monday, 20 march of 2017

Uber president resigns over corporate culture differences

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.

Uber at the weekend confirmed his departure. “We want to thank Jeff for his six months at the company and wish him all the best,” a spokesperson said, after the move was first reported by tech 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 ride sharing business.”

Later on Sunday it emerged that Uber 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 maps and business platform. In a statement, he said his departure to go into politics had been in the works for several 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 highly respected in his field and oversaw 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 losing faith in the company’s leadership team.

In February, 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 operating chief threatened to sideline Mr Jones’s role.

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 veteran executives were brought in to assist less experienced founders as their companies grew at rapid speed.

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.”

However, one Uber investor told the Financial Times earlier this month that he believed Mr Kalanick should “step back” and “let a grown-up be CEO”.

(Published by Financial Times - March 20, 2017)

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