For many, Uber is a sure thing. What began in 2009 as a luxury car service in San Francisco is now valued at $62.5 billion and operates across 71 countries and 438 cities. Financial documents reveal its revenue has jumped from $2.93 billion in 2014 to $3.63 billion in the first half of 2015. While, they’ve grown from just 75 employees in 2013 to more than 7,000 employees in 2016. In fact, at Disrupt NY 2013, Bill Gurley of Benchmark—investor for both eBay and Uber—claimed, “Uber is growing faster than eBay did and is probably the fastest growing company that we’ve ever had.” But, at the center of all this is the ever-growing list of ethical leadership controversies. The company is accused of violating the most basic standards of business ethics to stifle competition. Public pronouncements from Uber’s leadership following these controversies are highly questionable in terms of business ethics and good business practices.
For example, in a profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, he was quoted saying his company tried to stamp out Lyft (one of Uber’s fiercest competitor) from raising money from investors.
In August 2014, Uber was revealed employing shady tactics by sending brand ambassadors to order Lyft rides undercover and then persuade their drivers to join Uber. It is also said to be arming independent contractors with credit cards and burner phones to undermine recruitment efforts of Lyft and other competitors.
Sure, survival of the fittest is the mojo in Silicon Valley. But that doesn’t guarantee a company will last especially when the list of shady practices keeps growing.
In November 2014, Emil Michael, one of Uber’s senior execs, revealed the company was willing to splurge millions of dollars to pry into journalists’ personal lives. Speaking of prying, one of BuzzFeed’s reporters was tracked by an Uber executive (an investigator acting on behalf of the company) who intimidated her to discover the source of a news story about the increasing stances of sexual assault directly related to an Uber ride.
Some of Uber’s major investors, including Shawn Carolan, a partner at Menlo Ventures, excuses these incidents as an acceptable part of everyday business life.
Certainly, it’s not just everyday business life, its chaos emerging from unethical leadership. In an interview with GQ, Kalanick referred to Uber as Boob-er, meaning the ride-sharing service had helped him meet women. Uber lacks ethical leadership.
Kalanick needs to set an example, and not simply grow his empire. Currently, Uber outside of the Wall Street is seen as an unethical firm that is hardly based on a couple of unpleasant remarks made by the CEO.
Uber is also seen as a bully – it has been accused of pushing drivers into subprime loans and recently had to face a lawsuit over tip-skimming.
The number of complaints against Uber isn’t slowing down. To the Wall Street is it a disruptive technology company that innovates and create jobs worldwide. To the world, it’s an unethical company, a result of unethical leadership driven straight from the top.