New Uber CEO High­lights Ira­ni­ans in Tech

The Jewish Voice - - BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY -

In Sil­i­con Val­ley, all eyes are on Dara Khos­row­shahi, the new CEO of Uber, who starts his turn­around of the ride-hail­ing firm on Tues­day. But for Ira­nian Amer­i­cans work­ing in tech, Khos­row­shahi's ap­point­ment is not just about who will guide Uber, a nearly $70 bil­lion com­pany that has searched since June for a new leader. Khos­row­shahi, 48, is Ira­nian Amer­i­can. Born in Tehran, he came to the U.S. when he was nine. His ap­point­ment high­lights the promi­nence of peo­ple of Ira­nian de­scent in the tech in­dus­try at a time when many feel un­der in­creased scru­tiny. "The Per­sian Mafia in Tech gets $70B big­ger!" noted one Ira­nian Amer­i­can tech in­vestor. Khos­row­shahi's hir­ing prompted Ali Tah­maseb, a tech en­tre­pre­neur, to com­pile a list of more than 50 Ira­nian Amer­i­cans who have founded com­pa­nies, be­come tech in­vestors or are in lead­er­ship roles at tech firms. They in­clude Pierre Omid­yar, founder of eBay, and Falon Roz Fatemi, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of and, when she was 19, Google's youngest em­ployee at the time. Uber board's ap­point­ment of Khos­row­shahi comes at a time when Ira­nian Amer­i­cans are in­creas­ingly wor­ried about how they are per­ceived, said Leila Austin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Pub­lic Af­fairs Al­liance of Ira­nian Amer­i­cans, a non profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. More than 80 per­cent of Ira­nian Amer­i­cans in a re­cent sur­vey said they wor­ried about ris­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, dou­ble those had ex­pressed the same con­cern in 2015. And 56 per­cent said they had per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced dis­crim­i­na­tion. Khos­row­shahi, un­til re­cently the chief ex­ec­u­tive at Ex­pe­dia, spoke out against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion's ef­forts to re­strict Ira­ni­ans trav­el­ing to the U.S. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gues that its more re­stric­tive visa and im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies will make the United States safer, and Amer­i­can cit­i­zens more pros­per­ous. In Jan­uary, Khos­row­shahi told his em­ploy­ees in a memo, ob­tained by Busi­ness In­sider, that the travel ban would make the U.S. "ever so slightly less dan­ger­ous as a place to live, but it will cer­tainly be seen as a smaller na­tion, one that is in­ward-look­ing ver­sus for­ward think­ing, re­ac­tionary ver­sus vi­sion­ary." Khos­row­shahi faces a long

list of prob­lems at Uber. Sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims. An ag­gres­sive, break-things cul­ture. In­ter­nal strife within the board.

And then there is the ac­tual Uber busi­ness, which has trans­formed trans­porta­tion world­wide. The com­pany has faced more pres­sure from Lyft, its main U.S. com­peti­tor. It has given up in big global mar­kets, ced­ing to ri­vals in China, Rus­sia and In­dia. In his first all-hands meet­ing with Uber em­ploy­ees, Khos­row­shahi said the com­pany planned to go pub­lic in 18 to 36 months.

No doubt Khos­row­shahi's job at Uber is a big one, yet the enor­mity of the chal­lenge adds to the Ira­nian com­mu­nity's sense of pride, said Pirooz Par­varan­deh, a long­time Sil­i­con Val­ley ex­ec­u­tive who cre­ated a non­profit to gather and an­a­lyze data about Ira­nian Amer­i­cans' con­tri­bu­tions to the U.S.

Khos­row­shahi's as­cen­dancy at Uber is "sym­bolic of the value and ser­vice that Ira­nian Amer­i­cans bring to Amer­ica," he said.

Dara Khos­row­shahi, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Ex­pe­dia, Inc., at­tends the an­nual Allen & Com­pany Sun Val­ley Con­fer­ence on July 7, 2016, in Sun Val­ley, Idaho.

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