The coup that brought Travis Kalanick down at Uber has left open an intriguing and problematic throne.
Whoever takes over at Uber will inherit Travis' filthy mess: a board of directors in bizarre flux, an unprecedented media firestorm, 78 investors dealing with "fight or flight" issues, and an executive team that lacks a CFO, COO, CMO, CTO and head of business. But Kalanick's successor is also stepping into a company likely valued in the neighborhood of $65 billion and calling out for an IPO.
The melange of overwhelming organizational nightmares and tantalizing financial possibilities that running Uber offers is not the easiest sell in Silicon Valley. For Palo Alto All-Stars like Sheryl Sandberg, the idea of leaving a cushy job to take a flyer on the detritus that Travis left behind is not worth the headache (sorry Arianna). But there is a certain type of person that eats organizational nightmares for breakfast and has enough experience in the world of high-powered Wall Street investment banking to see that the Uber CEO gig could really work out if you played it right.
Well, "type of person" might be strong. We can think of one person.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Operating Officer Matt Zames, the intense ex-hedge fund trader who helped clean up the bank’s London Whale debacle and was seen as a possible successor to Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, is leaving with the aim of running another company.
With apologies to Marty Chavez, we've thought this over and it would be almost irresponsible for Uber not to offer the CEO job to Matt Zames.
Zames is almost too perfect.
After more than a decade at JPM, Uber will feel like a honest-to-god startup. With David Bonderman and Bill Gurley gone, Zames would be chief adult officer on Day One of his regime, presenting him with the kind of power he's looking for and a senior staff that he can build in his own image. He's also the kind of Alpha that could get Travis and his co-founders (all of whom are still voting board members) to fall in line by using the quasi-benign dictatorial style of leadership he learned at the feet of King Jamie.
And speaking of what he learned from Dimon, any concern that Zames might not be able to handle the perpetual crisis mode that plagues Uber, we'd like to remind you that when The London Whale scandal blew up it was Zames who King Jamie dispatched to fix it. If Zames dealt with the one of the most embarrassing and public risk management clusterfucks in financial history, it stands to reason that he can manage Uber through implementation of The Holder Report and prevent any more "Miami Letters" from being passed around on company email.
Zames is also a financier who understands how public companies behave. As we've said ad nauseum, what hurt Uber the most was Kalanick's seemingly willful lack of care towards Uber's high-wire financing or the importance of an eventual IPO. While Zames is most definitely not an IPO expert, we're going to go out on a limb and guess that he knows some people who are. And it's not too crazy to think that at least one of them could be convinced to join him in San Fran as Uber's CFO, a position that would put them in the middle of the most intriguing and ballyhooed public offering to come to market since Facebook.
It would be disingenuous to ignore that Zames is a white dude from Wall Street, a reality that plays against the identity politics campaign that Uber has been tilting towards in the wake of its myriad misogyny scandals. But we would counter that he's also too perfect a candidate to ignore. With Zames in the corner office, Uber can fill in around him by selecting a diverse and talented cast of executives to cauterize the bleeding, improve the core business and go public. After all, a diverse leadership team will only be celebrated if Uber succeeds. If there's another candidate out there with Zames' credentials who can also make Uber's leadership more diverse immediately, that's awesome. But as far as we know, JPM only has one COO.
The relationship between Silicon Valley and Wall Street has never been totally harmonic, but the people that have moved from The Street to The Valley have made lasting and positive changes to the companies that they have joined. Ruth Porat has performed magic at Google, Anthony Noto is doing yeoman's work at Twitter and Laurence Tosi has brought some Blackstone thinking to Airbnb. None of those people has had the opportunity to run the show because they were all coming aboard healthy companies. Uber however, is a total fucking mess and it needs Wall Street leadership to get itself right.
Matt Zames is ready and able to provide that kind of leadership. Uber should go see if he's willing.