Today, at 10 am PT, if all goes well, absolutely nothing will happen at Uber headquarters in San Francisco.
And that would be everything to the tempest-tossed employees of the car-hailing phenom, who have had perhaps the most unfortunate year on record at the massively funded startup that was supposed to be enjoying success.
Instead, it has been a non-stop reality show that makes the Kardashians seem dull.
While some of the staff were the ones responsible for all the messes — that range from regulatory missteps to dysfunctional management to toxic workplace behaviors to legal minefields — a great swath of Uber’s 16,000 staffers are blameless and just trying to do their jobs.
Well, today, those people get a major reset with their first introduction of Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia who is now the new boss of Uber. He’s replacing ousted leader and co-founder Travis Kalanick and will be charged with getting the company on track after its annus horribillis.
Kalanick — who has undergone his share of trouble (and also personal tragedy) this year — will also address the crowd gathered at Uber’s Market Street headquarters, as well as employees who will be dialing in from all over the world.
Sources said the pugnacious founder is calmer than he has been in a while. Maybe the mediation, pushed by board member Arianna Huffington is finally working, because many report that he seems resolved to help Khosrowshahi rather than hinder him.
That’s the hope anyway, since Kalanick is — while definitely controversial — still an inspirational figure to employees. So, his cooperation with the transition to new leadership is critical. In a statement about the man taking his job, he stated the obvious: “Casting a vote for the new chief executive was a big moment for me and I couldn’t be happier to pass the torch to such an inspiring leader.”
His job #1 today: Passing that torch without burning down the house anymore. (Side note: There are still major brush fires, of course, such a court hearing today in Delaware, where Kalanick is still fending off a continuing lawsuit from one of Uber’s biggest investors, Benchmark.)
In comparison, Khosrowshahi’s job will be a lot easier: Be charming and commanding, making it clear to Uber’s universe that he is ready to be in charge. He already did that in his pitch to Kalanick and the rest of the Uber board last Friday, asking in one slide of his presentation for them to leave him be in order to do his job. (Don’t call me, I’ll call you! is my new motto too.)
That said, Khosrowshahi will sit for a fireside interview with Uber director and nap fanatic Arianna Huffington, in what is hopefully a gaffe-free chat. In Huffington’s last foray in front of Uber’s troops, she was on the receiving end of an ill-timed sexist joke from TPG’s David Bonderman about women talking too much. He was off the Uber board within hours and it became the unfortunate Uber meme for a while.
Don’t expect Huffington to grill Khosrowshahi, of course, although I am guessing she will lob in a devastating query about his sleep habits. Pro tip, Dara: That answer is eight hours and cell phones in their bed outside the room.
It is most likely Khosrowshahi will continue the effective humble-pie, self-effacing strategy he used in his goodbye letter to his longtime Expedia staff yesterday.
“I have to tell you I am scared. I’ve been here at Expedia for so long that I’ve forgotten what life is like outside this place,” wrote Khosrowshahi. “But the times of greatest learning for me have been when I’ve been through big changes, or taken on new roles — you have to move out of your comfort zone and develop muscles that you didn’t know you had.”
Khosrowshahi will need all those muscles to get pumping as soon as possible for what will be a very hard road ahead.
But hopefully today’s meeting — which will be kicked off by early Uber exec and board member Ryan Graves in the obvious theme of old to new — will go smoothly for all.
If there is one thing that’s true about Uber most of all: It could really benefit from no more hair-on-fire drama for quite a while.