In a brief note emailed sent to Uber employees Tuesday evening, company co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick struck a contrite tone. He offered an apology with no caveats or excuses — just hours after a video surfaced showing him arguing with an Uber driver.
“My job as your leader is to lead…and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away,” Kalanick wrote, in a message later posted online. “It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”
The video, which was first reported by Bloomberg and can be viewed below, shows dashcam footage of Kalanick’s ride in an Uber earlier this month with two other passengers. What begins as civil, quiet — and somewhat awkward — becomes something entirely different about 3:45 in, after Kalanick’s fellow passengers leave the car and the driver questions Kalanick about lowering fares.
“I lost $97,000 because of you. I bankrupt because of you,” his driver, Fawzi Kamel, tells him. “You keep changing every day.”
Kalanick, referring to Uber’s high-end Black service, disputes Kamel’s statement that fares are falling, first resorting to profanity then adding: “You know what? Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s***. They blame everything in their life on everyone else.”
The video capped what was a very rough month for Kalanick.
First, public outrage — and a trending Twitter hashtag, #deleteuber — prompted Kalanick to step down from President Trump’s economic advisory council, saying his participation was not intended to be read as an endorsement of Trump’s policies.
Then, a viral blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler related stories of rampant sexual harassment and human relations bungling within the organization. Uber announced it would be investigating the situation Fowler described, which Kalanick described last week as “abhorrent & against everything we believe in.”
And just days later, we reported that Waymo, the company that began as Google’s self-driving-car project, is suing Uber over claims that an executive at company it acquired brought “thousands of design files that had been inappropriately downloaded from [Waymo] servers.”
It’s clear from Kalanick’s note Tuesday that the recent barrage has taken its toll — and sent a message of its own.
“This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it,” Kalanick wrote.