Travis – thank you for leading us at Uber
This pic is from two years ago, taken at Uber’s HQ on 11th and Market. After weeks of discussion with the product team, we’d hit the final stretch, and TK and I holed up for a few hours in a conference room to finalize my role at Uber.
There were a couple things that got me over the line: TK’s insanely big vision for Uber, the already huge impact the team was making, and the entrepreneurial culture he’d created. It won me over. We shook hands, TK wrote and signed the offer letter on a sticky note (blocked out for obvious reason!), and took a selfie for posterity. I’ve never shared this photo publicly before, but here it is now. Happier times.
Starting at zero
TK (and RG+Garrett!) started a company at zero that’s creating work for 13,000+ people at HQ and millions of drivers. I want to take a moment to acknowledge – even as we’re at the peak amount of noise in the press – all the amazing qualities that Travis embodies as an entrepreneur and leader, especially in the context of a guy whose last startup had <10 people.
Yes, there are changes that need to be made and passionate folks working on addressing the many serious issues that have been surfaced. It will take years and a lot of hard work, to make that happen.
At the same time, one of the most important startups has been built in the last few years, and they deserve to be called out. Let’s take a moment to do that:
Lead from the front
TK asks his team to work hard, but he works harder than all of us. I remember during my first few months at Uber, I’d have 11pm meetings scheduled with him to talk about driver referrals. After a solid hour-long jam session, he’d say he had to leave to get on a conference call on China, and leave for another multi-hour meeting. And Travis would do this all the time, day in and day out. You never feel like the leadership is resting on their laurels, just dialing it in, because TK wasn’t.
As it’s been widely reported, TK cares about the details. He’ll look at your graphs and ask about week-to-week deviations. He’ll ask about the sample sizes on your A/B tests. I’ve worked on projects where he wants to give final approval for the final mockups of flows. TK empowers teams, while simultaneously creating a very high bar for them, because it was constantly reinforced that you had to do things right.
It didn’t take me long to learn that if a random rider or driver emails Travis on his @uber.com email, he’ll read it and often forward it to the teams to fix ASAP. And he’d often play support, replying and explaining things himself. TK didn’t just do this for customers – but also for employees. Every week during our company all-hands, he’ll take questions from anyone, and answer them off the cuff. He’d commit to following up 1:1, regardless of your seniority or role in the company. This availability made it easy to feel heard, and that you had ownership/input into all the problems we have as a team.
Optimism and energy
Sometimes you have to give good news to people, and sometimes you have to explain that there’s problems. TK often called himself “Chief Problem Solver” and it was because no matter how bad things got, and how down the team would get, he would jump in with energy, ideas, and solutions. And because of his hustle and determination, it meant there was a solution for everything.
It’s these qualities, and more, that’s made Uber so successful. It’s hard to imagine someone else stepping into TK’s shoes, and the bar will be insanely high.
Thoughts from the team
There’s a lot more to say about Travis, but I want to leave all of you with a series of messages on my Facebook feed from my teammates and friends at Uber. This essay came out of me reading these notes and getting inspired to write my own.
Here they are:
Starting a company is hard. Growing its reach globally is tiring. Forwarding to the future faster than anyone else is demanding. Motivating people to exceed their own expectations time and time again is exhausting. Building an organization that scales from 10 to 10,000 people is insanity. Scaling yourself at the same time is grinding.
You know you will make mistakes along the way. You know people will come for you.
And you do it all because you’re pursuing a vision no one else could dream of. You’re building the next version of what this world could be.
Thank you, Travis. We will keep building.
Thank you, Travis Kalanick, for everything. Thanks for taking a chance on me — it takes an extraordinary CEO to let a 25-year-old kid go PM work on flying cars. Thanks for creating a company with a culture where even that didn’t seem like such a crazy idea. I won’t forget our jam sessions and the lessons you taught me anytime soon — you continue to be an inspiration to me and the thousands of proud Uber employees who carry your vision forward.
Heartbroken to hear that Travis is leaving Uber. TK– thank you for your leadership and passion over the years. You are my hero and were such an inspiration to us all.
Thank you for helping us solve the world’s hardest problems through hard work and determination. Thank you for pushing us to always be better. Thank you for putting Uber above all else. Thank you for taking the time to listen and be there for us when we were hurt. Thank you for your support and words of wisdom (and selfies)
Thank you Travis for inspiring us to change the face of transportation, for being our chief problem solver.
Thank you Travis for creating for me the opportunity of a lifetime to work on China Growth and self-driving cars. Thank you for all the late nights and weekends you spent guiding the teams. For the care and thought you put into every problem, big and small. For designing the future, figuratively and physically. For your ability to jam on the small details to zoom out to the biggest picture. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. For your guiding light. We will miss you.
Wherever I go and whatever I do in my professional career, I will always carry with me your huge vision, your larger than life ideas, your big bold bets and your courage. Whatever I do I promise to make it the most big and beloved. I will always be hustlin and truth seeking.
Travis I will miss you but I’ll never forget what I learned from you.
You’ve launched a thousand of us, your disciples, out into Silicon Valley. Let’s fucking do this. Game on.
I’m angry, sad, flustered, confused, but mostly just heartbroken.
The only appropriate thing to say right now is thank you, Travis. Thank you for inspiring not only your own employees but an entire generation of entrepreneurs. Thank you for inspiring us to think bigger, faster, and higher-impact than anyone has ever dared to think before.
Thank you for creating a place where no idea was too crazy. When we told you that in order to make the product accessible for our international riders we would need to accept cash payments, you weren’t thrilled but you were willing to give it a shot. When your employees told you that we needed to change some aspects of the internal culture, you were sad but you were all ears. Building the best possible product, the best possible company- it requires humility. Admitting you might be wrong and being open to change. I was always impressed by how truly humble you were.
Thank you for creating a place so passionate about bringing affordable, reliable transportation to the whole world that your employees all over the globe were willing to hop on planes, get on Zoom calls at bizarre hours of the day, manually onboard thousands of drivers, stand on street corners handing out flyers to riders, and build last-minute stunt products to help celebrate the communities they were a part of. I’ve seen firsthand the impact this product has had worldwide and the universal fire and passion that Uber employees all over the world have to constantly improve it, to always be serving drivers and riders better, and to perpetually push closer and closer to truly making transportation as reliable as running water, for everyone, everywhere.
Thank you for creating a culture where- as a woman- it was okay to, no, encouraged to speak up. This is one of my oft less-told anecdotes, but I feel it’s appropriate given the circumstances. Before Uber, I was at Facebook. I left Facebook because I was told that I was too aggressive. Pushing too hard, wanting to move too fast, challenging the status quo a bit too much. The amazing part is that coming to Uber was like a homecoming. I could be who I truly am, without being labeled an “aggressive” woman. I could push on assumptions, move quickly, do whatever work needed to be done whether it was “in my area” or not, question leadership in an open, earnest environment. It was like a breath of fresh air. I don’t think people realize how unique this is. This company truly listens to every voice, from the VPs all the way down to the junior PMs like myself. Thank you. Thank you for listening and creating an environment where the best answer truly does win.
And thank you on behalf of your riders and drivers. You’ve created millions of earning opportunities for drivers all over the world. From the part-time student teacher driver to the full-time driver in India, these are real economic opportunities at an unprecedented scale. I’m always amazed talking to drivers in India or Indonesia or Mexico or Kenya- their story is not too dissimilar from the drivers I talk to on my way home from work in SF. Uber has allowed them to build a better life for their family- to send their kids to school, to work more flexible hours so that they can be there for their family. Not to mention the newfound mobility that Uber affords millions upon millions worldwide. Elderly folks & teens can now access their city, stress-free. People can go out for a drink- or three- and get home safely without endangering those around them. Uber is fundamentally reshaping people’s transportation habits and how they interact with their cities. This kind of impact would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, but we’ve made it a reality- thanks to your vision.
So thank you. We’ve mis-stepped at times- I’ll be the first to admit that Uber is not perfect. But the positive impact you’ve had on this company, and the world, is truly inspirational.
Goodbyes always suck. Thanks to the OG Builder.
Thank you Travis.