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Travis Kalanick Should Get Himself His Own Ruth Porat

There should be literally one actionable item on Travis' desk right now.

Are you a C-Suite level female executive at a brand name financial firm looking for a change?


Does the perpetual crisis mode of Wall Street appeal to you in a way that would make Silicon Valley crises feel like a walk in the park?

Is it within your abilities to talk down gently to tech bros like a den mother in charge of a Boy Scout troupe made up entirely of deeply unlikeable, wealthy boy scouts?

Can you deal with having meetings in Korean escort bars?

Then have we got a job for you!

Uber Technologies Inc. said its head of finance is leaving as the ride-hailing company reported continued big losses despite increasing revenue, adding to an exodus of top officials and setting the stage for a second major executive search.
The ride-hailing company on Wednesday told The Wall Street Journal that first-quarter revenue was $3.4 billion, up 18% from the fourth quarter. Its loss, excluding employee stock compensation and other items, was $708 million, narrower than the $991 million reported three months earlier.
The company, which has raised some $15 billion in equity and debt funding, said it still has $7.2 billion of cash left on hand, about the same as it had at the end of last year...
Uber said its head of finance, Gautam Gupta, 37 years old, is leaving the company in July to join another startup in San Francisco. The company declined to disclose the name of the startup. Uber has begun a search for a chief financial officer with public-company experience as it looks toward an IPO, an executive familiar with the matter said.

Do you see what we're seeing? Yeah, sure this is a portrait of a totemic tech startup that seems to have missed its IPO window and is now staring down the possibility of being slowly undone by unceasing scandals and poor financial management, but if you look even more closely it's an opportunity.

Look at those numbers. Uber is moving serious product out there without having an actual fucking product. And even with its reputation in the toilet, execs fleeing en masse and a driverless car obsession that seems more like an addiction than a business plan, Uber still has $7.2 billion cash on hand and could conceivably be a better stock to own than Snap.

Perhaps all Uber needs is its own Ruth Porat, a Wall Street veteran who can apply some adult rigorous thinking to an operation that lacks both adults and rigor. Granted, Porat inherited a much more stable environment when she moved from Morgan Stanley to Google, but that hasn't prevented her from instituting real change in Mountain View. And while she hasn't made Larry or Sergey wear ties or get flattering haircuts, she has taught them how to make sure that their crazier ideas don't threaten their core business (Hi, Alphabet).

Having his own Ruth Porat might also save Travis Kalanick from Travis Kalanick. This whole Kabuki routine about getting a COO to teach him how to manage people has already grown stale under the weight of its inert insincerity, and there was no way it was ever going to work in the first place. Look at this little tidbit from NYMag's deep-dive into what sucks at Uber from a few days ago:

One executive said that several times in the past year, including in February, when the company was in turmoil, Kalanick had been unreachable in the morning. “We were trying to find him and get him to approve something, but he’d been out late, apparently, and the answer was ‘He’s not up yet,’ ” the executive said. 

No one in their right mind wants to play life coach to a 40-year-old billionaire engineer with no real interest in changing. Especially one who puts shit like this on Twitter, on purpose...

But for a woman working a senior financial risk role at a large firm, the chance to be CFO at Uber is not so terrible. There's all that money and a seat at the table that would not require you to urge Travis to be more of an efficacious adult...or, like, find him. And, yes, it has to be a woman because Uber needs more female executives in key positions and also because Kalanick needs someone who will not fall prey to his inherent bro culture or be easy to fire should he find himself irked by a clear-headed or flinty-eyed financial plan.

Now we're not saying Marianne Lake should pack her bags and head west, but this gig would not be a bad fit for Lara Warner at Credit Suisse, or maybe Gina Wilson at TIAA-CREFF. There is a surfeit of top-tier female talent out there for a job with such tremendous possibility.

So while Uber licks its wounds on the Anthony Levandowski clusterfuck and awaits the release of its internal investigation into why women hate working at Uber, the short-term focus should be less on replacing Levandowski or repairing its image than finding Uber's own Ruth Porat.

Uber Posts $708 Million Loss as Finance Head Leaves [WSJ]

Uber, But for Meltdowns [NYMag]



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