The Uber Evolution: Changes Are Taking Shape
Following Travis Kalanick’s ousting from his position as CEO of the ride-hailing company, people have been questioning the future of Uber. Specifically, who will replace Kalanick, and how will the new CEO bring about the much-needed change in Uber’s corporate culture? What’s going to be the next phase in the Uber evolution?
A Rudderless Ship
Despite having no leadership (Uber has yet to find a new CFO and CEO), the company has been moving along swimmingly. It is still growing at a shocking rate and the company actually saw a 10% uptick in revenue in the last quarter. However, the US$69 billion dollar company has been moulded in the image of its founder, Travis Kalanick. The culture of disruption, taking risks and growing at all costs will be hard to shake off. The tech industry is keeping a close watch on Uber, eagerly anticipating the next CEO.
Travis left big shoes to fill. As abrasive as he is (according to reports), Kalanick has been hugely successful. It was his leadership that was responsible for getting Uber this far in such a short span of time. Replicating such immense growth is already a difficult task. But what the company really needs right now is a 180-degree shift in its culture. According to Andrew MacDonald, top Uber executive and friend of Travis Kalanick, Uber needs to invest heavily in its HR and set up processes to change the corporate culture in the company. Will a new CEO be the key to achieving the much-needed change?
Change Is Already Here
We don’t need to wait for someone to assume the helm of the Uber ship to see change. It’s already happening. The board of directors that are leading the company in the CEO’s absence have made steps toward achieving a less confrontational corporate culture. The changes are coming slowly but they signify a shift in its corporate identity. If Uber continues to act the way it has in the past few weeks, we can expect a complete change in its culture very soon.
The changes started the very day Kalanick was ousted – 20 June 2017. On that same day, Uber released a new in-app tipping feature. Uber drivers have been calling for tipping features ever since the ride-hailing app was first introduced to the world. Uber has resisted giving in to their demands for a good number of years, staying true to their cashless, hassle-free identity. The moment Kalanick was cut loose, the company backed down – a move that is considerably uncharacteristic of Uber.
Additionally, Uber introduced a new tool to protect user privacy using an emerging branch of data science, called differential privacy. The new technology, introduced on 13 July 2017, allows companies to collect copious amounts of data without ever breaching the privacy of a user. This proactive move to enforce privacy laws is a step in the opposite direction from their past practices. Uber was notorious for skirting legal lines with local governments.
The very next day, Uber announced their partnership with Russian rival, Yandex Taxi. Both companies have agreed to allow their users to access each other’s platforms. While the partnership ‘dilutes’ the Uber branding, it is a significant move for the company toward a more cooperative direction. Unlike their previous deal with Chinese rival, Didi Chuxing, Uber chose to pull out completely, keeping access to their platform exclusive to Uber users. This time, Uber has decided that sharing and cooperation is a better alternative to an all-or-nothing approach to business.
The Road Ahead for Uber
Uber’s journey serves as a great lesson on the importance of corporate culture and HR processes. As the world awaits the appointment of Uber’s new CEO, we are already getting glimpses into Uber’s future. With the current changes and the negative effects of past transgressions subsiding, the transition of Uber’s leadership is likely to be a lot smoother than initially expected. We’ve seen companies pivot product and strategy. It will be interesting to see how a company pivots culture. We are hopeful to witness a truly captivating comeback story for Uber.