After a long series of wrong turns dating back to the company’s founding for all we know, Uber is finally ready to get back on the right path. The Uber board of directors convinced former CEO Travis Kalanick to resign in June after a deluge of bad press, including the revelation of a sexist company culture, a video of Kalanick berating an Uber driver, a lawsuit lobbed by Waymo over allegedly stolen autonomous driving technology, and older issues like programs to target and discredit journalists. Since then, they’ve been looking for a permanent replacement, and it looks like they’ve found him in Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Recode reports that Khosrowshahi has been offered the job and is expected to accept later this week.
A series of Recode reports on the search revealed that the top two candidates had been HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman and GE CEO Jeff Immelt. Their reporting suggests that Immelt was turned off by infighting among board members throughout the process, while Whitman had demanded more power (and less involvement from Kalanick, who remains on the board) than the board was willing to cede. That leaves Khosrowshahi, the candidate for whom the board has apparently been able to set aside its differences.
While Khosrowshahi is expected to take the job, it should be noted that nothing is official yet. Usually we’d see that as splitting hairs, but with the year Uber has had, you have to be ready for anything! Assuming he does take the position, he’ll have to figure out how to steer Uber towards sustainable profitability — while numbers have been improving since Uber exited China, Uber still has a habit of losing billions of dollars every year.
Khosrowshahi will also need to patch things up with riders and drivers, both of whom have been frustrated enough to start leaning more on Uber’s primary competitor, Lyft. In-app tipping has already been implemented to help smooth things over with the drivers, but it remains to be seen if Uber itself will be willing to start giving drivers more money, possibly raising fares in the process.
He’ll also need to decide on what role Uber will play in autonomous driving. With their previous plans in jeopardy thanks to the Waymo lawsuit, Uber could either double down on their own technology or fade into the background and simply be a fleet operator, the path Lyft appears to be taking. We’ll also have to see how he feels about some of Uber’s more far-fetched ideas.