excellent experiences as a customer, and interacting with whoever does their social media. And the drivers I talk to when I’m a passenger love working for Uber — it has been life changing for some. If I boycott Uber, I am potentially hurting those drivers and certainly inconveniencing myself. But I’m reminding myself that principled thinking and actions are the stuff of strategy — aiming for long-term results.

        1. hypermark

          Believe me, it’s the definition of paradox, and there is the central question of if the company is ethically compromised, can you trust them not to use your data against you?That noted, I just don’t see people holding any other industries to similar standards unless they are DIRECTLY wronged.It all seems pyrrhic, when as a customer, I actually love the Uber experience.

          1. defcon_5

            Other industries aren’t seeing the kind of capital inflow (and therefore media attention) that tech is, so the amplified expectations follow. There have definitely been non-tech examples of societal backlash – the examination tech is seeing now is similar to the examination lawyers saw in the latter half of the 20th century (which was more amorphous) and Wall Street has seen most recently (focused mostly on companies but in some cases on individuals). In fact, once you get outside of the echo-chamber tech centers (SF, NY), the sentiment about technology leaders is edging dangerously close to the hyper negative view Americans have of Wall Street executives.

        2. defcon_5

          There are other options for both riders and drivers. Lyft, Flywheel are the two services I’ve seen most people switching to in the past week. Fwiw.

    12. SylvesterII

      That cutthroat culture and competitiveness is responsible for almost all of the wealth and safety Americans enjoy compared with most countries in history. So you may not like it, but don’t pretend you haven’t massively benefited from it.

    13. Fred Stevens-Smith

      I think you’re totally right, except for one thing – the ‘culture’ you speak of is capitalism. Capitalism is devoid of moral judgement. Capitalism has *always* glorified “cut-throat, winner takes all behavior”. Always. The entirety of modern history has been shaped by this kind of human.This is not a new thing. This is not a disturbing thing. This is just a thing. And right now everyone has an opinion on it. But the truth is that this changes as soon as we decide capitalism isn’t for us.If you have already decided that, move to Europe 🙂 (coming from an ex-Londoner living in San Francisco).

    14. Laura

      I like how you said. I also canceled my account. I experienced this cut throat culture locally through their sales reps. Did not like it.

  24. pointsnfigures

    What did anyone expect? Uber hired David Plouffe, champion muckraker. When private companies hire political operatives like Plouffe, the expectation of the outcome should be no different. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are pro muckrakers-digging up all kinds of dirt on competitors to use. That Instagram photo of you at a party holding a beer, well, you are an alcoholic because we have five people that have seen you inebriated etc etc etc.It’s pretty shameful what they did to Pando Daily’s Sarah Lucy.

    1. JimHirshfield

      What they said they would do to Sarah is reprehensible. Not defending Uber – can’t stand them – but what did they actually do to Sarah?

      1. pointsnfigures

        Called her on the phone, threatened her-according to her article.…To be clear, Pando is backed by a16z; which is an investor in Lyft.

        1. LE

          This article?…Can you summarize the threats that were made to her exactly? I’m still ot able to fully understand from a arms length exactly what the threats are. What I do see is things like this:In that moment outside an Indian restaurant in London, I stood numb listening to Smith asking me if I had a comment, and I thought of my kids. They were somewhere covered in kitten and dinosaur pajamas giggling and running through the house in a last ditch effort to fight bedtime. Maybe they were looking up at the moon, remembering how many times I’ve told them I’d always be somewhere looking at the same moon even if I couldn’t be there to rock them.I had two thoughts. The first was: What possible comment could Igive Smith to sum up the terror I felt over an attack at my family?And then this: Please, God, let this be how bad it gets. Please let the worst of this be that I have to one day have the “Mommy has a lot of people who hate her because of what she writes…” conversation with them.You know what? If you are in the type of business where “mommy has a lot of people who hate her because of what she writes” maybe for the sake of your kids you need to not be in that profession. Not because people should be allowed to threaten you but because from a practical angle it’s what you need to do. Because you are pissing people off and there are nutty people who pose a threat and you’re not going to be able to stop them without potential consequences. You know walk on the other side of the street and stop confronting the gang and fighting a battle that you won’t win in the end (without some threat).

          1. pointsnfigures

            We don’t know what words were used in the conversation-I do think Pando over dramatizes things, but until you have been threatened by a member of the press……believe me it sends a chill up your spine.

          2. LE

            Sara seems to be threatening in the way she (I believe but am not sure) has called people that she knows that are VC’s about this incident to get them to somehow back her up or do something about it. Not something you would expect an objective journalist to do. Although of course it happens. Obviously. On both sides.For example let’s say I think this is wrong and decide to call a VC and say “this is wrong you shouldn’t be doing this”. Actually let’s say I call you. I don’t know you but you know who I am. But I don’t have anything that you want. You don’t need me for anything. So I can tell you “do x or don’t do x” and you may or may not agree to do it (assuming you take the time to listen).Now on the other hand let’s say Sara Lacy calls you and says “do this or don’t do this”. Sara writes for a publication that can help the startups that you invest in. She can give them publicity. It’s not a quid pro quo but of course it is. De facto. So you are certainly more likely to want to agree with her and she can influence you more than I can. Or William can. And so on. So she is using her position and influence as a journalist (if you want to call her that) to get what she wants. Just like the rest of the world operates. (Which of course she learned from Arrington).

  25. Bobur

    The culture is leaving footprints all over the place. Seen at Wayra London (accelerator).

  26. ZekeV

    I watched a PBS docu last night about how Firestone sponsored Charles Taylor during the Liberian civil war. In case you’re not familiar with the work of CT, this is the man who famously recruited a “small boys unit” as his personal guard, and supported the RUF in neighboring Sierra Leone during their murder and amputation spree. One could find similar evil behavior in many of the companies that supply our everyday needs — oil, metals, bananas.This is not to say that I think Uber’s culture is OK. I’m all for boycotting assholes. But at the same time, I’d guess there’s more evil in the companies behind your average smartphone than you could find in the darkest depths of Travis Kalanick’s id.

  27. JimHirshfield

    This title, “Values and Culture”…could also be: “Values and Vultures”.

  28. John Revay

    HUMMM re: Execution – yes it is impressive …however when I think of Google and their execution – they seemed to have a much different value set – don’t be evil.

    1. Mike O'Horo

      Except for that stint with ALEC.

  29. JLM

    .Flaws never come in one packs, they come in 24 packs. I find Uber to be a perfect example of this aphorism.The Uber story built on price gouging (surge pricing), privacy violations, misogyny, intimidation and just general viciousness is pathetic.I don’t care how well the guy executes or how much money is made by the VCs, the guy is a jerk and his values are those of a jerk. He has assembled a bunch of jerks around him.He hired these people in his own image and now they’re musing about the appropriateness of intimidating reporters whose stories they don’t like by conducting oppo research. And nobody associated with the company who has wandered into this minefield has yet been fired?David Plouffe’s involvement is part of the 24-pack.JLM.

    1. PhilipSugar

      Correct as usual. It amazes me at how much of the company is shaped by the CEO’s values. You wouldn’t think it but people mimic what they see at the top.I have been amazed to see as much bad behavior as I have at this level (I truly believe that the behavior is a result of success), but most never really sees the light of day. Fighting with the press is just amateur.

      1. JLM

        .Values are not what you say they are, they’re what you live.No written word can ever overcome the stench of actual performance.I am only interested in the deeds, not the words.This highlights how important the values — the actual values lived — are to the creation of a culture. CEOs need to start thinking about this when they hire their first employee.JLM.

        1. PhilipSugar

          So true.And its not just what you say at the office, its how you act when you are not in the office.I was sitting with a group of female executives and the subject came up of how its tough sometimes to be a woman in business. I said give me some concrete examples.I was shocked that each had a story that made me disgusted. They had no reason to lie (not that they would), all were at past companies and you just couldn’t make this stuff up.

          1. JLM

            .I once had a CEO friend who was having a tough time with some mid-level execs. They weren’t aligning with his vision. He asked me to come to a team meeting and observe.He was a chatty sort — almost awkward nervous type of chatty — and tried to make everyone feel at home. He was really trying. I could see it.He told stories about how expensive his kids’ private school tuition was, how difficult it was to get good maintenance on his BMW, how expensive skiing had become and how expensive 100LL had gotten for his airplane.We went and had a cup of coffee afterwards and I gave him a pretty good ass chewing. He later told me he wanted to cry. I was brutal because I really liked the guy.He was a very good guy, he just wasn’t listening to himself.Know this — your people are constantly listening and watching. They miss nothing. They won’t tell you but they will make you pay for it.They will not be loyal to someone who does not have the common touch. What’s gone wrong in America today? Our leaders have lost the common touch.JLM.

          2. PhilipSugar

            I once after being bought out went to a presentation with a CEO where he showed his house, his collection of cars, etc.He was trying to give a personal touch, what he did was make everyone think how much money he must made. I just cringed.I really think people have lost the common touch as well.I call it the me-me. Its all about me. At this same company we had some meetings and I was told to stay at the super-super expensive hotel but my guys needed to stay at the Hilton.WTF? I stay with my guys. People were upset at me over that, because they thought I was trying to make them look bad. Make you look bad?? You didn’t need my help.How does that idea ever even cross your mind? Life isn’t fair, and I am fine with it not being so, but some things are not right.

          3. Anne Libby

            No, indeed, you can’t make this stuff up. I was recently telling some 20-something women one of my “when I was your age” stories — not all that different from some of what you probably heard. Only in retelling the tale did I realize how completely outrageous it was. So much more so than I saw at the time.

        2. leigh

          I used this quote from some guy named JLM in a presentation i did once:”The culture of a company informs every decision that a business makes. Once thatculture takes root — its values, folklore, principles, savoir-faire, style,manners, consideration, work ethic — every decision thereafter is colored bythat culture”Source:

          1. JLM

            .I learned that lesson as a second lieutenant in the Army with my first platoon. I’ve dined out on it since. We used to call it esprit de corps.Haha.JLM.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            So good.

      2. Amar

        like attracts like. Given the ceo’s ethos, why are we surprised that his SVP of business shoots fast and loose with ethics as well. 24 packs indeed as @JLM:disqus just said.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      David Plouffe’s involvement is part of the 24-pack.Wow! New, lower level of WH brain-dead?

  30. ErikSchwartz

    It’s a product whose emotional appeal is making the user feel superior to the masses around them by giving them a driver at their beck and call (more so in the strictly black car days when the culture was formed).How is it surprising that a product targeted at making you feel like a rich Übermensch is run by arrogant pricks?

    1. JLM

      .Luckily I wasn’t drinking my coffee when I read your comment.Well played.Arrogant pricks? Yes, indeed.JLM.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Hmm I just can’t agree – had I heard that @ErikSchwartz:disqus had caused the @JLM:disqus wardrobing department to experience a self-inflicted coffee crisis it might well have been the start of a domino appreciaion effect and that would be “even better played”.

    2. LE

      How is it surprising that a product targeted at making you feel like a rich Übermensch is run by arrogant pricks?Explain I’m not getting the irony or connection.

  31. Mike O'Horo

    Long, long ago, during the olden times when newspapers ruled, some PR wag wisely admonished his clients not to pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel. You can’t win a battle of words with those who have a louder, broader, longer voice than you have.

  32. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Told ya. See what I mean, @JimHirshfield:disqus? My Twitter stream is full of #dumpuber today.

    1. JimHirshfield

      No shocker there.

  33. JimHirshfield

    After the dust settles, will Lyft take the high road?#punscanbeserious

  34. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Guys, consider showing some solidarity with the women in your life and boycott Uber. They don’t need to succeed. Someone better will take their place.

    1. Dale Allyn

      Kristen, I deleted the app a while back. I can’t stand the attitude and behavior, and won’t support Uber or any company which conducts business and themselves in this manner.I support your call to avoid Uber for their misogynistic conduct, but also I am thoroughly repulsed by many of their other tactics as well. I’ll happily take a taxi, hire a town car, rent a car, or walk before using Uber.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Agreed! I just happen to have a strong feeling for the misogynist part 😉

        1. Dale Allyn

          Of course. It’s a big issue.

    2. JimHirshfield

      Start up an alternative for women by women. Women drivers for women passengers reluctant to hop into what’s currently available. Possible extra angle: service available only after dark and until dawn the next day. #safepassage

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        There’s gotta be a woman out there who’s right for that mission 🙂

        1. JimHirshfield

          I’m lookin’ at her @MsPseudolus:disqus

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I <3 you @JimHirshfield:disqus . But wow, would I be bad at that.

          2. JimHirshfield


        2. JimHirshfield

          FYI, there’s a startup that’s Uber for Kids. In a nutshell, all the drivers are vetted people with childcare experience and cars with car seats. So, why not this focused vertical?

          1. Amar

            that sounds awesome, what is it?

          2. JimHirshfield


          3. Amar

            FR for disqus – an one click icon that is the equivalent of “i appreciate your responsiveness”. Something more lightweight than me having to add a comment just to say “thank you”. More a reflection on the actor than the content.anyways, thank you 😉

          4. JimHirshfield

            Upvotes can stand in for that.

          5. ceci_ymx

            Hey Jim, my name is Cecilia and I am from China. I’m interested in your product Disqus, especially the way you profit the publishers. Can I get your contact to discuss more about this? My email is [email protected] :p( intended to send this via twitter but…Chinese government blocks that…)

          6. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Amazing. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if we see a service for women appearing sooner than later.The thing is, the Uber story is not happening in a vacuum. We have Gamergate and what happened at Github, what happened at TechCrunch Disrupt, etc etc.

  35. Frank Traylor

    Many companies have ruthless, egotistical leaders. Often these traits are positively correlated with success. The difference is whether these are public or private. Steve Jobs had personal failings but few in their market knew or discussed them. Kalanick wears it on his sleeve. He seems to enjoy the bad boy persona, proudly professing that he doesn’t have to care. They need some adults in the corner office. #overuber

  36. Robert Heiblim

    Yes, I think it is an important question and the answer may begin to affect consumer perception and behavior if not addressed. The consumer cost to switch is lower than ever and does not take much. We have seen switching many times before and we will again. Yes, UBER is awesome and has done great, but the consumer is in the drivers seat here and competitors can and will react. Uber should get their public and private views under control.

  37. Stephen Bradley

    So well said. I haven’t tracked the most recent flurry but, after being thrilled with the basic concept and service of Uber early on, I quickly developed a bad taste in my mouth about the company, both from what I learned about the company’s leadership as well as my own on-the-ground experience with what I strongly felt was repeated price gouging. I’ve looked to alternatives ever since, and while the execution may not be as good, I feel better about working with those alternatives as my “partner.”

    1. Stephen Bradley


    2. Richard Bottoms

      As a vet, I’d like to think that tech companies have more to offer those who served this country than jobs driving around people who haven’t.Get back to me when you have some stories about vets being recruited to write the software and build the hardware of this economy, not more opportunities to ask if you want fries with that.

      1. BillMcNeely

        There are quiet a few actually. On AngelList just the US Army have founders starting companies than PayPal.…Blake Hall is doing well at , Joseph Kosper at Ridescout, Paig Craig at Betterworks, Craig Fagan at Keyring and Gunner Counselman at Fidelis Education

  38. Don Jones

    Media is all about flux, delta.

  39. Eric Woods

    I agree wholeheartedly that the frequency by which Uber exec’s suffer from foot-in-mouth disease can’t be written off as naivete and is emblematic of their culture. That being said, in this particular instance, are we outraged by the substance of the comment or that the comment was made at all? Isn’t the reason most Fortune 1000 companies hire former FBI, CIA or similar agents is to staff similar intelligence gathering apparatus? Are “WE” so collectively naive as to think this isn’t being done all day every day?

  40. Stephen Bradley

    There is a bigger malaise buried in this discussion, one that Lisa Abeyta’s comments speak to eloquently enough. It’s something I feel daily. While it’s hard for me to articulate perfectly, it has to do with the sort of cookie-cutter image of the “successful tech entrepreneur.” It’s an image propagated by the investor elite, even if unintentionally, and it is self-perpetuating for that very reason. It’s an image that glorifies the cooler-than-you, win-at-all-costs, all work no play, youthful, drop out of college, give up everything else in your life characteristics of what’s widely considered the winning model for tech entrepreneurial success. I don’t blame investors (and I have been one – sitting on both sides of the table) because the paradigm has been largely successful. Success begets success, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Invest in what you know, and if it works, keep doing it.But as a result, we have perpetuated a model for entrepreneurs (who set a company’s culture) who are, for the most part, NOT balanced, grounded, experienced and developed with clear morals, ethics and ideals. That’s not to say that some of these same entrepreneurs don’t have or end up with those skills, but it’s not those skills that seem to weigh most heavily in the final investment analysis. And since the companies that get funded win far more often than the ones that don’t, we see the same-looking winners over and over. Profiling. So now we have a profile for whom we like to invest in, whom we admire, who we think will be successful, even who we want to be like, as a budding entrepreneur.It’s hard to make a case that this is a problem, even when looking at an example like Uber. It’s Uber! But I think it is a problem. I think many of the wrong things — many of the right, as well, but many of the wrong — are being glorified and this is not doing our industry a service. We’re being seen as a caste of irreverent, arrogant brats (Google bus from SF anyone?), and in some respect we have actually become so. I also believe we are missing some great innovation by sticking too closely to the profile. I’d love to see some of the investor elite lead the way by being willing to risk the paradigm and breaking up the cookie cutter a bit more.

  41. J Nicholas Gross

    If these guys were willing to track a journalist’s movements, what’s to stop them from tracking all of Fred Wilson’s “visits” in NY to find out which companies he is talking to, how long, etc.? And then feeding that info to another competitor VC?Every time someone scratches below the surface on this company it reveals some other huge stinking mess…. they appear rotten to the core, so nothing can be put past them at this point.

  42. Steven Lowell

    Years back, new web businesses had this great feeling of being champions of the little people, but when they exhibit the same corporate behavior they claim to be disrupting, it just asks for trouble…and I worked at AIG under Hank’s rule before quitting to work for websites. LOL!I had a strange experience with Uber. I applied to work there several times over the course of a year and never heard back. I wrote it off and never thought about it. One day in September, I commented on a blog by a former Uber employee on LInkedIn pulse:…I commented why I believe Germany wants no part of it….and a year & 5 minutes later (no kidding), I got rejection emails from them. I completely forgot about these applications until then.Yes, I deserved it. I have a big mouth, but there was something about the “Let’s teach him a lesson!!!” behavior that made me think the people at the top are defensive, emotionally immature, and spiteful. They are smart as hell but have much to learn about “managing people and public sentiment”.I don’t know. I could be wrong. But simple actions speak louder than words.

  43. Tom

    Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

  44. Mike

    This non-story between Lacy and Uber is rubbish. Pando and Buzzfeed are both backed by Andreessen who so happens is the backer of Lyft, Given Pando’s conflict of interest, Lacy is probably acting more unethical than Uber by negatively reporting on Uber. On a separate note, she is drama queen. Does she really believe that Uber would inflict physical harm? She needs to grow up.

    1. ShanaC

      why is negative reporting unethical?and actually yes, I do believe business would cause physical harm. I have some fun historical stories about that

  45. Richard Bottoms

    It’s been known for several years that these liberterian Randoids were evil, amoral, union busting, law breaking, regulation ignoring, arrogant creeps.But hipsters continue to use the Uber’s & AirBnB’s or other “demand economy” services anyway, no matter the behavior of the people at the top, all while fawning over the brilliance of the bullies who run them because teh “freedom”.Now I have four words you should remember:We told you so.

    1. PrometheeFeu

      I think we “fawn” over their services because those services are amazing. I almost missed several planes in the past thanks to flaky taxi services. (despite calling 24 hours in advance and going through the painful experience of spelling my address over the phone after being on hold for tens of minutes) With Uber, I just pull out my phone 10 minutes before I’m ready to leave and I always find somebody. (And their ability to switch between payment methods makes business travel much more pain-free) This is on top of the fact that they cost me ~1/2 what a taxi would. I only tried AirBnB once, but it turned attending a wedding from expensive to very affordable, not to mention pleasant.

  46. Richard Bottoms

    Child labor has some pretty amazing things going for it too.At some point the morality of the people you choose to do business with matters, saving a nickel or an extra five minutes is not the sum total what you should consider when deciding where you do business or spend your money.The leadership at Uber is being shown to have the morality of slugs, that’s not news.What’s news is, oh noes not only do they screw their drivers, ignore the disabled, break the law and flaunt insurance requirements, but they track the ride history of people without their permission!!Holy f****** sh*t.

  47. Gerry Brown

    Thanks for a simple yet insightful post. I’m afraid people are willing to overlook a lot worse than this when there’s money to be made, and a lot lot lot worse than this when there’s a lot of money to be made. It’s clear that Uber is disruptive enough to be a ‘lot of money’ play. They’ll justify it in all manner of doublespeak, but the reality is they don’t care. Is that going to change? Are people really going to join together, point & shout out “The Emperor is wearing no clothes!”. Probably not. If we really want to end this sort of behaviour, it’s pretty simple – don’t use Uber. Don’t participate in the next funding round. Do use their competitors. Do support the regulators who want to reign them in. Demand that they provide decent benefits for their ‘independent contractors’. And if you choose to support Uber & their bad boy ways, just admit that you can’t resist the ease & convenience their service provides, or the huge returns you’re making on your investment, or whatever it is that you’re choosing over common decency and a respectful culture – don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of company

    1. LE

      Taking action against a company because of something the company’s exec’s or a particular employee do ignores the fact that most likely the majority of the people who work for the company (and will be harmed) have no part in what has happened here. As such I’m not one to support boycotts at the expense of the other people who earn their living working for a company or even those who support the company in other ways (vendors and so on).. (Among other reasons).Additionally I’m totally against this witch hunt crowd mentality that seems to go in the direction of, what to me, is a violation of a free speech right. That’s not saying what others should do they are free to vote with their pocketbooks if it makes them feel better. But it’s not how I choose to act.Separately the noisy people make a big issue out of this and either the lemmings follow suit (without even know all the points) or don’t really care. Nobody hears from the opposing point of view.Here is what Ashton Kutcher has to say about it by the way. Look at how he is being pilloried for giving his opinion. What’s right about this (the way the media is reacting to what he says I mean):

  48. Kirsten Lambertsen


    1. Amar

      Yikes, just saw it. I don’t know all the details but Sarah Lacy turned this into — her kids future getting threatened– women getting into car (safely)– destruction of life and family– Ashton Kutcher being irresponsibleThe stakes just got really big… I am not a Uber fan and it seems like they pissed of the wrong journalist and she just took it very very personally (justifiably so if everything she said is true)

  49. Terry J Leach

    We are coming to the end of the road for winner take all behavior in entrepreneurship, because cultural values, and collaboration will in the end determine winner.Let’s face it ideas are like air, capital is a commodity, price transparency is becoming the norm. After successfully executing a strategy, what is left, but how we express our values to the world. Consumers can and will choose or switch to the provider who best get the job done and reflect their values.

  50. The Force

    Fred, as another successful Alpha entrepreneur based in the valley with a 1B startup, I answer definitively, they are tied at the hip.1st rule of engagement: Destroy the enemy.2nd: minimize collateral damage.Without the swagger you have NO command presence. You will die in battle and are unable to command the armies of the earth.Uber will walk away with the prize.Your companies will not.

    1. mike

      tough guy

    2. ShanaC

      Look up the term apoina. (if you need help… ) There is an ethic to war, and if you screw up the ethic, you invoke ker, fate. Achilles ran into Priam in the end, and got shot in the foot.

  51. Paul Higgins

    Maybe I am naive but I am hopeful that in a world of greater transparency values are part of execution, not apart from it. I am also hopeful that we the customer will have far more effect – where there’s poor behaviour, from misogyny, to tax avoidance in the country whose community assets have helped build a company we refuse to fund the company. If we continue to buy their product then we are complicit.



  53. dan_malven

    Great analogies in the sports world. Can you lose the swagger with losing the execution? Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, etc etc had both. The San Antonio Spurs seemed (at least from the outside) to only have the execution without the arrogance.When my kids first started playing sports, I used to ingrain into them “respect the lines”. Meaning when you step over the out-of-bounds line and onto the field of play, you have to not only *think* you’re the best player on the field, you have to *know* you’re the best player on the field. But when you step back over the line and into the “real world” you have to be humble, gracious and generally act with humility.Very very hard to be able to pull off both the Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and use them in the right contexts. But incredibly valuable if you can.

  54. LE

    Can they lose the swagger without losing the execution?That would be hard to do. People act by a set of values that they feel comfortable with. You can dial back and adjust a bit of course but it’s pretty difficult to deviate considerably from what your base line behavior is. I can’t be you and you can’t be me. I can’t have you execute something that to me is easy and natural you will not feel comfortable with that.You don’t want to neuter anyone that is the risk that you run if you try to change their base behavior. [1][1] I always tell people that I am dealing with that I’m not going to run the play by play by them because doing so will mess with my gut and play havoc with my creativity. The exact way I put it is “I will mentally stutter”. Having gone such a long time without having to check with anyone I have my own style that works for me. I don’t want to second guess that as a general rule.

  55. ShanaC

    Do you remember when you wrote that post about double opt in introductions via email?Those little things count. They spill into big things about how to be considerate at all levels.I really think if tech needs to turn itself around, we need to start from the ground up about talking about basic politeness and basic ethics, and then move into complex ethics. I really wish we would resurrect MBA monday for ethics.Just because you can do something, does not mean you should. And it causes problems when you do, as we’re seeing at scale. Long term bad ethics catches the wheels of fate. We should discuss how and why that happens – why ethical choices are signals for other positive high growth choices in the end, and non-ethical ones can bite you if you are not careful.There has been a string of ethics problems in techland. Uber is the highest profile, but two months ago, a Ycombinator startup was covered for its ethical lapses.And I am sure two months from now I will hear about a new ethics lapse from someone else. Change has to come from us, and we have to basically prove there will be a multibillion dollar company that is run by good people.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      So “on” Shana. Thanks for this.

      1. ShanaC

        you’re welcome. I guess this means I sound more me than I’ve sounded in a bit.oy.

  56. J Nicholas Gross

    That didn’t take long:”…they feared Uber would use GPS travel data from Cushing’s use of the app, and use that data to discern their identities”…

  57. Donald E. Foss

    I’m very happy to see Lyft getting promoted on my flight reminder emails and in the airline mobile apps. I hope that some BigCo’s take company integrity into account.If I’m ignorant of the real reason that Lyft if being promoted in these apps over Uber, then I’m content to be blissfully ignorant on this one thing (and only this one thing!) and assume that good culture and ethics is still worth something.

    1. Supratim Dasgupta

      I took Lyft only few times to escape UBER surge pricing. Seemed to me like a poor man’s UBER except more expensive. The cars were worse, drivers were talking on phone, checking texts and slurping big gulps. Couldn’t discern much difference from a yellow cab, except the car color, and the fact that i hailed using a phone. Wrote to them, no response.See my post on UBER experience below.

  58. Supratim Dasgupta

    I use UBER Both within US & Internationally, Wherever I go except within NYC(Where Subway is lot more efficient).Looked at my account and pulled some data.1. Rides Completed:9762. Spend $156463. Rides with < the 4 star rating =14. Proactively contacted by customer service:10 times.Refunded:7 times4.Driver Cancelled trips 4 times. Got promo codes for $20USD:4 times.5.Driver started trip before meeting:3 times.refunded: 3 times6.Driver got into accident:1 time. Driver not at fault, Missed Flight: UBER refunded and promoed for $40 USD.

    1. Supratim Dasgupta

      In short, UBER customer service is awesome. Taxi systems suck all over the world.1. Travis cannot be a bigger asshole than all the asshole taxi drivers of the world combined. So I will stick with UBER.

  59. Matt Zagaja

    If I had to bet money, I doubt I’d bet it on an asshole. Good and nice people will typically self-select out of a culture where people have too much attitude. You’d limit the talent pool, or spend all your money trying to convince the good people to stay.

    1. Supratim Dasgupta

      When one is sued for 250 Billion at a young age of 24 and has to declare bankruptcy, they comeback with vengeance. They owe nothing to the world. UBER will be fine and only grow much bigger from here.

  60. sigmaalgebra

    values and culture matter more than anythingWell, from start to success there are many links in the chain such that if one link breaks there is failure, but maybe values and culture matter more if only because a broken product, etc., can be fixed, but it is easy to get a reputation for being evil and super tough to get rid of it.

  61. SylvesterII

    It’s very hard to build things and very easy to criticize. Almost everyone saying that Uber is terrible would come off equally or more terrible than anything these guys said or did if all their private conversations or emails were subject to scrutiny, except that the consequences of their behavior is typically less significant for a major company. Uber should work, as I’m sure they will, to improve their company and culture, and people should chill out a bit on the sweeping judgments.

  62. John S

    I’m beginning to compare Uber to Monsanto, I’ve started to solely using Lyft after their sickening approach to their competitors became public.

  63. Lauren Flanagan

    Great post Fred!Very much agree with you. It’s all about culture. This mess can be fixed though:–Emil Michaels should resign for the good of the company (and get a nice package if he was otherwise so valuable as Tim Chang claims)–They’ve gotten an outside auditor to look at their privacy practices, which is good!–Add two women to their board of directors (per Robin Wolaner; we both have binders full of top female candidates as no doubt does Joanne Wilson!); the board should give more guidance to Travis Kalanick about corporate policies; curbing most egregious behavior–Hire top female talent for safety and privacy initiatives (Lauren Flanagan)–Turn “God View” into an opt-in safety app–so parents can see where their kids are at all times. When you set your profile you can select key friends/family/co-workers to be able to find you. Offer one button emergency help for driver or passenger (idiot proof even after too much to drink) to police with GPS location and ability to track car (Lauren Flanagan)

  64. Chris

    It’s arrogance when they aren’t on your team. Confidence when they are.

  65. Topanga Russ

    your client, Shift, in vegas, is relying too much on the “customer service” angle of Zappos to become a bigger player. to go beyond niche in vegas and the few cities that are willing to take them at this early stage, they need to update their model away from a monthly service. they need to go after uber w/ a Tesla ride option for the big rollers in vegas and like minded “show off” cities. the marketing and service hype of Zappos only worked after they became profitable before other companies tried to elbow their way — too late — into the Pumped Up Kicks space. better, run, better run…

  66. lohankerl

    I think culture leaks will happen and always have, but with more limited broadcast unless the press happened to get involved.Orlando Website Design Company

  67. Shri Bhashyam

    Great post. Fred, I know you sit on many boards. I’m wondering how Uber’s board has not righted the ship at any point along the way. It looks like the press has stepped in where management and the BOD have not. Isn’t it the BOD’s job (at least at VC-backed companies) to rein in mgmt on issues like these?

    1. fredwilson

      it’s hard to push back on people who have made you a fortune

      1. Shri Bhashyam

        This is where public company boards greatly differ. There is a hardwired level of independence required by various layers of regulation (Delaware, Exchange listing rules, etc.) for the BOD, which solves for conflicts of interest like these. Wonder if it can be solved for in VC world or if it’s even worth solving for. Empirically, I’d guess this is an outlier problem. I’ve read about directors pushing back (even pushing out) founders/mgmt at “unicorns” that have made a lot of money for the investors; even that you’ve stood up to mgmt when you deemed it necessary 🙂

  68. Etherealmind

    Bullying and doing business don’t have to go together but its much easier to bully people who may threaten you and yours. Uber has billions in revenue and no reason to bully anyone, so why do it ?

  69. ellen sing

    Is being a good entrepreneur and ceo one that has to have sociopathic behavior?

  70. Anne Libby

    Rookie mistake(s).

  71. Anne Libby

    Yes. And he’s making the kind of mistakes that an “emerging manager” makes — on a very, very big stage with no room for error.

  72. William Mougayar

    Travis is no rookie.

  73. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Not just – I think there is also some “T”ruthlessness

  74. JimHirshfield

    Enter the Grownups.

  75. LE

    The very specific threat to Sarah borders on criminal assault.How so Charlie, explain? I didn’t read anything that rises anywhere near the level of “criminal assault”. I read something that roughly translated to “research her and bring some things to light about her to get revenge for what she said about Uber and to shut her up and send a message to other journalists”.

  76. Marian Knowles

    You’re right; with his serial entrepreneur track record there is no valid excuse for his behavior and that of his Exec Team.

  77. William Mougayar

    They see things differently than some people do. Disagreeing with them is not a justification for judging them as immature or clueless.

  78. JimHirshfield

    I don’t see their mis-steps and reprehensible behavior as related to greed. They’re a business, so of course making money is the objective. But the shit they’ve dropped is all sloppy, stupid, immature, misogynistic…etc.

  79. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Without wishing to be impolite – Suppose I attend a party and someone’s dog lays a turd under the buffet table,a) I expect the dog to be better behaved in future or the owner to leave him at homea) I expect the owner of the dog to clear the mess (discretely as possible)b) If the owner of the dog will not or I am in any way associated with them – I get on my hands and knees and do the deed.Its not fun work – but there is guilt by association and anyway it makes continuing to party more fun.It seems someone at Uber is laying turds

  80. LE

    That seems to be most VC’s reactions right now to messes like Uber or Genius.What do you suggest they do? Issue some bullshit PR statement? Talk from the heart? Call for someone’s resignation? Witch hunt?

  81. ShanaC

    the bigger question, should there be ethics clauses for CEOs and senior staff and VCs.violate your ethics clause in a big way and you can get fired from your company. Breach of contract. same thing for board members – lc relationshipsat least then you can then talk about what can go in the ethics clause.

  82. JimHirshfield

    Regrets, we won’t be able to make your holiday party this year.

  83. JLM

    .Which brings us to the age old question — Who let the dogs in? Ruff, ruff!JLM.

  84. sigmaalgebra

    Now, just trying to be a little clear here, you are saying that those are dog turds or human turds or if dog turds you are calling them dogs? Just trying to be a little more clear here!

  85. Anne Libby

    I didn’t hear anyone say “immature” or “clueless.”Sport rookies have lots of skill, and years of experience. Yet the term “rookie mistake” is out there…And in this case, being played out in public.

  86. Richard

    This is not an issue of disagreeing. This is an issue for being immature and clueless. “The measure of a man is what he does with power.”

  87. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    HAHAHA – Love it

  88. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    In the UK we refer to “Schoolboy Error” but that implies a certain innocence – Does not apply !

  89. JLM

    .Not to worry, it’s going to be 65F today in the ATX. Looks like 80F on Sunday.Reminds me I need to pick up some more sunscreen.JLM.

  90. JLM

    .+5 for misogynisticJLM.

  91. JimHirshfield

    For spelling it correctly, or for highlighting that point?

  92. JLM


  93. LE

    She might but now she has something that differentiates her from everyone else out there. Hopefully she is smart enough to milk this for all it’s worth.

  94. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I don’t care why you boycott them, as long as you boycott them. I agree they are bad on many levels. In fact, they first got on my radar for their treatment of their drivers.But there are people who will shrug their shoulders over some of the other issues (such as bad treatment of drivers) who might find the purposefully misogynistic behavior inexcusable.And misogyny hurts everyone, not just women. And if all women and the men in their lives boycotted Uber, I wouldn’t call that limiting.

  95. LE

    Objection!First, you said “criminal assault” you didn’t say “assault”, but even assault alone doesn’t seem to be appropriate, at least not in the legal sense (which means actionable from a legal perspective so it matters.) [1]Saying you are going to dig up dirt on someone and present said dirt is not assault. If I am selling bread and I dig up dirt on you and tell Whole Foods “don’t buy Charlie’s loaf because Charlie did XYZ” that’s not assault. Assuming what I have dug up is true and I’m not making it up it’s not actionable. And assuming it wasn’t said in jest or as a joke. And so on.I once kept an account by pointing out to a customer how Bob Parsons objectified women. A church lady customer. Was an easy sell. “Do you really want to give him business?” They stayed.Back to criminal assault:…Assault can occur even if no one is actually physically harmed. Rather, assault occurs when someone threatens harm. This threat of harm must be intentional.Examples of assault include swinging a baseball bat at someone but not hitting them, waving your fist at someone without making contact, and pointing a gun, loaded or not, at someone, while they are aware that you are pointing a gun at them.There are some acts that may cause someone to feel threatened that do not constitute criminal assault. For example, telling someone that you plan on causing him or her harm at a later time is not assault. Neither is pointing a gun at someone who is not aware that a gun is being pointed at him or her.[1] “Assault” – not even this eitherhttp://legal-dictionary.the…

  96. Matt Kruza

    TheDisco: Bingo. drivers can open up a competitor network literally within 2 minutes of downloading an app. Consider with facebook you don’t even own your phots (I believe) and even if you do it would take 100’s of hours to import all photos.. all connections etc. All it take for car sharing is the user and the driver to download an app..eventually you could even see a “travelllocity” or “expedia” or “google” of car apps. Long-term I believe the sustainable take for the network layer is between 4-7%

  97. Matt Kruza

    Carl… like your article. Agree with the major point you are making.

  98. mike gilfillan

    Your posts are outstanding. I also liked the one about Sobriety. Thank you.(sorry about your Father-in-law – pulmonary fibrosis sucks).

  99. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I assume rhetorical – but upvote because you made me smile