The downfall of Travis Kalanick should show the world of would-be tech entrepreneurs that they need better role models; that they need to stop looking up to the spoiled brats who lead some of Silicon Valley’s most hyped companies and the investors who fund their misbehavior.
Kalanick’s ouster last week from Uber is a watershed for Silicon Valley, something capable of shaking up its entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike. For too long, its elite have gotten away with sexism, ageism, and, to coin a word, unethicalism. The cult of the entrepreneur idolized arrogant male founders who plundered and even sank companies; the more money they raised (and often lost), the higher the valuations their companies received and the more respect they gained. Corporate governance and social responsibility were treated as foreign concepts.
Uber was not the worst company in the tech industry; it was just the most visible and the one that got caught. Its investors have been rightfully humiliated for having their heads in the sand. This is because it has for so long been clear that Uber needs management that is more responsible — to its employees, its drivers, and its customers.
The trouble first surfaced in 2013, when complaints about male drivers’ assaulting female passengers met with denials of responsibility by the company. Then followed sexist “boober” comments by Kalanick; ads in France that pitched attractive female drivers; suggestions by an Uber executive that he would dig up dirt on a journalist; and then the rape of a woman passenger in New Delhi partly caused by a lax screening of drivers.
But through all of this, Uber investors supported the company and accepted the ethical lapses as if they hadn’t happened. All that seemed to matter was that valuations were rising; the business, expanding. Who cared that a top Uber executive had secured a copy of the medical report of the Delhi rape victim and shared it with other company executives, including Kalanick, in an attempt to discredit her? The company was growing; investors were valuing it in the billions!
It took the allegations by a woman employee about rampant sexism at…
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