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Yahoo! Businesses The Almighty Buck

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Defends Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (sfchronicle.com) 80

An anonymous reader writes: Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has absorbed blistering criticism for the way he handled allegations of sexual misconduct at the San Francisco riding-hailing service. But he can at least count on the support of one big name in Silicon Valley: former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Speaking at the annual Stanford Directors' College Tuesday, Mayer defended Kalanick, suggesting that he was unaware of the toxic culture brewing at Uber because of the company's rapid growth. Mayer's name has come up in reports as a possible replacement for Kalanick at Uber, though there's no indication the company has had talks with her. "Scale is incredibly tricky," Mayer said. "I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he's a phenomenal leader; Uber is ridiculously interesting. I just don't think he knew," she said. "When your company scales that quickly, it's hard." Mayer then compared Uber's situation to the early days of Google when it first brought in Eric Schmidt as CEO to help co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page manage the company.
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Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Defends Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

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  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:26AM (#54704925)

    After firing men with prejudice she's now backing up a man who took advantage of women in the workplace?

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:29AM (#54704949)

      Power protecting power is the most common prejudice, even back to the Magna Carta days.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:47AM (#54705047)

        Definitely this.

        Shareholders chasing him out isn't about him being a bad leader, but them just protecting their interests and the company's PR standing.

        An "uninterested" third party CEO criticizing him and saying there was a standard of leadership he failed to achieve opens the door to other CEOs being held to higher standards or facing criticism, too. So Mayer's defense of him seems not unexpected.

        On the other hand, I think she does have some kind of point about this. To my naive mind, scaling a company like Uber up as fast as it has sounds like surfing a landslide that only gets bigger and faster. You have to delegate a ton of shit and can't pay close attention to a lot of it, especially if a lot of your energy is devoted towards business expansion, not existing operations.

        As for the harassment culture, I always wonder at what point you can hold one person responsible for a culture populated by hundreds or thousands of individuals. Maybe he was all bro culture at the beginning and new hires just picked it up and perpetuated it.

        The irony in all of this is that we pay CEOs like they were all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful and deserve to reap 99% of the rewards of the entire organization because they were 99% responsible for all of it getting done. This seems dubious on the surface, more so when executives like Mayer make the (possibly reasonable) excuses that he really isn't all-seeing, all-knowing. I mean which is it, CEOs are superhuman or they're not? If not, why pay them like they are?

        • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hipp5 ( 1635263 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:59AM (#54705143)

          You have to delegate a ton of shit and can't pay close attention to a lot of it, especially if a lot of your energy is devoted towards business expansion, not existing operations.

          As for the harassment culture, I always wonder at what point you can hold one person responsible for a culture populated by hundreds or thousands of individuals. Maybe he was all bro culture at the beginning and new hires just picked it up and perpetuated it.

          More than likely this is the case, and that is his failing. As you correctly pointed out, a CEO can't deal with every minutia of a company. Their job, therefore, is to set the culture and expectations such that the peons who deal with the minutia do the "right" thing. A good leader knows that simple signals can have ripples throughout a whole company. Founding a company on bro culture leads to a company where harassment is tolerated.

          • by tattood ( 855883 )
            That's what mandatory trainings are for. My company makes us take annual online courses related to sexual harassment, ethics, insider trading, etc. That is a relatively easy policy to institute, and it sets the tone for how the company should operate.
        • You have to delegate a ton of shit and can't pay close attention to a lot of it

          But he absolutely knew and approved of some of the very worst of Uber's behavior: greyball, obtaining the rape victim's medical files, etc.

          "He was too busy to notice" only goes so far.

      • This, Arianna Huffington KNEW that the guy stole the self drive docs from google and she did NOTHING about it. I am hoping Alsup ends up sending the thief to the big house for 10 years, Travis gets 5 and everyone on the board that knew gets 2. That would send a message.

    • After firing men with prejudice she's now backing up a man who took advantage of women in the workplace?

      On the topic of Kalanick's personal attitudes towards women we're really making some very big assumptions based on just a handful of public statements and incidents.

      Mayer might be biased because he's her friend and she wants to protect her friend (we all have friends with some questionable characteristics). Or Mayer might realize the public has some massive misconceptions about what kind of person Kalanick.

      I personally suspect the toxic culture at Uber is a consequence Kalanick and his leadership style. But

    • After firing men with prejudice she's now backing up a man who took advantage of women in the workplace?

      You know, if Marissa Meyer behaved like Travis Kalanick... a lot of guys would've been updating their resumes, trying to get hired by Yahoo.

    • Losers tend to have loser friends?
  • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:28AM (#54704941)

    I could probably buy that Travis Kalanick was unaware of his company's toxic culture because of his other duties if that was the only example of him being careless and an overall jerk. But it isn't. It is pretty hard to defend Travis Kalanick as being a good person. And whether he is a good leader depends on your viewpoint about how important employees are to a company.

    If financial success of a company is the only important metric, then sure Travis is a phenomenal leader. But if you actually care about the people he is leading, it's hard to describe him as a phenomenal leader. Travis Kalanick is a great leader in the same way Michael Jackson's abusive father was a great parent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The internet has been aware the toxic culture at Uber pretty much since its inception, there's no way in hell the CEO wasn't aware of it. He was probably largely responsible for it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        And claiming to not be aware of it paints him as incredibly incompetent at his job.

      • by Desler ( 1608317 )

        This is as absurd as when VW claimed the cheat devices in their cars were only installed by a "rogue employee" when later it came out that the CEO was fully aware of it.

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @11:09AM (#54705263) Journal

      If financial success of a company is the only important metric, then sure Travis is a phenomenal leader.

      More like if the ability to raise venture funding is the only important metric. Financially, for everything except venture money, they're doing rather badly.

      • by ranton ( 36917 )

        More like if the ability to raise venture funding is the only important metric. Financially, for everything except venture money, they're doing rather badly.

        Uber has at least claimed to be profitable in the US last year. I don't think they ever produced enough proof of that though, and there are plenty of ways they could fudge the numbers. But if Uber is profitable in the US and is only losing money by trying to match their current success in foreign markets then they could certainly be considered a financial success.

        Regardless, it is rumored that Uber's valuation on the secondary market is between $40-$50 billion, so to anyone who has owned Uber stock for a fe

    • You do know that Uber has never made money, right? They've raised plenty of VC, but they don't seem particularly good at actually making money.

    • If financial success of a company is the only important metric, then sure Travis is a phenomenal leader.

      Err....that IS the only metric that really matters.

      I mean, you don't start a company for any other reason than to make money. That is its function.

      Anything else is gravy, and laws....

      • by xevioso ( 598654 )

        Yes, but it it is true that, generally speaking, the most important asset a company has is it's employees. If you do not treat them right, or are unaware of issues affecting them, then you are not going to be able to fulfill your primary function, which is to make money. You can't make money without emplyees (duh!) and if you are *currently* making money without employees, that's because you *paid* employees (or in this case, contractors) to set up your company so you can make money without them.

      • If financial success of a company is the only important metric, then sure Travis is a phenomenal leader.

        Err....that IS the only metric that really matters.

        In which case, he is a very poor leader. Uber is massively unprofitable.

    • The financial performance of Uber is abysmal. Despite the fact that drivers subsidize the rides pretty heavily, they still lose money!
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:37AM (#54704979)
    >> Mayer then compared Uber's situation to the early days of Google when it first brought in Eric Schmidt as CEO to help co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page manage the company

    I think she hit on something profound here: maybe Mayer should have brought in someone to manage Yahoo for her?
  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:39AM (#54704985)

    You mean Marissa "I was back at work a day after giving birth so everyone should be able to do that" Mayer is friends with the "I'm going to run my company the way it was run when it was a startup"?

    In my industry experience the mark of a good leader was one that could see alternative points of view and that possibly, just possibly, not everyone agrees with theirs.

    Mayer may have been a half decent CEO if she sat down and thought "Hm, maybe some women don't have an in-office baby sitter and would like to spend time with their children" or "Tele-working works for some of our best and brightest, maybe we shouldn't force them out". Nothing infinitely complex just a realization of different strokes for different folks.

  • The problem with Marissa Mayer, as mentioned in "I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59" [amzn.to] by Douglas Edwards, employees will always find ways to work around her while appearing to do what she wanted. The jock culture at Uber may outwardly change if she became CEO but it would probably persist behind her back and cause other problems..
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @12:18PM (#54705759)

      More affiliate spam from Creimer. Who would have guessed.

      And it's modded +3. This guy does this to almost every thread. He picks stories based on if there is a book closely related. Then post some well known shit and says, oh you can read it here at Amazon. But I want to make money off of slashdot. Atleast once 3-4 times a week he does this to threads.

      Fuck off creimer.

      • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @12:47PM (#54706003)

        He picks stories based on if there is a book closely related.

        Every book I recommend is a book I've read. If I haven't read a book but I think is relevant to the discussion, I'll point that out.

        But I want to make money off of slashdot.

        Slashdot is my fishbowl for new marketing ideas. If something works, then I'll try it on my websites. For example, book recommendations. Non-fiction titles get more clicks than fiction titles. Obscure titles (print only or out of print) get more clicks than current titles.

        Fuck off creimer.

        After you spent three months convincing me that Slashdot was still relevant to the real world? No way, Jose.

  • Yay! Having exhausted the Fields of Yahoo, the Locust Marissa espies fresh prospects.
    • Yay! Having exhausted the Fields of Yahoo, the Locust Marissa espies fresh prospects.

      OK, Mr Armchair CEO, what would YOU have done to er, double the value of Yahoo. Yahoo was in a long term, probably terminal slide. During her tenure, the value doubled and the company was bought out. From the shareholder's perspective that's not bad performance.

      But anyway, those .1%ers gotta stick together.

  • So just more CEO scapegoating to dodge responsibility when anything goes wrong? They're always the sole reason for a company's succcesses yet are always completely in-the-dark for anything negative.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @10:57AM (#54705133)
    It's literally what he does for a living. Why is it when the guy that makes your Hamburger screws up he's relentlessly savaged but a CEO does it it's OK. Oh, wait. Ruling Class takes care of their own. Silly me.
  • There's absolute ZERO chance he wasn't aware that there were/are significant problems in this regard at Uber. He simply didn't care enough to actually face inward. Many CEOs who were with the company before it scaled have this critical flaw.

    They think that what brought them to scale was that they were almost exclusively outward facing - so they never make any effort to embrace scale properly.

    All software/internet oriented companies that tend to scale very rapidly need to scale in THREE distinct ways. Man

    • He simply didn't care enough to actually face inward.

      I think it's worse than that. I don't think he believes any of it is a real problem outside of PR impact.

  • Yes, poor poor CEO... he was paid to do a job he couldn't because he was so naive. I'm so fucking blinded by living in a bubble filled with dollar bills.
    Gimme a fucking break Marissa. If that's the mindset you are going into to lead Uber, and apparently the justification you are giving to kill Yahoo, I hope Uber also dies if they decide to hire you. If Uber investors that are part of the board know any better, after this they should avoid hiring her at all costs.
    It's either a situation Kalanick created and

  • Regarding any CEO who claims - or about whom it is said - that they were unaware of some serious problems: a CEO is supposed to know - it's part of the job. Especially if they are getting paid mega-bucks.

    A story behind that comment: in the years before World War 2 the air defence of the UK was reorganised under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Dowding [wikipedia.org], who managed the development of an integrated command and control system [wikipedia.org]: ...The Dowding system is considered key to the success of the RAF against the

  • by Ryanrule ( 1657199 ) on Wednesday June 28, 2017 @12:59PM (#54706105)
    She got her job at google by working on her knees.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dear Uber,

    We wholeheartedly endorse the notion that you might hire Marissa Meyer as your new CEO. We think she would be a fantastic addition to your team, and that her competency and managerial agility will help Uber usher in a new dynasty of success and profitability.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Lyft

  • At this point hasn't the shine of being lucky enough to be an early employee at Google worn off?

  • I'm not surprised that Mayer is friends with the likes of Kalanick.

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