Scandal-hit Uber facing exodus of talent as 2 more executives quit
President cites differences over corporate culture in decision to step down
Uber has lost two more top executives amid a series of scandals at the car-hailing company, with its head of ride-sharing and a key architect of its autonomous driving efforts the latest to depart.
Jeff Jones joined Uber as president of ride-sharing in September last year from retailer Target, where he was chief marketing officer. He was charged with improving Uber’s brand and reputation, encompassing broad responsibility for operations, marketing and customer support.
That period has seen a string of controversies for Uber including allegations of sexual harassment, rows with regulators over testing of self-driving cars, and a lawsuit from Google’s autonomous car unit, Waymo, alleging theft of intellectual property.
At the weekend Uber confirmed his departure.“WewanttothankJeffforhis six months at the company and wish him all the best,” a spokesperson said, afterthemovewasfirstreportedbytech news site Recode on Sunday.
Mr Jones told Recode: “It is now clear . . . that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ridesharing business.”
LateronSunday,itemergedthatUber was also losing a key engineer involved in its autonomous driving efforts. Brian McClendon joined from Google two years ago as Uber’s vice-president of mapsandbusinessplatform.
In a statement, he said his departure to go into politics had been in the works for months and was unrelated to Mr Jones’s exit. “After 30 years away, I’ve decided to move back to my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas,” he said. “I believe in Uber’s mission and the many talented people working there to make it a reality and that’s why I have agreed to stay on as an adviser.”
Though his departure may be more amicable than Mr Jones’s, it will come as a blow to Uber’s ambitions in self-driving cars, which rely heavily on high-definition maps. As a creator of Google Earth after co-founding Keyhole, the geospatial company acquired by the search engine in 2004, Mr McClendon is highlyrespectedinhisfieldandoversaw Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, where it first piloted its self-driving cars.
The resignations come as Uber searches for a new chief operating officer who will report directly to Travis Kalanick, the company’s co-founder and chief executive. Earlier this month, Mr Kalanick said he was looking for a “peer who can partner with me”, after facing criticism for his handling of the crises facing the $70bn company.
Recruiters and rival firms have reported an uptick in job applications from Uber employees in recent weeks, with some saying that workers are losingfaithintheleadershipteam.
In February, a blog post by former Uber employee Susan Fowler alleging sexual harassment at the company triggered similar claims, prompting one engineer to tell Mr Kalanick the issue had become a “systemic problem”. Two other senior executives have since left the company amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
While Mr Jones’s resignation has not been linked to any such allegations, his mandate to improve Uber’s reputation has faltered amid these crises. In addition, the appointment of a new operatingchiefthreatenedtosidelinehisrole.
Attempts on Sunday to reach Mr Jones for comment were unsuccessful.
Uber’s search for a chief operating officer has been compared to the roles played by Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook or Eric Schmidt at Google, where veteranexecutiveswerebroughtintoassist less experienced founders as their companiesgrewatrapidspeed.
After a video emerged last month of Mr Kalanick berating an Uber driver, he was forced to concede: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up . . . I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”
Engineer Brian McClendon’s exit will be a blow to Uber’s ambitions in self-driving cars
Last week the Shanghai city government issued draft guidelines for the bike-sharing economy following concerns about the pile-up of machines, including suggestions on how bicycles should be parked.
According to state media, the local transport authority ordered six bikesharing groups to stop adding bicycles, although two, Mobike and ofo, denied thatthesetalksoccurred.
Small wonder Shanghai officials worry about the pile-up of bicycles on streets: the city leads the world with 450,000 shared machines, nearly all of themappearinginthepastsixmonths.
The brightly coloured bicycles supplied by companies such as Mobike and Ofo can be unlocked using mobile apps. Mobike’smodelsareGPS-tracked.
Unlike other sharing schemes, China’s bicycles can be picked up and left anywhere, making them convenient for users but frustrating for city authorities.
The bicycles are locked by the user after riding, then unlocked by the next rider by using the app and scanning a QR code ontheframe.
Competition between start-ups has been cut-throat: each has been producing more bicycles to gain the upper hand in a battle for share that looks like following the tussle between ride-hailing apps Uber and Didi Chuxing, before theUSgroupconcededdefeat. China’s rapid adoption of bike-sharing highlights the adaptability of the country’s consumers and groups. The top two bicycle-rental apps added 9m monthly active users in the final four months of 2016. The boom in bike-sharing has been supported by foreign as well as local investors. Ofo became the first bike-rental unicorn after reaching a $1bn valuation after a fundraising round this month, according to the company.
Mobike costs Rmb1-Rmb2 ($0.14-$0.28) per hour, while ofo — socalled because the name resembles a cyclist from the side — costs Rmb0.5 per hour.
Both companies offer generous subsidies so that many rides are virtually free.
Neither Mobike nor ofo has released projections of profitability.
However, Chen Lin, assistant professor of marketing at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, estimates that each Mobike requires 2.3 trips per day to break even, assuming the user pays Rmb1 per ride.
At least eight other China bikerental start-ups have begun their first big fundraising rounds, according to Ms Chen.