Platform Companies Are Becoming More Powerful — but What Exactly Do They Want?
By John Herrman
During a February ride in San Francisco, Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, was recorded arguing with and eventually berating an Uber driver from the back seat of his car. The driver, who had been working with the company since 2011, accused Kalanick of undercutting drivers of high-end cars like his, plunging him into bankruptcy. Kalanick responded with a lecture about the basic economic logic of his company: Soon, the supply of luxury cars on the app would be reduced, causing demand to increase. Besides, he went on, if the company hadn’t added a lower-priced tier, it would have been beaten by competitors. This did not satisfy the driver, which seemed to enrage Kalanick, who erupted into a moralizing tirade. “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own [expletive],” he said, before leaving the car.
The scene in the clip, obtained and published by Bloomberg, was striking. This wasn’t a manufacturing magnate visiting the factory floor or a retail executive paying a surprise visit to a struggling location. Indeed, Kalanick’s ambiguous relationship to the driver was, in a sense, the source of the disagreement between them — a dispute that sailed straight past self-examination into outright hostility.
Uber has spent the beginning of 2017 mired in controversy. There were allegations of sexual harassment and intellectual-property theft; The Times uncovered a brazen effort to thwart local authorities. These scandals drew scrutiny to Uber’s corporate culture. But the recording of Kalanick shed light on something else: the model around which the company is built.
Full Content: New York Times