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Mis-Communicator of the Week: Uber

8th March 2017


You're as likely to hear someone say, "I'll get an Uber" as "get a cab" in London as in hundreds of other cities all over the world.

When I moved to London in 2000 grabbing a "dodgy cab" after a night out was frequently necessary and, sometimes, a little dangerous.

One example saw me and my well refreshed mates stopped by a police patrol in a dodgy cab reversing up the M11. The driver was lost and his four snoring passengers offered little to direct him to our destination.

Successive London mayors have taken steps to eradicate unlicensed minicabs and ensure you weren't just getting into a stranger's car - as the TfL advert famously warned.

Now, many of us get into strangers cars all the time which has fuelled Uber's astounding growth since it's launch in 2009.

The firm started in San Francisco with four staff and two cars but is now a global brand with 11,000 employees operating in more than 500 cities across six continents. Uber is valued at an eye-popping $68 billion.

Yet today its reputation is under considerable scrutiny with some even suggesting it could be finished. While the simplicity behind Uber, press a button on your phone to hail a ride from anywhere, remains attractive to its customers it's corporate culture and unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions are not.

This week CEO Travis Kalanick was filmed by a dashboard camera arguing with an Uber driver about pricing and repeatedly dismissing the driver's criticism of the company as "bullshit". Kalanick ultimately stormed out of the car, slamming the door.

This comes on top of claims of a culture of sexism at the company; corporate espionage; being on the wrong side of President Trump's immigration ban after taking advantage of a protest by New York City taxi drivers and a general lack of transparency in its business dealings.

Uber's response on these issues has been lacklustre and piecemeal with Kalanick writing an email to employees talking of how "ashamed" he was of his behaviour and vowing to undertake investigations on claims of sexism and sexual harassment.

These can't hide the level of hubris around Kalanick and his senior team who seem to believe a stellar valuation shields you from all criticisms. It does not and, as these issues have grown and multiplied, analysts have begun to question whether Uber really is worthy of that $68 billion valuation after all.

With a planned IPO of Uber stock now on the back burner at a time they could do with some capital I make Uber my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.



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