Wanted: a seasoned executive to take the top position at a troubled technology start-up. Must be willing to fix a broken culture, deal with an aggressive predecessor, battle a risky lawsuit and prepare the company for an initial public offering. Self-starters preferred.
This is essentially the pitch that Uber is making to potential chief executive candidates after Travis Kalanick, the ride-hailing company’s co-founder, was ousted from the top spot last month. By some accounts, the job appears to be a thankless one at a company whose reputation is in the toilet. So who would want it?
Quite a few people, as it turns out.
Despite a series of scandals that have rocked Uber to its core this year, competition for the chief executive position is robust, according to people familiar with the search who asked to remain anonymous because the process is confidential. The company has received a flood of interest since Mr. Kalanick vacated his seat in June, and Uber’s board has interviewed multiple candidates.
For those applicants, the calculus is easy. Despite Uber’s problems, executives see an opportunity to shepherd the company — which operates in more than 80 countries and pulls in billions of dollars each quarter – through the most trying time in its eight-year history.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for someone who’s wired for problem solving and wants to make their mark by turning around the image of the company,” said Jason Hanold, managing partner at Hanold Associates, a boutique executive search firm. “Yes, they’re inheriting Uber’s entire toxic culture. But they’re also getting thousands of employees who are hungry to change it.”
The chance of having an impact is high. Apart from the opportunity to steer a turnaround, any chief executive would be walking into a company that has already reached enormous scale. As a result, changes made by a new chief would affect millions of people globally, not to mention Uber’s work force of more than 15,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of contract drivers.
The eventual chief executive would also have the opportunity to take Uber public. The company, which began in 2009, is now the highest-valued private company in the world, with a valuation of around $70 billion. And while Uber is unprofitable, its revenue has been growing. That would make an initial public offering a huge event on Wall Street, as well as for Silicon Valley investors who have billions of dollars wagered on Uber’s success.
For now, Uber’s executive search committee, which includes five members of its board, has kept the lid tight on the list of candidates. After a torrent of leaks before Mr. Kalanick’s departure, two of the people familiar with the search said there has been a renewed effort to keep quiet.
- Who will succeed Mr. Kalanick?