Travis Kalanick founder of ride sharing app Uber, yesterday resigned from his post as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company after core investors asked him to step down. Kalanick had last week stated his intention to take some time off due to the death of his mother in a boat accident. His father who was also involved, remains in a serious but stable condition.
Prior to this the company has had a turbulent patch with allegations of sexual harassment made by one of its ex staff and investigations by the US government on allegations of creating a software that can help avoid law enforcement. Uber also faces a law suit from Waymo, a division of Alphabet (parent company of Google) alleging theft of trade secrets. Travis’s fall can be attributed to several factors, many present in Nigerian businesses.
Yomi Fawehinmi, a Human Resources practitioner is of the opinion that the company’s travails are due to a lack of structure. In his words ‘while Uber was a disruptive force in the taxi business, the company needed a strong base of systems, culture, leadership and processes’. Uber for a long time did not have a Human Resources director or Chief Financial Officer (CFO). An HR executive, would have taken action in respect of the sexual harassment allegations, before it escalated to a lawsuit. Nigerian companies tend to have founders as all in all. Even when they are forced to step down, they install a protégé they can control.
A prominent player in the Nigerian tech space who did not wish to be named, feels Kalanick should have toned down on his aggressive body language and rhetoric. While the tech space is fiercely competitive, the larger corporate world and the public at large don’t favour such behaviour in a CEO. Mark Zuckerberg for example comes across as very personable, but Facebook takes no prisoners as seen in its tussle with Snapchat.
Segun Bankole, a consultant with one of Europe’s top banks and a serial investor, believes Uber’s issues are due to a lack of ethics and wrong priorities. ‘Uber grossly underestimated regulation and ethics in the various regions it operates. Pumping resources into driverless cars was premature’.
Celestine Omin, a Senior Consultant with Andela, takes a different position, ‘ Uber is Travis, and Travis is Uber. You can’t separate both entities. It may take a while, but I believe he will be back’. In his view, the company’s focus on winning, made it to miss out on fundamentals like integrity.