Corporate Culture In An Age Of Unicorns and Disruptors
Poor, poor Travis Kalanick, CEO of UBER.
The last time I witnessed a senior executive combust so quickly and so publicly it was Jeff Skilling.
And, remember, Skilling was being ousted for the largest bankruptcy in US history, the loss of billions in investor dollars and over 20,000 employees losing their jobs, and their life savings, in the process.
Am I sickened by the revelations of rampant sexism and a broken “culture” at UBER?
I’ve two daughters and I would be livid if they had to contend with a workplace like the one we're all reading about.
Am I saddened by the trail of questionable, debatable and borderline-illegal activities that UBER have conducted over the past few years while blazing a trail as THE anti-establishment, trustbusting, anti-regulation transportation company?
But here’s what I’m NOT.
I’m not surprised in the least actually.
We have created the environment in which being a “Disruptor” is the most sought-after accolade any CEO can aspire to. Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, Chesky – these are all household names.
The same “Celebrity CEO” Cult that’s immortalized ironic quips like Skilling’s one about Enron “We’re the good guys. We’re on the side of angels” and Kalanick’s "We have to bring out the truth about how dark and dangerous and evil the taxi side is”
We’ve brazenly created an entirely new categorization of business – Unicorns – that, as the name suggests, are a mythical bunch of companies with a valuation over a billion dollars and no performance history to validate that amount. How crazy is it that? Vaunted business publication Forbes actually publishes an annual Unicorn List that, guess who tops in 2016? You got it – UBER.
Amusingly, while Kalanick and UBER were being villified in the media, the same group of reporters were breathlessly reporting on the upcoming Snap Inc IPO and a valuation that was bouncing between $25 and $30 billion before finally settling closer to $20 billion.
For a company that warns they may never be profitable, is hemorrhaging users, acknowledges their core customers aren’t brand loyal and, in their own prospectus, goes so far as saying ““We face significant competition in almost every aspect of ou