Sarah was the primary target when Emil Michael and co-conspirator Kalanick decided to do oppo research and initiate their "politics of personal destruction" campaign against journalists.
The effort was funded to the tune of a million bucks.
We looked at those goings-on a few times:
...Or the time they tried to destroy the life and business of Sarah Lacy, founder and editor-in-chief of tech website Pando:
Speaking of tripping down memory lane, here's a January 2013 link to Sarah:
And here she is again.
This is my last story about Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
If you are a long time Pando reader-- since, say, 2012-- you know why that is a momentous statement for everyone here who has struggled to keep going emotionally and financially amid years of Travis Kalanick and his henchbro Emil Michael trying to destroy my family, my professional reputation, and of course Pando’s business.
I won’t rehash all that here. I’ve already written countless thousands of words about how I was targeted personally, what it says about the universal playbook bros use to bring “nasty women” down, and where their strategy went wrong. (If you’re arriving really late to the party, there’s a whole chapter explaining every horrible detail in my next book, but you’ll have to wait til November to read that.)
Instead, I want to focus on what this means for Uber going forward, particularly those who have a financial stake in the company, whether employees or investors. There has never before been a private company in Silicon Valley history valued so highly. Tens of billions of dollars in paper is stunned at the unraveling of Kalanick’s untouchable, do-no-wrong hero worship, wondering “Well, what the fuck now?”
Pando has a five year track record of saying what’s about to happen to Uber at least six months (sometimes much longer) before the rest of the press. Indeed, I said at the time of Josh Mohrer’s departure that something had changed. The A-team was no longer untouchable. I said when Emil Michael left that the investors had finally split Kalanick from Uber in their minds, and Bill Gurley was belatedly seizing the “responsible board member” mantle. And I said when the company announced tipping would be added into the app, he no longer had a grip on the product vision either.
So if you hold stock in Uber, here’s my take on your lot.
First off: The sooner you can acknowledge that this company is not worth anything like $70 billion, the better. By my math, Uber’s true value puts it as number four in the global market, behind Didi Chuxing, Waymo, and Tesla, who will become a future competitor should Uber make it to the autonomous future.
If I were Uber’s new CEO, I would embrace this reality. I would do a round that recaps the company immediately. Issue new stock to employees. Start at a clean and reasonable slate. Reset expectations and redefine what a successful IPO would be. Take the hit now, rather than having it continue to hang over this company until the end of time.
We know Uber is worth billions-- its existing business and stake in Didi alone are worth that. But let’s get a true north of what that number is, and where employees and the board work can try to grow it from from here.
Investors and employees have gotten only one clear unequivocal benefit from Kalanick’s departure: One of the big fears has been what will come out next. Brothel visits, more plots to smear rape victims, ugly oppo research gambits, any other technology stolen from competitors, that parade of skeletons that we all know are still in Uber’s closet waiting to come out… finally the board and the company have a credible answer to those future scandals. Because “I’m sorry” “I need to grow up” “It never happened” and more smear attempts of victims have not worked. Now they can say two simple words: Previous administration.
There will be a court of public opinion reset.
And that is valuable. That may help Uber hire again. That may stop the devastating body blow of scandals in the press. At least the calls for Kalanick’s ouster-- from even August publications like the Economist and the Financial Times-- are done. The news cycle will, for many, move on.
But that’s the only real clear win. The question is where Uber goes from here and it seems to me there are three paths:
Travis-lite. Look at the board: Arianna Huffington and Garrett Camp have continued to be Kalanick apologists, supporting him in lock step until the very end. Camp wrote a Medium post yesterday bemoaning how Uber’s toxic culture was simply the result of growing so fast and neglecting important things like… I dunno… treating people with dignity. Bullshit. This wasn’t neglect, Uber actively did bad things.
Creating a “Game of Thrones” culture isn’t essential for a rapidly growing company, nor is refusing to buy female engineers leather jackets, nor is threatening journalists. Many of these actions were not only morally wrong, but illegal. And not the good kind of “disruption!” illegal.
But while Camp’s Medium post was bullshit, it’s interesting that Kalanick’s long-silent partner seems to have sprung to life here. Camp has long been happy to have huge ownership and power over Uber, while taking none of the heat. He has tacitly endorsed every single thing Kalanick has done from the shadows. At one point, he didn’t even list being an Uber co-founder on his LinkedIn page. Given how many tangential, small angel investors sought to steal Uber’s glory during those days, that always struck me as strange. (It’s there now.)
We’ve long speculated our own version of Uber fan fiction in the Pando offices that Camp might be running the world’s longest game: That he would silently enable Kalanick until he self-immolated and then Camp would ride in and save the day. (Fun fact -- Paul is so entertained/delighted by that theory that he almost used an exaggerated, fictionalized version of it as a subplot in his upcoming novel.)
Now, Camp-as-evil-genius is too conspiracy theory even for me to believe. But where the votes of Camp and Huffington and Graves and Kalanick himself go will say a lot about what the next act of Uber is. Choosing anyone who has been an enabler of Kalanick becoming CEO will not represent a fresh start. And it will mean that Uber 2.0 is actually weaker than Kalanick’s Uber.
For all of Kalanick’s many-- MANY-- flaws, he had strengths. This isn’t an accident the company is valued at $70 billion. The problem is his flaws and strengths were indivisible. I’d submit there’s not more brilliant jerk than Kalanick if “brilliant jerk” is the route you are going. Putting in a Travis-lite means nothing changes in the culture, and you don’t have his strengths. The culture will never be reset, in fact it could become resentful and more bro-y. Uber will Yahoo/Groupon away into something that eventually has an exit in the billions, but low billions. It will be deemed a failure, even as it makes a lot of early insiders rich.
A “Marissa.” Last night, in the wake of the New York Times’ scoop, a lot of journalists were throwing out names of Valley folks who are free agents or would be lazy fantasy picks to take over Uber. The Marissa Mayers. The Sheryl Sandbergs.
Sandberg is not leaving Facebook, Kara Swisher has confirmed, and those types of Valley insiders aren’t right for Uber either. Uber is a different kind of company than the software-only Internet companies that the Valley has most often excelled at building. What has always troubled Uber is where that pugnacious “ya gotta break a few eggs!” mentality collided with the real world implications that people are physically getting in cars and hoping they will be safe.
There may be a few names here who could do some good. One I haven’t seen that could be interesting is Jeff Weiner, who might be a free agent, who ran a large public company, who delivered tons of value for shareholders, and took over successfully from another founder CEO, albeit one as different from Kalanick as it’s possible to be. He is also someone who has spoken at length about “compassionate management” and how managing as an asshole is “lazy.” If we are going this route, a Jeff Weiner could be interesting.
But overall this route is a bad one. Kalanick was the cultural fusion of the last twenty years of Valley culture run amok. Let’s go in a different direction….MUCH MORE