I’m a big Uber user and fan, partly because it works rwell, and also partly because the company defies regulators, starting up in many cities without asking permission and then mobilizing their happy (and typically elite) customer base when the taxi cartels try to use the power of government to stifle this innovative competition. The left hates Uber, precisely because it is impossible to unionize and regulate in the customary way.
On the other hand, Uber appears to embody everything that is wrong with Silicon Valley. The stories of rampant drug use, sexism, and a “frat boy” culture at the office typify the Silicon Valley culture that thinks the rules don’t apply to them, while proclaiming their liberal virtue. The story out today about the “temporary” sidelining of founder/CEO Travis Kalanick includes this wonderful episode from yesterday’s company-wide meeting, as reported this morning in the Wall Street Journal:
The private-equity billionaire [David Bonderman] appeared to try to offer light humor when he interrupted fellow Uber director and media magnate Arianna Huffington, who in her remarks announced to applause the company’s recent appointment of a second female board member, Wan Ling Martello.
“There’s a lot of data,” Ms. Huffington said, “that shows when there’s one woman on the board it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board.”
“Actually,” Mr. Bonderman said, “what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”
Bonderman was forced to resign from the board within hours. Okay, totally dumb joke. Did Bonderman think it’s 1962 or that he’s on the set of Man Men? In any case, it is clear that there will be no ubermensches tolerated at Uber.
But pause for a moment and ask yourself: Why is Arianna Huffington on the board of Uber? She has no expertise in tech (Andrew Breitbart was the actual brains behind the Huffington Post) or transportation. Mary Barra of GM would be a more suitable board member for Uber. Why not Elaine Chao (before she went back into the current administration)? Huffington is on the board for the simple reason that she’s a trendy liberal; it’s a form of Silicon Valley virtue signaling.
Uber, still a private company, currently has a notional value north of $70 billion, but it lost $2.8 billion last year, and may not make it. It could end up as MySpace to Lyft’s Facebook.