Hey everybody, welcome to dead cat. This is Eric newcomer and I'm here with Tom Bhutan. We've got a very exciting guest, Emile Michael, the former Chief Business Officer at Uber and the right hand man to Travis Kalanick is joining us. Mele was Ubers chief deal maker, he was instrumental in the company's battle in China. And Amelia had his hand in almost every part of doober, from 2013 to 2017. helped it raise those billions and billions of dollars.
Certainly, it's like on the back of your baseball card, you know, career stats raise 15 controversial figure, I think we can say portrayed is sort of a shady character on the TV series super pumped, though, as you'll soon hear, and probably have already picked up. Neil is much more chatty extrovert than I think the character in his show. We're going to talk about the Uber files, latest sort of investigative journalism into Travis Kalanick. Era, Uber, spearheaded by the Guardian, and we'll talk a little bit about super pumped. But you know, I think there's so much like, sort of the real world Uber to talk about. Emile is a critic of both how the media has covered Uber over the years, and somewhat, I think, are definitely a critic of the current CEO, Dara khosrowshahi. So we'll talk about that. Tom and I have both spent so much time covering Uber, you know, me earlier in him later. And so this is this is a dream, you know, to talk to you sort of on the record. Thanks. Thanks for joining us here. In a way the podcast was always headed towards this moment.
Yeah, okay, controversial, we'll come back to
I just want to know, like, what is like, the heyday of Uber to you? Or like, you know, everybody listening, this podcast knows, Uber and sort of, like, you know, the magic of it at the time, but just like, did you like raising all the money? The China thing? Or like, what was to you? Like, what made like Uber so fun? Or like, what was like the good? What were the good old days of Uber?
You know, I joined in 2013. And that was before, Uber had raised the money from from Google so so before that, Ubers market cap was like $300 million. Right. And this was, it was still a small company, 200 people three, you know, three to five cities. 14, was when sort of the whole thing accelerated like almost vertically, we joke that it was almost vertical that was bending back
was growing. And that is when we raise from the third of the $17 billion round, which shook sort of fundraising for the first time right at that time, two companies had raised these Deck, the unicorn round, Airbnb and Dropbox have both been done a $10 billion round. And when we were raising money, we used to call them comp a and comp D. And we said, like, look how much better our businesses that comp and coffee, we raised that 17 billion around, we launched in China, we launched in Russia, through going through the 2015, we launched UberEATS, we did successive rounds that went from 17 billion to 40, to 50, to 72, all between 2000, June and 14, and June of 16. So that 24 months was an insane amount of growth, progress, evaluation increase with that at the end of the 60s or August of 16. We sold the business in China to China, which at the time that we went from, we spent 2 billion in China turned into what was worth 10 billion at the time. So those those were the good days. And to give you credit for it here, like where it's do the fundraising and aggressive, you know, valuations structure and strategy that's you're working right? I mean, that will really was something that you devised and led and kind of made your signature almost throughout your time at the company, right? That was the thing I was most known for, and spent the most time on. And Travis and I sort of agreed on what we thought is sort of Norbit purist approach to this. You guys have been around fundraising for startups for a lot of your careers. We did this thing that was actually characterized in the in the show a little bit called the Home Show, right? And what that meant really, besides being the fact that it was at our office, was we'd never asked for a price. We never said, here's the valuation we want, like a lot of companies do. We said here's the data
We're going to do three meetings a day for 10 business days. So we're going to meet 30. Investors, right. And you are going to these investors, if you're interested, you put a bid in of how much you want to spend, invest and at what valuation. And we decided, the only thing we decided is we want to raise a billion dollars or 1.5 billion. And we put a spreadsheet together and whoever bid above the price, which yielded the amount of money we raised, that was it, we close the deal.
Even if you like somebody, you didn't help people come to the right price ever.
We've, the whole idea of this was to have it be market based. And if you start doing this, well, this is a price we want. You get into a negotiation, and everyone feels bad at the end, because you feel like you left money on the table. They feel like they overpaid. So this was sort of a purist auction, kind of thing you could imagine for a private company.
Just what we're talking about pricing views is fascinating, like the Saudi route, this 6972 Whatever pre post money, like Did they overpay did you think they overpaid and with with what we know now do they overpay because that question matters so much for evaluating Dora's leadership. Right? If you peg that price is fair. He looks really bad. If it was like an insane price to pay. He could look better. I mean, would Yeah. Is that a fair price to benchmark him against? Was it a reasonable price?
Well, I mean, Tiger global pay that price. Capital recently. I know. You know, I'm telling you sort of the short pay that price, right? I think Mark stat and Dragon near pay that price, like all the sophisticated Capital Research paid that price. BlackRock played that price, like everyone that was one big round. That was the biggest round ever done five and a half billion dollars, three and a half, which which Saudis and Saudis didn't price that the the sophisticated, late stage, financial guys priced it. Saudis joined it, there was sort of a follow on based on where we were growing. And that round was done in 16. That was a valid price. I think that price today had we had we continue to we could debate this more if you want, I think the company would have been worth two 300 billion today. And that would have been a great price to pay. Right?
And before we get to, you know where, you know, Uber is today and the Uber files and all this stuff, we want to get into this episode, you know, as we're in kind of the positive reminiscing of things. I mean, that's you is what you remember the most fondly of your time, you know, at the top of Uber is kind of the rocket ship fundraising experience being part of this once at the time thought of like once in a generation company and sort of accelerating its growth through fueling, it's fundraising, all that stuff. I mean, is there anything else you kind of hang on
to? Yeah, so So the notion that America and American tech company could do business in China was incredible. At the time, I don't know if you remember it, it was a lot of optimism in US China relations, and 2016. Zuckerberg was going there trying to convince President G to get Facebook launched, he was learning Mandarin. He was learning Mandarin and LinkedIn had launched a subsidiary out there, Airbnb launched a subsidiary out there we work, all the companies were trying to get in. And Uber was the most successful of that crowd. And it was really exciting to be there at the time for that. So that was really mind blowing experience as well.
And I mean, working with Travis, I mean, describe that, because I feel like the show. I mean, a lot of people know, even sort of people are extremely critical of Travis, say, Oh, the Travis and super pumped doesn't really reflect any of his virtues, like you worked so closely with him. I mean, what what was that working relationship like? And what, what's he like? Like, what sort of that? What's that style?
I think he's one of the best entrepreneurs of this generation, and what his superpower was, and is, was thinking globally from day one. And he was a why not versus why, like, why not try China? And we're like, Well, Facebook failed Google fail. He's that but but why are we going to fail there? And you didn't have a good answer. And he was right. And And here's an example of it. If you're a mayor in a big Chinese city, and you had DD there, you didn't want a monopoly on ride sharing. You want a competition, so we would go there and the mayor was like, Can we please keep you here in China in Chengdu, so we had this thing and he was right that we were just there. And we weren't a digital business and we didn't have the same sort of overhang on censorship and all that that some of the social media said but we were on the ground business. And he was right about that. So he was just incredibly ambitious. He was never a chest beating ape like the show made it sound to be he actually hate when we sat in the office was the quietest part of the office because he didn't like noise. We're gonna like people yelling, so sort of really weird carry Drew's ation of him. But he's also he's not Brian Chesky wasn't the soft and fun.
But then this gives us well into the Uber files stuff, because I mean, I feel like the why not? Attitude, right is sort of the explanation for some of it you've, you've referred to the early days mentality is almost like pirates. No. And obviously, there was sort of an express decision on the part of legal top rate and sort of gray areas following the experience with Lyft and others launching peer to peer ride sharing in serum San Francisco. So that that's sort of an organizing principle to me. I mean, Tom, do you want to sort of frame up the Uber files real quickly?
Yeah, sure. The Uber files, which came out a couple of weeks ago, are this massive trove of documents. 125,000, if you are into numbers that were released by a whistleblower to the UK Guardian, and the ICI J, and a bunch of newspapers around the world, not me, that detailed, essentially Ubers expansion into Europe, the whistleblower turned out to be this guy, Mark McGann. But basically, the bulk of these files are internal communications between high level Uber execs, including Travis that explained Ubers policy strategy in I mean, I would argue kind of brute forcing its way onto the continent. And these files began a series of articles. Essentially, if I boil them down, the big reveals here, were Uber used this tool, like grey ball, which essentially dupes regulators. There's this kill switch, which wipes computers inside, which I'd reported, you knew you're gonna jump in with that a lot of the Uber files have been report, we can talk about that. But but so there's the kill switch. You know, there's also very aggressive lobbying of officials in Europe like Macron in France, which was kind of funny to me. British officials, there is some pretty kind of arrogant emails about Biden,
I think the lobbying is like Uber as good as job right.
Just one last thing to kind of frame it up for people who haven't read all of these articles, too many articles, by the way, is that, you know, these stories came out a couple weeks ago, I don't think they made the hugest splash. The outcome is sort of unclear. There is some talk of maybe an inquiry of Macron and the French government, you know, there's a bit of blowback in London based on the way they forced their way in there. But that's sort of been it but the whole episode kind of exhumed the messiest time, maybe if aren't, Eric would argue the funnest time of covering Uber.
Right now we get to talk about that era of Uber now that Emile's got enough distance that he's willing to be open about it. He's not paranoid that it just happened. So it's an excuse for us to re litigate the old days, which meals just smiling. I'm ready to know it. He's his reaction. All right,
well, and I know you'll smile the biggest at this part of it and meal because the last thing I'll say is that Uber's response to almost all of this stuff has been like Kanye from A to wait and heartbreaks. Like, I know I did some things, but that was the old me. So that's it. That's the Uber files. I know. Emile, you have a lot to say about it here. And I set it up a lot here. But what's, what are you thinking? What's your mind? Actually, as you know, the articles first come out, and you know, they end up being all about your time at the company.
You know, the ICI je, I think is an was an incredible organization. Right? The things they did with the Panama Papers like Amis truly revolutionary groundbreaking stuff. I was surprised they took this on five years after it and it really, if you end up with the opposition party in France, saying hey McCrone you should not be talking to CEOs of companies that are trying to do business in France. And that's it. You know, that's the backdrop. That's what they did with 80 journalists and all these events are hundreds of 1000s of documents. I just, it would seem to unimpressive. Now, I'm biased on that. But you know, the example of Travis saying about the Biden thing like Oh, every minute he doesn't spend with you know, he's late husband me. I guess humor is lost weight
watch. Sorry, say it again. There was this comment that oh, yeah, that felt like a classic Travis where he's like, he's gonna get less time with me of like, he's Yeah. Were you always a joke? Or do you think it was? It was a joke? Yes. Okay.
I was with Travis than I was with Travis as he walked into the Biden meeting. But
it's a joke, as in, it's funny to people to think of Travis having so much swagger that he would say that somewhat sincerely or like that, is that the type of joke or it's a joke that reflects a level of I'm really important, too, you know, or he doesn't think or Yeah, explain the joke.
Explain the joke.
It's a joke that, that we were characterized as these arrogant bros, right? So hey, every time he doesn't get, you know, he's late. He doesn't get spent a minute with me, right? It was that kind of thing. And then Gus, by the way, just for fact, to add to add to the fact he sat with Biden, I was there and then Biden is like, wow, this was fun. You should stay for this meeting I'm having with the chancellor of Solon and Travis like awesome. I can stay with you and they hung out for like two hours and did foreign policy meetings. This wasn't it wasn't like Trump's like on Adding here, buddy, right you know you've lost your time with me. It was a it was a fun thing, which is such
a classic media thing that everything comes across so humorless. If it's like part of a headline story,
I'll add to it though that one of the things that really struck me about the files themselves as it relates to the politicians is it spoke so much to the era of how much a lot of political leaders wanted to be cozy with tech. And it seems we're the pendulum has swung maybe not the full direction the other way. But during the Obama era, specifically, and I guess this is also touching a little bit of Trump there was a real connection between politicians and tech seeing it as this upstart, innovative, socially progressive industry that they wanted to be attached to one because there was a lot of money but also was like, Okay, I don't it's bad to cozy up to Wall Street. But these tech guys and you know, San Francisco and Silicon Valley bad I can do that makes me look cool. Let's all go work there after after Obama has done and I think you could kind of see a little bit of that with, you know, Macron maybe and to a lesser extent Biden, but it just seemed generally there was like a warmth between politicians and tech that in retrospect seems a bit misguided,
or you could you misguided is your word in your opinion, but I would say like when when Obama went down to Cuba to open up, he took Brian Chesky with them, you know, he took when McCrone was finance minister, his whole platform was we need more tech companies to be doing business in France and to hire our own people. So that they can get experience in it. Zavier Neo, all the big French industrialists who really wanted tech companies to establish in France, especially if they were on the ground tech companies, not digital when they took all the money out because remember, for Uber, 80% of money went to drivers who were local, the employees were local, and they were paid salaries there so we weren't more extractive like the last set of tech companies. And politicians absolutely want to know, US and other tech companies, that was nothing new. So when they say aggressive lobbying? I don't know. I mean, does. Does President Biden meet with Foreign CEOs when they come to the US? Of course he does. So this thing wasn't, none of it was illegal. Nothing in the ICJ said any this was wrong. They said it was aggressive, right. And it was aggressive. We were growing aggressively. So what's wrong with that?
The lobbying, it's not like, oh, they were promising him a job or so it makes sense. Uber was a high stakes sort of policy issue that politicians were campaigning on and against. And so it made sense that you would go to the top, you know, the most powerful person you could to get them to weigh in on an issue. Yeah, that one doesn't resonate with me.
Well, but the fact is also that Uber did end up please correct me if I'm wrong here, because I'm not the expert on this area that you guys are But Uber ends up going into a lot of these countries fairly on, you know, with not a ton of huge pushback that stops him from doing more or less what they wanted to do, right, they were kind of untrammeled entering into these places and ends up getting into, you know, a lot of Spats with taxi unions in the country. And there is, you know, one of the revelations in the Uber files is traversing pretty blithely if there's violence in France, you know, between the Uber drivers and the taxi union, that's good for us, because, you know, violence puts the union in a bad light. I mean, those sorts of things seem like Uber wasn't contravenes with policy with regulation. And with, you know, the local taxi unions that I think a lot of people find pretty unsavory.
I mean, let's take a minute and talk about taxi organizations all over the world. These are government created monopolies, where the taxi medallion owners and most big cities around the world are cozy with politicians. They protected the number of medallions so there was no competition. The taxi drivers themselves, were essentially paid like indentured servants. They took people right off the immigration lines, and they said, you're going to rent this taxi for $800 a week. And you don't make a single dollar until your fares exceed that. We're not going to drop you off in Harlem, we're not going to pick up black people. I mean, this was a corrupt, nasty industry in almost every city in the world. So it is absolutely true. That to go in and get your business model to be accepted. You couldn't ask like, Hey, can I we're allowed to do ride sharing here, guys, like maybe, you know, you had to really show consumers and drivers a better path. And there's a reason why by ignoring regulation, or there was a vacuum and a lot of places there was just no regulation. Right. And some of the regulations were anti consumer in Miami, for example, you could not price a ride for less than $50 If you weren't in taxi, couldn't do it. How's that pro consumer? So yes, if that if we broke that regulation, who's benefiting and who's losing there? I want to answer Tom's thing because regular Uber is breaking regulations breaking regularly so Breger so Airbnb was breaking regularly. Asians, the taxi union, the taxi medallions themselves were antitrust, they were violating antitrust laws, you know, in many states in the US the state consume news municipality for antitrust behavior, and they weren't enforcing that against their own taxi operations in the cities. So there was this, this industry was ugly, dark, it was really dirty. And you had to do something, if you were on a ride share do to exist. And by the way, two thirds of the world now has ride sharing. And what would the world be like if no one ever tried to break the taxi? And I trust monopoly?
And it is a fair criticism that a lot of these Uber haters take Ubers? Like, like some people try to roll their eyes? It's like, No, you believe that the service is so essential that it was worth like fighting for I don't know that not to be to, you know. Yeah, I agree with Uber people on that. Yeah, it's
just so you can have your view is that no business should should break an unfair regulation in order to give consumers a taste of what it would be like to have a service that met their needs. That's an argument one can make. And then but you have to make the same thing with Airbnb and lots of other businesses that do that. On the on the kill switch thing that you wrote about Eric, almost all tech companies do this in foreign countries. And the reason why is that if they're connected to the main database of the company, they don't want any one government raid to sort of expose all the company's data, including their user data, which they get fined for NAFTA, disclose the FTC. So they have a shutdown. That's separate from a subpoena if you got a subpoena Uber or any company and said we want these documents, they're entitled to them. And no one's ever accused Uber of not providing documents that any law enforcement agency asked for and that's why what Eric says is there was no consequences because there was nothing illegal about shutting down computers if there's not a warrant that says I need this that or the other
well let's not talk about shutting down computers Oh right. This is wiping up hard drives. I mean, this is like
oh there wasn't but the no one accused him even Jill has a bigger statement saying we're not and nothing was ever white. Okay, read the stuff they're locking locking down super than why what why because it told
that's slightly different than what companies do like in China say where I think a kill switch had been fairly you know, de facto for a lot of companies and that to me, I could be wrong here if I animal cut it. I mean, that is wiping of drives to prevent the government from
doing what why begin to drive it's a whole different ballgame since destruction of evidence would you see illegal or anywhere? Right, but Okay, okay. But But shutting down so that you have a proper warrant? And you're giving them exactly what they asked for is not illegal. I do think one of the bad things we did Uber was naming things terribly. That the kill switch
real contrition there. Yeah.
Okay. And I guess you would probably include within that gray ball, though. I don't what is that even in reference?
Hell was one of them. Yeah, war room, how great. I like these things were meant to be provocative, but they took on a life, you guys
leaned into the pirates motif? For sure. But since we're on the regulation side of things, I mean, looking back on this now everything that was explored in the Uber files and stuff that Mike Isaac wrote about with gray ball. And Eric, we already talked about the kill switch, you think it was all justified, you think there was no other way that Uber could have approached any of these countries entered a way that was maybe more in accordance with regulation, wouldn't have seen as you know, a well funded tech American tech company barging into these places, appending things and sort of letting the pieces fall where they may you don't think it could have gotten done any differently?
I mean, I think in any one instance, it probably could have been done differently, but you didn't know ahead of time, what the resistance was and what it wasn't. And sometimes that pen, depending on who was in charge, what was the enforcement. So you had to take bets on what it was going to be like, and, you know, we were kicked out of Germany, South Korea, there's some countries that like were effective in resisting Uber. Or you all you could say, Tom, is that, like, we could have gone slower? And I think we just would have been in less places.
Well, okay, slower in that case, sort of sounds obviously bad as an investment. You know, it sounds like it's maybe not as Pro consumer or though maybe we can get into that, but it's also you know, government and, you know, people deciding to have input on the way business is conducted in their country is, is just fundamentally slower than a business. I mean, that's just the way large masses of
people work. Yeah, so so if you want to do get pre regulated, Uber wouldn't exist today. I mean, it just it's you can't have it both ways. Like you had you had monopolies controlling the transportation systems donating to politicians protecting their hide,
when you say monopolies or you mean unions, right? You mean a taxi union medallion system, the Medallia
Okay, and they were never gone. working toward a lead, no matter how slow no matter how long have you how much love you did, unless you showed consumers something else that was better. And once you did that consumers told their politicians, we want that. And that was a deliberate strategy. So there was no other way to break that monopoly.
There's so many criticisms of Uber some some more substantive, some less like, I feel like a challenge with discussing all this has become such like a laundry list. And I think we would all probably agree that the public's sort of like, the things they hate Uber for the most are not necessarily like, to me the best reasons at least, to object to Uber, the most viral thing that happened was like delete Uber, which had to do with like the tide of Trump, it was like, super, super incoherent. You've said on other interviews that Uber had some, like, you know, grew too fast and have good corporate culture. But there's certainly a degree to which the lens was on Uber, in a way that it wasn't on other companies. And if Oracle or somebody sustained the level of like, I don't know, corporate culture investigation, I would suspect that it would have had troubling stories, too, then there's sort of this sort of gray area of regulation, sort of fighting with governments area. I mean, I think how the drivers are treated to me is like the clearest like real sort of moral issue at play. Some people would say, like, the independent contractor like system is just like unredeemable, I don't I wouldn't say that. The like, the leasing program was something that I wrote about back in the early days, where you got, there were cases where, you know, drivers, and this is sort of illustrated in the driver video, where drivers get sort of like, hooked, or they're making money on Uber, they want to make it their career, they might lease a vehicle, and then they're sort of basically you're offloading the capital to the drivers. And then, you know, they're, they're sort of the ones taking the risk without necessarily knowing where Ubers business is going to go. I mean, do you think Uber has been good for drivers? And do you? Do you agree that that's sort of the area where I sort of like the moral sort of criticism is, is the most significant?
You know, it's a hard thing. And I'll give you a, I think the history of this is important, right? Uber started with black cars, the black car driver who loved Uber, at the time was one who had a two hour job in the morning, a three hour job at night, and they're like, holy cow in the middle, I can make additional money. And this was great. And I could do the short trips, and so on. And the prices were high, it was geared toward the black car customer, right? And then Uber started to say, like, these drivers started saying, Well, hey, why don't I just do this full time I have full control of my schedule, I can make more money, and so on. And that whole thing kind of worked. And drivers were relatively happy, we really when you got to Uber X, that you started to, to have hard decisions to make, because you had a black car driver, who was doing this for a living, right? And then you had an alternative that was half the price. And they'd say, this black car driver say, Well, hold on, my customers are now going to do this other Uber X thing, and I'm going to lose them and they're, they're half price. So you started to say like, Okay, we had different price points for different products. It one was cannibalizing the other. So is that. So what is the the ethics or the morality of that? I don't know. It's a hard question. Because, you know, it was a better product that had more applicability. And some people decided, I'd rather pay half the price and be in a less nice car. Right? That was that was one stage, the second stage where it was you had these bonuses, come drive for Uber, you get 50 rides, you get a $500 bonus, or whatever. And people, if they came to think that that was going to go on forever, they felt really let down when that didn't last forever. But a lot of businesses do that. And you get a free month of Spotify, you get a free this to entice you to try it. But that deal doesn't last forever. I think the hard part here is if you quit your job to join Uber or you leased a car to join Uber with an expectation that you were going to make this much money over time. You felt that and there was there is something there. And
Uber to be clear, you know, I remember is 2013 or 2014, Uber was actively putting out stats that were just unrealistic about the amount of money that a driver can make on the platform. I remember there were stories saying that drivers in DC or some city were making $90,000 a year in New York is New York. Yeah. Bullshit, right? I mean, how many drivers were ever making that much money in a way that could be justifiably promoted to people, as you know, an income you can make on this platform? Yeah, I think
that that particular instance of Uber got fined for for that piece, but that was, you know, for advertising. That was 90,000. When it wasn't the average like yes, there was definitely drivers who made more than 90,000 but it wasn't the average and So gave an impression that wasn't great. And
Uber definitely did a lot of like, hiding the ball on how much drivers were like full time versus part time. And the messaging would be very aggressive about the part time drivers when there were certainly people were making their career.
But what to go back to what changed, what's changed. And this is even before Dora's regime took over, is the driver base turned into 80 90%, part time, 10 hours a week or less, because of food, or
no, it just burned through
just people just didn't want to do it for a living, they had other things that they would do that were more full time. But for whatever reason, as it turned into more of a, Hey, I didn't want to take my girlfriend out to dinner this Friday, I need to drive and make some money, I want to buy Christmas gifts. So it turned into a gap filler as opposed to a profession. And that's where it gets weird again, because then you're like, Okay, these people actually, you've seen the service, they don't want to be employees, they want to be, they want to do this for a little bit, they want to do DoorDash, they want to not work for three weeks. And so now it's ironic that we're trying to give him some people are trying like giving employment benefits to people who don't want them because they're actually doing it so little time of their week that it doesn't make sense. It actually made more sense when the black car drivers were doing it full time, then they, they were kind of closer to being employees, because of the amount of time and the Reliance they had on the system. So so that's why there was different eras of how Uber treated drivers. And what were the mistakes in each era.
It's it's difficult, I think, for drivers, because the sense I get from talking to them is that, you know, the union is so it's such a complicated concept. For a lot of them, it doesn't really apply and the way unions are structured now, because so many of them are part time because they drop in and out. And yet what they really want is Reliability of Income. And I actually disagree with you, I do think they want some sort of benefits. I think the system as its, you know, the broader US healthcare system and other kinds of insurance systems are set up so poorly now that they just look towards some sort of company to providing for them. And you know, what exists now with Prop 22 is not very satisfying to a lot of people. But yeah, I actually don't think they don't want benefits, I do think they want something, they want some sort of security. And Uber kind of sort of provides that, but not in a way that's reliable. And I think the proof in the pudding is that there is such high turnover, right that no driver sticks on the platform for more than a couple of months. I mean, Uber is just churning constantly through through a driver base, and it's never gotten better.
I think this is necessarily a job function that is a temporary filler. And it's become that way. Now you can say, Uber made it that way, or it's become that way. Regardless, it is that way. I do think someone driving 40 hours a week has to be thought of differently than someone who's doing it eight hours a week, and then doing DoorDash and then going to school and you know, have a their income spread over a lot of different places. And yeah, there has to be some way. And that's why frankly, I think Obamacare is a good go broads change from the health care regime in the US before that. And so yes, could it could you conceptually say that this person is making 10% of their income from Uber, they should contribute 10% toward the benefits that they would get? If they're a full time employee. Yeah, there's some there's something like that there. That probably makes sense. That's fair. But what else? What else? There's no perfect system here. Yeah. You know, take a Lyft ride, you take an Uber ride, you do DoorDash you do. You know you do your home on Airbnb, it's like people are just amalgamating a lot of different income streams. And how do you deal with that? That's a that's a national problem. That's not just an Uber problem.
Yeah, actually, before we move fully off of the Uber files, I do want to get to the response that Uber the company had to it. People can't see it until we released a video of it Emil is shaking his head and rolling his eyes. I mean, like I said in my intro of it, basically Uber says that isn't us anymore. That was that regime. They love throwing Travis and you and that whole era under the bus as a response to any sort of reminder of what you guys were doing. What do you think?
I mean, what a gaslighting, like I was stunned. They said, You know, don't judge us by what we did five years ago, justice we but we did in the last five years. In the last five years, Hoover stock prices dropped in half. They've been sued by the DOJ for overcharging disabled people that 20,000 civil rights law, you know, disputes with, with with people, they just have 500 Women sue them for sexual assault. I mean, come on, like the financial performance has been terrible. There's been 90% attrition, you know, all the DOJ has done things because this is a hard business. So give me a break. Number two, Insanity is a lot of the people who are doing these things in Europe with kill switches and McCrone are still They're the Nelly crew, Nelly crows. That wasn't like a Travis eight. Let's create an advisory board with all these European politicians. That was the policy team. And the person who wrote that document was on the team running the advisory board that got Nellie crows there. So it's sort of like are you kidding me? And Pierre Dimitra was his quote was like a hostage statement like
Pierre Demetrius, the head of Uber Eats right now. So he's, you know,
who is a, you know, someone who crosses both both areas.
And he's like, I'm sorry, I was just a young I was young and immature. And that was right. I was being led by unethical people. You're like, this guy was a Goldman Sachs banker, a hedge fund guy in his 30s had never apologized for since then. And all sudden now it's the battle guys from seven years ago, who made this poor young Goldman Sachs hedge fund manager do things they didn't want to do, like, Give me a break?
Well, there is an argument that strategically, the thing that Travis was so bad at was contrition, or apologizing whichever way you want to put it. And Daraa is obviously a professional at this point. Apologize.
I mean, the Khashoggi incident suggests otherwise. That was a that was a pretty bad one. But But sure, yes. Wait, Dora. What? Yeah, don't you remember after doober took money from the Saudis? Daraa has this interview with CEOs and they bring up like, how do you feel about taking money from the Saudis when they dismembered James Khashoggi and they're just like, you know, we all make mistakes. Which, you know, they had to apologize for that. But But yeah, why wasn't
Travis able to like, show you agree with that criticism, right? I mean, I know he's your friend. But like, he's not very good at apologize.
I mean, he pauses a lot in 2017. But I think he has an eye. But I think that I actually, I do think with some, in some hindsight, that it's okay to say we did things wrong. And here's how we're going to do them better. And to be accountable for for doing things better, and we just didn't, I will say, like, you imagine being in the most important company in the world for some period of time, that was growing faster than any other company had ever grown. The problems you're seeing are coming nonstop, because you have a real on the ground business. I mean, transportation is no joke people, people die in accidents. I mean, it is a real world thing. And it's in big cities every day. And every we used to say that everything that happens in a city happens in Uber, and it's true. So the flood of what was happening was really intense. And no one had ever done it before. There was no playbook. So, yeah, we made mistakes, and probably should have said more, but not the mistakes that I think people talk about as much as they should.
Well, what are those mistakes? What are those mistakes? Do you think? I
think I've talked about this before, the one thing I wish I'd done differently and I'll take responsibility for this is the revenue was growing like this right? 989 degrees, and the company building was growing at like 50 degree 45 degrees. And that that's that causes a dissonance. You're not building guardrails and HR, legal finance, that keep a company stable.
Okay, I've heard you say this, this is what I want to push back. Like, yeah, a lot of the key to Uber. I mean, you and Travis especially, we're good at really drilling down, like some of the most flattering things people say about Travis is when he has your attention, and he's like jamming with you and sort of saying, let's solve this. And, you know, I, we can't go through every one of these controversies and prove the Travis knew what but there's definitely a sense that Travis was definitely enthusiastic about creative solutions around whether it's like geofencing, with Apple or, you know, these technologies, Travis was aware of them, like it was sort of part of his sort of ingenuity, right. I mean, so wasn't just like, to me, the the things that you guys were criticized for, besides maybe the Susan Fowler category, were sort of ideas where it wasn't, it wasn't a bureaucracy problem, it was a sort of judgment question.
Well, I was I was I was talking about taking charge of the salary situations, you need to have a system that deals with bad behavior inside a company and most companies in the last five years have realized like their systems have been inadequate. Right. And so that was one thing I wish we'd done better on the financial discipline thing, like the leasing cars out to drivers, it was kind of an experiment. And it didn't work, you know, and so you had to, you know, should we have done more study and more pilots beforehand? Sure. When you talk about things like the geofencing Yeah, those were pure mistakes. But the whole Tim Cook series thing was just this is where I get to my criticism media was just out of control false
you're saying the meeting as depicted in Mike Isaac's big New York Times story with Tim Cook and Travis didn't happen as it was like he Travis met with Tim Cook, but but not in the way that is described in the story. Yeah,
I remember arguing through Jill with Mike I said Mike, the only four people in the room.
This is Jill Hazelbaker, the Head of Communications. The
only four people in the room were me, Travis, Tim Cook, and Eddy Cue, only four of us. Me and Travis are telling you that this never happens. Tim Cook didn't chastise us. He didn't we never discussed the geofencing. It never happened. And I call that and I was like, Edie, can you guys tell? Also, please tell them he's like, we don't comment on anything ever. So I was like, okay, so great. We're having an article written, where the four people in the room, none of them. Two of them are saying it never happened to them or not commenting, and yet, you're gonna write a whole article about it. That turns into a whole episode on a show. It was it was sort of otherworldly. I was like, I don't know how to combat though.
So what So what's it happened then? What's the accurate as you see a representation of that meeting?
Yeah. So there was the meeting with Eddie Q and Phil Schiller about the geofencing stuff happens. But it wasn't Tim Cook. It was and it was us. Hatton hand, coming down to Cupertino saying, here's exactly what happened and why we did it. We're wrong. We'll never do it again. And it was really about fraud. We're losing $10 million a week because of what was happening with the wiping of iPhones and stolen credit cards. And then we would love to work with you on fixing this problem. When for the next two years, we work with Apple and actually solving a fraud problem that that we have in worldwide on that Tim Cook had nothing to do that. When we went to Tim Cook, we were talking about driverless cars, should we build maps together, we would be the first customer to use Apple Pay was a totally different but he was insulated from that. So just you know, the Tim Cook part of it never happens. I don't know. I don't know what to tell you.
I mean, we were talking about Jill and and obviously I want to talk about you know, Bill Gurley to the funny thing about all this is I sort of enjoy all of your company. But yet you guys all I mean, I wouldn't say, you know, there's a lot of resentment all around.
I mean, isn't there this is Bill Gurley, you know, the benchmark partner.
This is why can't you guys don't get along. You're all you know. I mean, isn't there? I mean, you and Travis had sort of a, there was a moral crusade. And then we believe Uber, we don't believe in this sort of the government regulation. But then I do think there was a certain, like, aim a morality and sort of like, the regulatory, you know, sort of like They're gray zones we can operate. We're making deals like people can make deals with us or not, like, isn't there the same sort of like, if they decide they think you guys have pushed it too far, it's hurting their reputation, they're gonna make less money, like, they can like, try and push push you out? What do you think Gurley and crew did that was so wrong? And like, try, like the strategy makes sense to me that if you're going to push out like you guys got absolute control for Travis as part of the Saudi deal. So then it became very hard for them to replace the CEO, which maybe girlie should have never agreed to, but like it was a very high valuation and very good terms. And then so the only way to really push Travis out was a total like surprise attack full on war. Don't you as a tactician agree that their strategy, there was no nice way to do it? Like they did it the only way if you want to get rid of Travis that's the only way to do it.
Well, God, so many thoughts, so that the benchmark attack was premeditated. And the show the Holder Report was a vehicle for that premeditation. They knew ahead of time that their goal was to get Travis out girlie said that said so. So
I'm sorry to cut you off here. But the whole the report was basically commissioned internally by the company to suss out the culture problems within Uber. It was authored by Eric Holder, the former Attorney General
and Travis signed on to that Yeah, isn't there a public reporting that Rachel Whetstone like said it was a bad idea and Travis still did it like he created some of the vehicle for his own demise there? Yeah.
Right. And well, and also the conclusion of the report was also that you specifically should be fired Yep.
So okay, let me finish
this is for the audience. Just so people know what we're talking about say hold the report is
the climax What do you think All right,
so the whole report was not starting to do culture investigation was started to investigate the Susan Fowler situation girlie had it expanded to include culture, okay. And because he knew that was an Achilles heel, and there were a lot of people can say, whatever the whole report was, was basically like, let's talk to a bunch of people get the get their complaints, and then we're gonna decide what we want to do with the company. No one had a chance to cross examine no one ever heard what someone said about them that they did or didn't do wrong. So it was just, it was just a vehicle for for that usage, and had really, honestly ahead of time said I think Travis should go raise it in a board meeting. Right. And there were other board members there. Forget the dual class, whatever that only comes into play. Eric, when there's a vote, right? You could say hey, I think this company is doing poorly we need to remove the CEO. After the Holder Report, the board unanimously agreed to let Travis take a leave of absence, right?
Right. I think I broke the the leave of absence by like a second
fun being animus agreement Travis his mom died benchmark went sent to people not girlie didn't have the guts to go himself sent him the Chicago with two letters one a smear letter saying if you don't quit now we're going to we're going to literally sell this information on you that looks like a smear or quit now and by the way you have no lawyer there's no lawyer there's no time your mom just died you just agreed to take a leave of absence that the board agreed upon the whole board with you girly Why didn't you say right then that you were going to you were oppose this leave of absence? You wanted him fired? So as deception on deception along the way,
okay, when did you your When did you first have an inkling the benchmark wanted to replace Travis to see you
probably too late, I would say April of 17, May of 17.
So how far in advance of the of the letter is that?
Maybe a month? Oh, wow.
I mean, they've been plotting it for a while at that. Yeah.
We just we thought it was a little more honest. Because we had a subcommittee of the board that was Ariana, Bonderman girly who were managing the holder thing. And they're like, Yeah, look, this is going to be an objective report. We're going to make some recommendations. And then only later they realized, like, actually, God, now I know what this whole thing was about. And Tom, yes. The the holder report recommended that I'd be fired again. You don't why? No, please tell me so that in 2014, one of my employees submitted an expense report that I didn't approve, but my assistant improved. And he had asked for an extension to file that expense report. And I said to the CFO, can you give me more time because he didn't have an assistant to help him do an expense report. And so therefore, I'd approved somehow tacitly of $1,000 expense that should have been expensed.
What was the expense? Was that material? Yeah, to the correct karaoke
bar? No. It was, it was a pretty karaoke
bar is sort of hooker situation. It was
a pretext. And every board member, and the way they structured the vote on the holder recommendation, and this was a girly, Eric Holder genius thing. You had to vote all or none. She had to vote on every recommendation, which included firing me, right. So you could vote on the value change of step on toes. And that was the equivalent of letting go someone on this dickless non violation. And every board member apologize to me after that, including girly, because they're like, that was ridiculous. But basically, they had to get rid of me to get to Travis, right. It was I knew the investors. I knew governance. I was a lawyer. I knew all board members I was I knew how to make sure Travis wouldn't get ousted. And so that to get me out of the way,
that's what I'm saying. This feels like a strategy that if you were on the other side, you would respect you're like, okay, they play I mean, the Travis's mom and mom, diamonds, obviously, you can't respect that. That is that is unkind, but they were probably they were pursuing this strategy way before that was like uncomfortable for everybody. Don't you think they timed it to them?
Well, I even remember actually, when, you know, the news came out about his mom dying. I remember seeing Jill Hazelbaker tweeting out, you know, her condolences to Travis during this period, it seemed like people were caught in a very difficult those who had moral pangs about it in this like there was the momentum to push them out. And yet at the same time, a horrible life event it happened to him. How do we both manage that but also, if you err on the side of the board or think Travis should be gone push towards something that is maybe the west they thought the best for the company.
That's just not accurate. So the there was no person besides benchmark who wanted Travis to resign, then there were all said we you take a leave of absence, you need a leave of absence, the management Jill and her credit, and the management team who are saying like Travis needs to leave of absence. They weren't asking him to resign. But the
executive leadership team, including sort of a lot of these people, Jill and other people were talking about, wrote a letter saying they thought Travis needed to take this leap.
Take a leap. Yeah, yeah. So I'm giving her credit, which is like, everyone agreed on the board on the board and otherwise agreed to a leave of absence, period. And then he was ambushed after his mom died on purpose, without representation, without girlie doing it himself. had that moment not happened. I think he would have taken a leave of absence. Did
you talk to him? It's mind boggling. Why did he agree? Why did he agree like that? Clearly, in retrospect, he wishes he hadn't, right. Like,
yeah, it was. Look, you corner that I was his right hand man's. I was removed a week earlier on a pretext. He was alone. He didn't have counsel and
Ariana does convinced him to go along with it. Right. She had been very aligned with you guys. And then she turns on him right at the 11th hour, right? Yeah,
I but I think she turned on him. She was like, once he decided she was helping him to read the statement or you know, whatever. It's a little foggy exactly how that went down. But no, every single board member voted to approve a leave of absence. There was no vote to remove him.
Can I just quickly say one thing you did bring up you know, the karaoke incident which you say was you as a pretext for pushing you out of the company. And you know, I was a little bit closer to that one because I worked at the information at the time, which is, you know, the outlet that published the story about the incident with, you know, Gabby Travis's ex girlfriend about it, and you sort of played a part in it in that, as the story said, you kind of were texting with Gabby saying, let's put this behind us. Let's not, you know, let's not, you know, some would argue is a way to kind of cover it up and not embarrass the company. Do you? Do you regret the way you handled that situation at all? And do you think it could have been? You know, are you sorry, for? Are you sorry for what you said to Gabby? And do you think that it's something had you wished the whole thing never happened? You never went to that bar and in South Korea?
So a couple things, and I'll tell you, so we definitely should have never gone to that bar. That was 10 employees, like No, and I apologize about that, by the way, that was in the Uber HR records at the time, like we knew that was bad at the time was like, Hey, we shouldn't have done this with employees. And by the way, I wasn't the most senior guy in the room. Travis was there and Gabby was to me, it was 10 Uber 10 employees, the local team took us there. It's not like we're like, Hey, let's go to a karaoke bar. Regardless, regardless how was senior and I should have said, this is a dumb idea. We shouldn't do it. All that happened in the karaoke bar is I sang a duet of sweet child of mine with Gabby, the notion that she was unhappy to be there is not it's not true. She actually was very excited. She was a good singer. She wanted to go there. And so the local team gave her like, Let's go sings we went, these places are shady that have shady elements to them. And I've said this many times, I've said this to a mirror at the time, Gabby and my wife were best friends. And this is after Travis and she broke up best friends. And she was on public about her. Her eating disorders and things like that. And we care like my wife cared for her a lot. We were on watch when Travis's a way to make sure she had people to talk to you. So me calling her that day. And this show gets us wrong. And I'm really upset about it. Actually, I called her to say this was happening. This is by way, all known in the HR department here, but this was not a hidden thing. And if the press knew what happened, yeah, great. We went to a shady place. It was already reported to HR we saying we drank we went home. Like what? What do you want me to do? So what what was they asking Gabby to do? To hide what there was nothing to hide?
But what wasn't the allegation that you were texting her saying, let's not talk about this, right? Like,
let's No, no, I never texted her about this. I called her and said, Hey, this is happening. She's like, I don't want anything to do with it as, look, I can't stop reporters from calling you about this. I'm sorry. She's, uh, please keep me out of it. Like, I'll do my best to keep you out of it. And the only that was it. She then then she said, I said, tell people that we only had fun or something like that.
Yeah. All right. Well, that sounds like a cover up to a lot of cover. But
what of singing and drinking? Well, we only had
fun versus this is a shady place in which there escorts there that but it made her feel uncomfortable. Right? I mean, that was the core of her complaint center
there. No, no, that's that's just that's crazy talk. It was it was it was going to be known that was a shady place. So having fun saying we had fun. How does that change whether the place was shady or not?
Well, but clearly, Look, she's She must have felt aggrieved by it, because she chose to speak to the press and say I was put in a position that I shouldn't have been. And this was later said, we just had, you know, we were just supposed to be having a fun time. That's not the way she felt about it. And that felt like a cover up to her.
I think you're maybe conflating someone being upset with a breakup with someone who actually wanted to go to the karaoke bar, sang songs, had fun, and was using that situation in a way to hurt people who were She was previously close to.
Right let's not be extreme a relationship but yeah,
well, I mean Travis's inability to like maintain a good relationship with her does an up her alley. I do think he's relationship maintaining stability is her I think you didn't psychoanalyze
Come on. Come on lead. The show is so unfair on this point. They tried to overlap the Angie relationship with the Gabby thing was so unfair. It's very unfair to Angie than choosing this person. They broke up in 2009. I don't think kind of started dating Gabby till 2014. So wasn't overlap and, and him and Angie still have a great relationship. So I don't this relationship does he? Like when you break up with somebody? It's not happy for one or both parties? Generally. So, you know, what do you do? What are you asking the human being to do?
Let's talk about the media because I feel like we need to take some of the heat ourselves here. Yeah, I mean, I don't know what the media is. So many things in that like in the period. It's like all these scandal stories without a lot of context. And then you got like, you know, I did the follow Travis story. There are these sort of magazine stories there. was very much like a mood in the media at a given time. But like, all the stories to me are sort of like, even when I would write them, it's like, okay, it gives a little bit of what I understand about who we are, but it's just hard in his story, to convey it all, then super pumped becomes like, so defining in how most people understand Uber, and now the show, it has, like 80,000 people on the finale. So it's small, but it's still like a show. People are lazy, and they're more willing to, you know, they watch the show, I don't know, what is wisdom? Is there a piece in the media ecosystem? That upsets you the most? Or, or is there, you know, it's such a, you know, it's not like a centralized organized force, which like the, the area where you think is most flawed,
I think that's the biggest flaw is sort of trying to look at Uber's faults in a vacuum as opposed to compare to other companies and what what was wrong in corporate cultures, generally speaking, prior to me, too, and how that's changed how we look at the world, and how much more diversity matter all the things that in the last five years, people are looking across all companies and going like, holy cow, CNN had problems. Pinterest had problems. Every company has some versions that was just below below the radar for a while. And so Uber became this poster child. I don't think it was that different from any other company in the problems that human beings have when they work together. And they took we took the brunt of it. And is partly because I think after the Trump election, people were angry. And this notion of being able to delete to protest by deleting an app, and how this whole taxi JFK thing got out of control. And you've said many times to your credit, Eric, that was incoherent. But man,
right, the the issue there. So Travis had been on, you know, like advisory board, but so a lot of other CEOs. But then Uber, because of hurricane stopped implementing surge pricing during crazy incidents, we don't turn on surge pricing during sensitive areas, protests, hurricanes, there's an old argument about whether that even makes sense. I think you were initially resistant, not used specifically, but there was some resistance anyway, you capitulate on that, too, please sort of the public mood even though it's perhaps irrational. And then delete Hoover has sparked because you don't have surge pricing, which is then framed as a reason that people won't come to the protest. So it is the ultimate irony that in giving up on your principles to satisfy the mob, the mobs still comes after you. So I do find it like a truly perverse, but I blamed the public, I mean, Twitter. I mean, the New York, Mike Isaac did write a story about delete Uber that I thought was pretty credulous at the time, but but it was mostly a Twitter mob sort of event
was, but it led to delete Uber. And that led to Travis stepping down from the Trump council that Mary Barra was on Elon Musk, you name it. And by the way, the tech CEOs are all going to see Trump and this is early 17. Right. So so then the driver, you know, the Susan Fowler thing, and then the driver video which you broke Eric, which ironically, that driver wishes he had Travis back as CEO.
He said that the driver, that's another thing, he gets a very charitable, I obviously have an affection for him. But the kind of person who's going to argue with the CEO of the company you work for spontaneously out at night is probably not as soft and fuzzy as presented on a TV show. But I've been very I don't think I would have been as brave as him to confront.
So my criticisms of the press are different than they were back then were, were I was just like, you know, defensive man. Now, I'm just like, it just wasn't proportional relative to what was happening in the rest of industry. We had inside leakers, as you know, Eric, who made it worse. So we didn't know what was coming when. And I just think it was sensationalized to a degree. And I gave you this Tim Cook example that we were just couldn't control it. And I think today, we would have been more savvy about it. I think today you would have had, it would have just been another story amongst the other corporate stories and you know, you would have fired this and that
Travis is the one who said Boober I honestly think the Buber thing like just the whole once the brewery reputation was built in sort of, it was so hard to like, unwind that.
Yeah, I've never understood the brewery thing you could tell you could explain that to a GQ magazine was was interviewing him. I wasn't there at the time. And it was even before my time and he's like, are you getting more dates is like, oh, he made this Buber joke again. Okay. Not a great joke. It's a joke. It was clearly a joke. I know. Tom, you just you debated whether the Biden thing was a joke. It was a joke, but this was definitely a joke, right? Why? What was So incendiary.
This is our take on the TV shows. I mean, we said this before what people hate the most like, they're more forgiving of the fraudsters than people who remind them of like the guy who was like, snide to them or whatever, in high school or whatever. You know what I mean? It's just sort of like, Travis has like a chip on his shoulder. He's like, Oh, yeah, I'm like, getting all the girls off this and like, sort of has this sort of combative nerd. I feel like people just like He played into a personality type that people like, no, yeah,
it also came about during this, you know, conception, this media conception of the brogrammer and Silicon Valley was on the rise, and it was kind of cool to work there. But they also they were nerd but they were programmers. And so, you know, Travis kind of was the king of that media creation,
anyway, but just let me do this. What's ironic about it, I was when I have two brothers a 45 year old man. I dated my wife is I was dating the whole way through Travis had two long term girlfriends. We were not club guys. He doesn't barely drinks. He also
looks like such a dork and the Uber driver video too, right? I
mean, like, we were just normal. Like we broke we were doing bro we were just like we're doing keg stands in the office. Like Give me a break. Like, we did get tagged with the bro thing and it's so mystifies me. You know what, how do you have a you live in Miami now?
You guys like going out? Yeah,
I live with a two and a half year old and my parents nearby like, again, if living Miami makes you a bro than
anyway, I'm not I'm not writing off by being a bro. I'm just trying to analyze and I I agree. I mean, that was always a funny thing with Travis when he was like 40 for much, much of this and people treat him like he must have been like some 20 year old or something.
Yeah, right. And the line of I need an adult in the room. Right. Here's the thing. I want to ask you a meal because and maybe you as well. Eric, the thing that I got the most from talking, reading Mike's book talking to Mike on the show. I barely watched the Uber show. It's It's really bad. But it's Bill Gurley and the leakers inside Uber and maybe you guys to a less effective degree use the media as a tool to enact your agenda. I saw you know, the reporters as very effective mouthpieces reported mouthpieces, but, you know, people good sources leaked to the right people to get the things that they want it to come across, and it ended up being this very public, you know, display this very public war, you know, through anonymous sources in the media to kind of fight Travis and I guess potentially fight against built earlier though, again, you guys lost that battle? I mean, what did you learn through that process in the way that reporters are utilized through selective leaks in order to push you know, an internal agenda? I mean, Mike's even almost kind of upfront about this in the book saying like, you know, before the letter comes out, he gets an anonymous call from somebody makes
Rubinstein like a huge character who honestly I didn't even talk to you. It was a very high pro who's that's like the high very high profile PR firm. That was like the crisis PR firm
that was hired by Girling. These guys do you know,
the pivotal point in the book is like who leaked him the Travis was resigning soccer. Yeah, it's
not Yeah, that's Well, that's a well known amongst the, you know, people, because you
could reuse the ideas. There was a cabal, you know, where it was meant to be more organized. And then soccer is like, fuck it. Like, let's make sure this thing happens. Yeah,
I don't want to quickly one click willing, per se. We're all buddies with Mike. We love Mike. I don't think he was like a tool in any sort of dumb way. He's a great reporter and wrote a story that I think proved to be an accurate version of certain persons of the truth. And and Eric wrote a story corroborating,
but a good story is a good score story anyway.
Yeah. I think Mike made a big mistake on the Tim Cook story that so that I will credit for being not accurate. I think a lot of stuff was accurate. He was like, he didn't get the letter from Sokka of you know, true. And I don't know if I have an opinion, Tom on the leaking on leaking, but I guess that's just how the games played. I think the thing I didn't expect is internal legals to be working against their management team, to such a degree that it was, you know, it was sort of, I just didn't expect that kind of this loyalty to be that prominence. And now I've learned my lesson that I was like, Holy shit, this is this is what happens, I guess, in political, politically charged situations.
Well, there is amazing like, who is Uber? Like, is just because is, is Travis like, fundamentally Uber because he was CEO or if you, you know, you get these really like abstract. I mean, it's, it's been an amazing way for me to learn about business just because a company is not a singular person.
Okay. Here's the thing. I would challenge you on this why which Katie was on because I met Katie, I think was in late 17. And she was telling me that the benchmark partners are saying All you guys are going you and Travis are going to jail. And that's the company's going to zero. That's why we have to throw you out all All these things and I and two girls running around saying, you're going to be on the right side of history by letting these guys go. Right side of history, this company is going to be worth $100 billion in two years, that's on Twitter, the company is worth half that never made that. No one's going to jail and dive in bed like none of that stuff happens. And I tell people, This, I think, benchmark made a huge mistake for their shareholders themselves. This could have been one of the most valuable companies in the world, he agreed to take a leave of absence, there was things that needed to be fixed. And he'll regret it, he will regret it for the rest of his life and trying to make it up. And because it's the only thing like you know, Stitch Fix OpenTable GrubHub, all those things are never going to be as important collectively as Uber was to him and his reputation. And I like early at the time, we talked multiple times a day, a day, a day, we I talked to Gurley, I'm guessing more than he talked to anyone else in businesses where
you guys you guys are like girly, didn't have anything to do with the company. And then you're like, I
talked to girls multiple times a day? I did. I didn't say nothing.
No, I know in other. I feel like there's been nothing but there's some times in ever to downplay his significant when
he was used very effectively to write blog posts to speak at conferences. He and I talk strategy all the time. We disagreed a lot. We agreed a lot. He and I both agreed on that autonomous car division stuff. That was an over investment.
You were very skeptical. Yeah, yeah, I do. Remember, I think even at the time, you'd be like, Oh, this way. mobiel. This is not my deal.
I just, but I think he just he got scared. And you know, I think that's something entrepreneurs have to worry about. If you put $33 million in something that turns into 10 billion in four years, you're not worried about 10 billion turning to 20, you're worried about losing the 10 billion. So it's like last version?
I mean, that's his incentives. I just don't, I feel like it's easy. And I don't want to fall into this myself. Now that Travis has gone to be like, oh, you know, maybe it would have been different. But like, the thing is, I don't see, Travis wasn't giving any sort of escape valve to all sort of the public anger, this sort of internal criticism, like, there was no path like it really it felt.
I mean, it was the leave of absence or nothing. If that didn't work. If you didn't take that time to come back with a different modality, then that would happen later. Just so you know, not sooner, but I think he genuinely was going to look, remember, your mom dies your best, you know, one of your best friends and lieutenants gets popped for a totally unfair reason. You're criticizing the media, like more than any other person has been criticized at the moment. Taking a leave of absence kind of makes some sense. And everyone agreed,
why didn't you have a chief operating officer? Like, you know,
ironically, he was, we were in a process with diversity partners to hire one. And he was in Chicago interviewing one,
if you want to play just like alternate history on all of this, you know, Travis does take his leave of absence. He doesn't get you know, cop owed by Gurley, and he comes back and like you say, a different modality. Is that even possible? Do you think Travis really had a different way of running things that could have been fundamentally different for the company? And I asked, because insider reported a piece I did not report it. That, you know, in cloud kitchens, which is Travis, his current company, he sort of continued a lot of the cultural and business leadership strategies that a lot of people found problematic at Uber. Seems like he's trying to do things again. And I mean, the conclusion of that story was like, he didn't learn anything. I'm sure you're gonna say you don't think that story was accurate. It was unfair, blah, blah, blah. But knowing what you do about Travis, is there a version of him that could have come back and actually been different?
Like I think cloud kitchens is going to be bigger than Uber? He's going to people who went there went for
him? Well, that bar keeps lowering. So that's good. That's good for
No, no, but but people went to two kitchens, wanted to work with someone like that, right. And they loved the values. And by the way, the values that were changed from the Travis ajar era, were just, you know, besides the, you know, we do the right thing, period, which was the number one thing that Daraa came in with all the rest of them are largely sort of interchangeable, like most corporate values, sorry, but I think we used to talk about this. I remember having conversations with Travis in 2016. And we were talking about when you're when you're Reid Hoffman's thing is pirate two, I forget what the other thing is you move to but we were talking about how we move the company to be much more of a civilization than a than a tribe, you know, which is one way to think about pirates to sort of a captain of a ship. And we knew that you have to change some of these things. Even if you don't want to you don't think the company is going to be as successful or successful fast, because the world can't handle it. There's too many stakeholders when you get to be a 20,000 person company. cities all over the world regulators investors You just have to be a little more moderate. And this is what this is where I give dark credit stars a great diplomat, is Connie calm the waters that allowed the company to go public. Those are all things that would have had we we would have had to do after a leave of absence to actually make the company so and of course, it's possible if you believe in the mission enough. And you know, that's what it takes to succeed in the mission. You do that we just didn't do it soon enough.
Well, that was seems to be the problem, though, is that there weren't there were seems to be a significant contingent of people that didn't think Travis could do that could be that person.
It was benchmark.
Well, people inside the company that were leaking, I mean, you said so yourself, or people, you know,
they're the same people now who've cut the stock price in half and 90% of the people have traded, and they have the same level of investigations and scrutiny, just with a nicer guy on top. Who's more likable?
Yeah, I was sort of gonna go into the valuation. Yeah, I mean, are you Are you okay, on time? We're having a blast. So yeah, yeah, the path to Uber being like a $200 billion company, like, to some degree Daraa has done some of the things you wanted, he's spun off, you know, self driving spun off some of the some of the stuff that wasn't working. I mean, to me, I guess, isn't it possible that like, he just inherited a business that had sort of a ceiling for how much money it can make, I mean, Uber pool when you guys were there was like, a big part of the future of the company and driving down prices to increase tam was so huge to the mission pool is basically failed. To some degree. Obviously, you were extremely right on food, I know you're gonna say, invest more and more and more more in in food. But like, you basically to build the business you wanted had to move outside of ride sharing and sort of jump from the business, you build to other things, or you think there's some magic trigger on ride sharing that he's failing, failing to monetize?
Yeah, so so a couple of things, losing to DoorDash, the market share lead in the US was a $30 billion mistake. And that happened from 2018 to deals and 20, square andaras, you know, tenure, that was, you know, they're worth $30 billion. Today, they're twice as big as UberEATS. And that lead was inverted, when when the company was handed 10. Big mistake. That's number one. Number two, I think selling Southeast Asia to grab was the mistake that selling the selling China and Russia you had to do in the long term, because ultimately, the government's we're not going to let a local company lose, they'd let us be second place, but they never let us be first place. Southeast Asia was a different ballgame. But and he could be Kareem also, so instead, he paid $3 billion for Kareem. They paid $3.7 billion for Postmates holy cat I was gonna go down as one of the worst deals of this decade. All those things are gonna be right down, jumped by well,
they wanted GrubHub. Right. I mean, they basically, you know, got second prize in this, you know, the sweepstakes to buy a
second second prize was a was a booby prize, because yeah, it was like, Yeah, that was like, that should have been that company was on bankruptcy. Watch. Right,
right. Well, there is an argument that you're propping up food delivery valuations by giving, you know, there's a valuation game there. You don't want to, if you let Postmates go bankrupt, you might have lost more money in sort of, you don't think so? No, no,
no, no, no, Uber was still consolidating their financials at that time, you couldn't tell rides from food delivery, they weren't splitting it out. Those acquisitions were just terrible. And that, that dilution, by the way, and the debt Uber has now are really like Uber has more debt than cash. Right now, it's only one of these companies that has that ratio that's inverted. So the food delivery mistake, but the ride sharing thing is, there are profits to be made in that business, you just have to do it efficiently. And there's companies now that are called bolt in Europe and yessir in North Africa and in driver who are newer rideshare companies who've just built their systems cheaper, and they're doing less commissions to drivers, and they're eating Uber rides alive in these places. And you're gonna see that in 1224 months, they're gonna have lift size competitors, and all the regions where they were dominant, but
it would involve cannibalizing their existing business, right, less
commissions paid by drivers.
Right. They're giving drivers more of the profit to give them more more of the profits. Okay. Which which is even harder business.
No, no, but doing it because they do a lower cost structure. They're being more efficient, and how they recruit. Yeah,
you think there's an efficiency in a rideshare business that can allow drivers to make more money, consumers not to pay more, and Uber may not be able to do that. Yes. Interesting.
They're doing no layoffs right now. No risks. Uber right now. 28,000 employees Not
right now. Literally right now. I mean, we'll see, we'll see what that is surprising.
I mean, 20,000 By the way, you don't need the city teams as much as it did back in the day, you needed city teams because you were handing drivers phones to use in their cars. And so you know, you were doing signing them up. Now all this stuff's online. They're incredibly bloated. And that's a that's an anchor, it's opponent, you can't be doing $25 billion in revenue and making no profits. No, forget the investments up and down.
But you guys, I mean, the Travis era was certainly not the profits era, right? I mean, no, no, no, it's not like you guys were like about to hit a switch. And suddenly there was going to be cash flow coming out the windows.
Sure. But we were also weren't public for a reason. We're like, we're gonna get to a place where you have the right market share and the right discipline, and then we'll go public,
do you think it was good, like the American economy? I mean, interest rates were low investors want to invest in growth? You were a natural outcropping in some ways of the economic environment that existed, but like, do you think the American economy should be run in such a way that a company like Uber is given such a long leash to burn through billions to try and sort of figure various things out?
I mean, big ideas are always going to cost a lot of money. I mean, you know, SpaceX has raised $4 billion. Tesla's raised 15 billion, hard to argue that these things aren't innovative and additive to the world. You can, but you could, I could argue the counterpoint to, which is like, billions of dollars went into driver and rider subsidies. And is that really, that's not a space race or, you
know, it is amazing how much people resent Uber, when like drivers and riders both gave got a bunch of free money. I feel like nobody gives you credit for that. It's like who got people talking about on the on the rider sides or the millennial subsidy, but nobody really wants to acknowledge that there was like money given to drivers that, like, didn't make sense long term. How do you know, what is the number for how much Uber has burned through in its lifetime? Do you ever get
the total pay, the total capital is like 25 billion, when you include the debt, you know, so debt has to be paid back. But that's the money used to finance the business.
It's negative 25 billion right now,
if you look in that, I think the paid in capital line on the balance sheet, it's something like 25 26 billion. Yeah,
I mean, in certain ways, I kind of feel like, you know, the Travis Emile era of Uber, or especially now we're in a kind of enviable position to analyze a lot of this stuff. And you can kind of play what would have happened if Travis had stayed. Because you know, you're not there, right?
If the stock price was 100 bucks, we wouldn't have this conversation. I'd be on a boat, I'd be like, Guys what?
You're doing, okay.
I'm doing just fine. But it'd be like this company is a gem. And in my view, it's being it's being Yahoo fide. And that's my that's why Expedia. And they think that I'm doing this because I have a grudge or I'm angry, I don't care. I'm a bigger shareholder, that entire management team combined, I wanted to do polluting Daraa, including Daraa. And so I care about it doing well. I hate when it makes mistakes. For the first two years, I was in the background giving guard advice when he wanted it. I was stepping through nothing. But suppose you
did you go to Bill Ackman and say, let's take it over, I want to every
activist on the planet and be like, what does it take to put pressure on a company to do better? And I think, you know, that's still a possibility you'll see out there but who knows with you affiliated? Or look, I don't the notions. One of the things that Uber said in the Super files release they did, it's like they make actually a big deal. About 90% of Uber employees are different. Now. That's a 90 Verse, which is like for a tech company, you're like, hello, that's a bad thing. Right, these other people have been feasting on Uber talent, like, Give me a break. So the notion of going back in there, and doing anything like trying to reform the culture, so it's somewhere in between where it was and where it should be? Is, is my the I don't think I don't think I could do it. Why
are you still in this? I say, what happened two years back? Or is that should
be closing in 10 days? Which company did you buy? Or we bought a quantum computing company called D wave?
Oh, yeah. A
community like last two questions on this. We gotta bring this plan of planning.
I know it. Yeah. Do you know how it's gonna land? Because I don't I do.
I do. I know what I want to ask. You don't think these losses are an overhang from Ubers aggressive entry into these places that suddenly are having some blowback.
And what's your statute of limitations? Tom? How many years? Is it not my fault? 10 years from now? 20? I don't know when is it? When is the buck stop at doors desk? When
do you see the company? I mean, I guess that was made literal with the response to the Uber file stories. But do you think if they do consider their you know, are having losses regulatory wise in countries that they're basically just saying the argument that I was trying to make that this was you No Travis's fault. This is a meals fault.
That's what they're trying to say. It's just not. It's just there's no investor. If you talk to the big investors in Uber like I do, they're like, every time they say this, their credibility goes down a notch. Because no one cares. The travel simulator has gone over why?
I mean, altimeter was huge in Uber, right? Or like, were there hedge funds? He said it was. Brad said it was one of his big four I think in his tweet talking about sort of, it might have been turn,
it might he might have put 100 200 million and the big the big four were Piaf, Softbank Glade, Brook Valley and Valliant, fidelity BlackRock, we had everyone we raise so much money that everyone had a piece of rubber at the beginning. But But I don't think there's anyone who thinks it's living up to its potential now not one investor is going like you know what they've actually hit the top but
you're not doing your the activist phase is sort of your like, I don't want to that's not happening. Do you have another? I mean, after this back? Yeah,
I mean, I'm sitting on three other I'm done with this. Backstage, I'm sitting on three other private company boards. I'll be on the public company board with D wave and quantum through a lot in the background and m&a and helping companies raise money and work with Breck Scopa for revolute. Some new younger companies that I think can be huge one called kalshi in New York, one called dandy Dental. So I got a lot of I'm trying to play this Bill Campbell role as a chief outside advisor when I'm not on the board, but I can take a young CEO and mentor them a little bit, help them with fundraising, strategy, m&a, learn from my mistakes, navigate the kind of world as it is
your public reputation, your reputation among like Uber people. I do think like, within Uber world, you're seen as Yeah, sort of a mentor, someone who has been really good at like, looking after your ex employees, I am willing to say that I do think the sort of contrast between the public and private reputation, especially when it comes to mentorship is pretty, pretty striking.
And I would actually add to that, you know, one of the things I've been most struck by and reporting on Uber over the last year is that I find that a lot of current and former employees have very mixed opinions on Travis, even if they'd like the era and reminisce about the era, they're conflicted over, you know, the things that they think he's responsible for, and they can whatever worked out with their therapist, but but I don't get that about you. Almost universally the people that worked with you feel very fondly about your leadership. And, you know, you're advising them post company. And I think that is, you know, a testament to maybe what you've done since you've left Uber and maybe them just putting all their negative feelings about that era on Travis is not unusual, but But it's consistent. I can tell you that.
Well, one thing that was important to me to mention is I had one of the most diverse teams at Uber, the women who are worked on my team are now partners in VC firms, CEOs. I mean, I really do and that was not me taking care of them. That was just they were great people. I never had complaints about my leadership. It was very, it was the most racially diverse group in the company. I had the highest rating as a leader and I was proud of that. And yeah, I think me being you know, I criticize Travis in private, not in public. That's just my style. And did you criticize
Travis enough? Did you push back on Travis enough? Or did he like having people who are sort of like, Yes, man. Yeah, I mean, so I didn't say that word. But yeah. He doesn't want anyone to say no, I mean, that sort of.
So I, I would at least say this on a relative basis, I did more than anyone else in history of giving him feedback, whether it was investors or other leaders, whatever, because we had a relationship that allowed for that. And I cultivated that on purpose because I wanted to be someone who is able to be a counter voice there. And he listened to me. Remember, just I know, this is hard to imagine, I remember you telling people that it was 28,000 people in my group, I had 300 employees. So I didn't have the bulk of employees. I didn't run HR operations, legal finance, I ran business and corporate development. So I read about gray ball in the New York Times I didn't know about it. I was just not involved in a lot of I didn't know what a kill switch was until I read about it in one of your articles. So I was just not involved in lots of the those parts of the businesses that getting rid about I was involved in Korea. I was wrong. Hello. I went to a karaoke bar and saying you know sweet child of mine that was me. But I was in I was involved in fundraising and m&a and and unfortunately I was involved in the press and I shouldn't have been I was not a good I don't have a good instinct on on press and so obviously like yeah, I was but but everything else like I worked hard on on convincing, suspend as little as we could in the autonomous car stuff. I worked hard on trying to get us to buy Left retarding, selling us to deed selling our operations and DD selling our business Russia so I didn't succeed on the lift one I wish I would I didn't succeed on buying DoorDash I wish I succeeded.
I had a term sheet did Travis say something really rude like on the show or like what? In the show doesn't he like he says something really? Pricing or something or what what sounds
mean. Yeah, so this story I don't know where compliment got this story. It was me and Travis, not Travis and girly, and it was John Zimmer and a partner from Andreessen Horowitz at Travis's house. Talking about the deal. I had penciled out a deal with John Zimmer and Travis Vander Zanden for eight to 10% of Uber on a napkin, and I'd done all the work I'd set up this meeting so that we could like shake hands, which would
have been a great deal in retrospect,
right. Oh my god, it would have been a year it would have been honestly what a double boobers market cap right and this is this RS I'm not blaming Dark Star for this. This is me and Travis here. And the hidden recent Horowitz guy goes like, I hear you guys are a 10%. It's going to take 17%
Is it Jeff Jordan? No, it
wasn't Jeff Jordan was one of the guys was that Dr.
Scott Weiss or Oh, no. Oh, bad, sir. No, no, no,
it was an Irish gentleman with the Irish last name.
Oh, John O'Neill are some Yes, John. Oh, Farrell. Farrell. Yeah,
John was 17%. And I was dumbfounded. I was like, you've got to be kidding me. Because I spent months months trying to hit this deal together. And he just asked for double. And Travis and I laughed. We're like, holy shit, we just got taken. They took a walk around the block and like, sorry, is 17% and that was it? Yeah.
They probably regret it this day. It's my last question then reflecting as you can on all of this. I mean, do you think Uber even though you think the company is not particularly well run right now, and its value isn't what it should be blah, blah, blah, is it hasn't been a good thing for the world? Do you think because I really do think Uber is responsible for the gig of vacation. And the whole Uber for X thing exists and will probably never go away? Because it's a very attractive model. One way or the other. Do you think it's been a good thing? I mean, do you think the world is a better place? Because Uber exists? Because, you know, contract labor has become de facto and a lot of companies i By the way, I'm not taking a stance on it. I believe it or not, I do not have a stance on this.
What's he gonna say? No,
like, your tone belies stance, Tom. So of course, it's a good thing. Look, the I think over time, if you did a longitudinal study, 10 years from now, the number of drunk driving deaths that Uber has helped avoid and ride sharing will be dramatic. The ability for people to live in the outer boroughs of cities and reliably get to jobs is going to be how you measure that would be incredible. If you ask any person of color in New York City, what the taxi system was like for Uber and how and you say, we're going to take away ride sharing from you, you will get some visceral responses of how how discriminatory this system was not only in our country, but around the world. So there are lots of good things that when you talk about the labor piece and the gig of vacation piece, I don't know people work differently, is it because of Uber that Uber cars beautification, and we're all that seems kind of nuts. Like it just seems like one of the things that happened, and by the way, it's not like these taxi jobs were great. It's like you're displaced a shitty job, like a really shitty job was something that was less bad. And so yes, net net, it was better for the world for sure.
Great, strong sense. I love it. I love it. All right. Thank
you. This is so much this was I'm glad. So now I need to find a way to you know, after Biggs, we had Parker Conrad on our first one, which was also like one of my foundational skills. I do think like, yeah, people in scandals you should just come on in the moment. I feel like it's better to like, don't just let the headlines destroy you. Yeah. Or don't you wish you'd been out there more like during this period?
I do. But I do wish on the career thing. The key thing was such a garbage that I wish I was just like, look, here's what happened. I made a mistake. I made it at the time. It wasn't what it just that you know, if you want to crucify me for that you better not live in a glass house. Because anyone who does business in Korea goes to these things. And you know, if you want to judge me judge everyone else the same, right? Right. But I do think this one thing for you, Eric, because I know your your best buds with Gurley, was he on the right side of history or not? And the same question you asked me Tom is like, oh, it's easy to look back in hindsight and say you better ask him the same question. Well, yeah,
he is. To me, the fundamental model things are the criticisms that will stand the test of time where I want more times I can say what he thinks but clearly I'm more a defender of the model and have have sort of been more open about that post. Bloomberg, but
I'm just in favor of the great story but but anyway, meal. Don't don't believe yourself. You are very good at talking to the media. I hope you continue to do.
Thanks for lunch. Okay, guys, good to talk to you. Thanks.
of Silicon Valley Goodbye, goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.