Uber’s CEO choice faces a ques­tion of am­bi­tions

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

In pri­vate and some­times in public, Travis Kalan­ick was fond of de­scrib­ing Uber, the car-hail­ing ser­vice he co­founded and com­manded ab­so­lutely, as the Ama­zon of the trans­porta­tion busi­ness.

The sim­i­lar­i­ties were clear. Ama­zon be­gan as an on­line book­store but it was never just about sell­ing books; over two decades, Ama­zon’s founder, Jeff Be­zos, me­thod­i­cally ex­panded his com­pany’s range, op­er­a­tional in­fra­struc­ture and its am­bi­tions to ul­ti­mately pose an ex­is­ten­tial threat to the en­tire re­tail in­dus­try.

Uber, in Kalan­ick’s ex­pan­sive vi­sion, was sim­i­larly never just about hail­ing rides. To him, a tax- ilike car ser­vice has al­ways been a gate­way for a busi­ness model that he be­lieved would up­end the en­tire tril­lion-dol­lar global trans­porta­tion in­dus­try, al­ter­ing the way peo­ple and things move around the world — and turn­ing Uber into one of the hand­ful of Amer­i­can tech giants that will lord over the com­ing cen­tury.

That vi­sion now lies in the hands of Dara Khos­row­shahi, the long­time chief ex­ec­u­tive of the on­line travel com­pany Ex­pe­dia, whom Uber on Sun­day picked to re­place Kalan­ick. Khos­row­shahi faces one pri­mary ques­tion in that role that has ev­ery­thing to do with am­bi­tion: Will the com­pany still aim to be­come the Ama­zon of trans­porta­tion, or will it set­tle for be­ing the Ex­pe­dia of its market — one of the largest of sev­eral play­ers in its in­dus­try, but not ex­pan­sion­ist and mes­sianic, hell­bent on be­com­ing the next great Amer­i­can tech­nol­ogy be­he­moth?

Khos­row­shahi is a ci­pher in Sil­i­con Val­ley. Much about the fu­ture of trans­porta­tion, as well as the startup scene in Sil­i­con Val­ley, rides on his still-un­known plans. Ex­pe­dia de­clined to com­ment, and Uber did not re­turn a re­quest for com­ment.

But Khos­row­shahi’s past at Ex­pe­dia sheds some light on his tem­per­a­ment. He has had a largely suc­cess­ful run there, and ap­pears to be a pa­tient op­er­a­tor who can fix an ail­ing com­pany.

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