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Travis Kalanick

Travis Cordell Kalanick (born August 6, 1976) is an American businessman. He is the co-founder of Scour, a peer-to-peer file sharing application, Red Swoosh, a peer-to-peer content delivery network and Uber, a transportation network company. Red Swoosh was sold to Akamai Technologies in 2007. Kalanick is the co-founder and former CEO of Uber, a position he held from 2010 to 2017. He resigned from Uber in 2017, after controversy over the company's reported unethical culture, including allegations that he ignored reports of sexual harassment at the company. During the weeks leading up to his announcement on December 24, 2019 that he would resign from his board seat by December 31, Kalanick sold off approximately 90% of his shares in Uber. Kalanick is ranked 238th on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, with a net worth of $3.1 billion.

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Family

Kalanick was born on August 6, 1976 and grew up in Northridge, California. Kalanick’s parents are Bonnie Renée Horowitz Kalanick(died in 2017) and Donald Edward Kalanick. Bonnie, who was Jewish, worked in retail advertising for the Los Angeles Daily News. Donald, who came from a Slovak-Austrian Catholic family and whose grandparents had immigrated to the United States, was a civil engineer for the city of Los Angeles. Kalanick has two half-sisters, one of whom is actress Allisyn Ashley Arm's mother Anji, and a brother, Cory, who is a firefighter. Kalanick’s mother, Bonnie, died in a boating accident on May 26, 2017.

Education

Kalanick studied computer engineering and business economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. While studying at UCLA, Kalanick was a member of Theta Xi fraternity and started his first business, an online file-exchange service called Scour. In 1998, he dropped out of UCLA to work at the start-up full time.

Red Swoosh (2001–2007)

In 2001, Kalanick founded another peer-to-peer file-sharing company called Red Swoosh with Michael Todd. Red Swoosh software took advantage of increased bandwidth efficiency on the Internet to allow users to transfer and trade large media files, including music files and videos. The company also received help from former Scour employees.

According to Kalanick’s archived blog, Swooshing, he lived over three years without a salary at Red Swoosh, moved into his parents’ house in 2001 (which he told the FailCon 2011 audience commenting that he “wasn't getting ladies. It sucked.”), owed “$110,000 to the IRS in un-withheld income taxes”, witnessed “all but one of the company’s engineers” (who eventually departed as well) leave the company, and moved to Trivandrum (India) and Thailand as a cost-saving measure. Kalanick committed tax & securities fraud and perjury during the IRS investigation, blaming his partner Michael Todd, but neither were prosecuted. In 2007, Akamai Technologies acquired the company for $19 million, but facilitated securities fraud with Kalanick by failing to pay all shareholders.

Uber (2009–2019)

In 2009, Kalanick joined Garrett Camp, giving him “credit for the original idea” of Uber. Camp, the co-founder of StumbleUpon, spent $800 hiring a private driver with friends and had been mulling over ways to decrease the cost of black car services (meaning taxis that are dispatched by a central service rather than hailed directly on the street) ever since. He realized that sharing the cost with people could make it affordable, and his idea morphed into Uber. “Garrett is the guy who invented that”, Kalanick said at an early Uber event in San Francisco. The first prototype was built by Camp, and his friends, Oscar Salazar and Conrad Whelan, with Kalanick contributing as a “mega advisor” to the company. In October 2010, Kalanick succeeded CEO Ryan Graves, who had held the position for ten months.

On June 13, 2017, Kalanick’s indefinite leave of absence from Uber was announced, leaving his responsibilities to his direct subordinates in the organization.

On June 20, 2017, Kalanick resigned as CEO after 5 major investors, including Benchmark Capital, reportedly demanded his resignation. Despite his resignation, Kalanick was to retain his seat on Uber's Board of Directors. Dara Khosrowshahi succeeded him as CEO in August 2017.

On December 24, 2019, Kalanick announced his resignation from the Board, which was to become effective on December 31, 2019. During the weeks leading up to this announcement, Kalanick sold off more than $2.5 billion of Uber stocks, which was about 90% of his shares.

Economic Advisor to President Trump

Despite CTO Thuan Pham’s 2016 internal email to employees commenting “I will not even utter the name of this deplorable person because I do not accept him as my leader” on the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, which was widely spread and published by the media, in December 2016, it was announced that Kalanick joined other CEOs, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Disney CEO Bob Iger, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, as an economic advisor on Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum organized by Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman. Kalanick was opposed to President Trump’s executive order banning travel from select countries and believed that staying in Trump’s advisory council would provide him with the opportunity to directly address his concerns with the President and advocate for immigrants. In an Uber blog post, Kalanick stated that he wanted to use his position in the council to “give citizens a voice, a seat at the table.” However, after continued pressure, Kalanick announced in an email to Uber employees that he would step down from his duties in the council.

Sexual Harassment Allegations

In 2017, it was reported that Kalanick had knowledge of sexual harassment allegations at Uber and did not react. In the same week, he required his direct subordinate, Uber’s SVP of Engineering Amit Singhal, to resign after a month for failing to disclose a sexual harassment claim during Singhal’s 15 years as VP of Google Search, after Recode reported on it. According to Reuters, Kalanick has “a reputation as an abrasive leader”.

In February 2017, a video was released where Kalanick was shimmying between two women in an UberBLACK, before having a heated argument with the Uber driver, in which he berated the driver.

In March 2017, Uber VP of Business, Emil Michael contacted Kalanick’s ex-girlfriend in an attempt to silence her by hiding an HR complaint. This backfired, as she spoke to The Information as a source present during an executive team outing with Kalanick, where Michael and four other Uber managers selected numbered women at a Korean escort bar. The attending female manager then filed a complaint one year later. She also spoke to Businessweek about the rape case in connection with Uber in India. .

On June 21, 2017, Kalanick stepped down from his position as CEO of Uber.

Benchmark controversy

On August 10, 2017, Axios reported that Benchmark was suing Kalanick for “fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.” The lawsuit was based on Uber’s decision to expand the number of board seats, with Benchmark arguing that the decision should be declared invalid due to the withholding of information prior to the vote. Due to the relationship between founder and investor, the lawsuit was a highly controversial issue in Silicon Valley. The court decided in favor of Kalanick and moved the case to arbitration on August 30. In response to the court ruling Kalanick’s spokesperson stated:Mr. Kalanick is pleased that the court has ruled in his favor today and remains confident that he will prevail in the arbitration process. Benchmark’s false allegations are wholly without merit and have unnecessarily harmed Uber and its shareholders.

In January 2018, Benchmark dropped the lawsuit against Kalanick. The investment firm agreed to drop the lawsuit if Uber completed its transaction with SoftBank, a prior condition Benchmark had agreed to. Completed in early January, Uber agreed to sell a sizable stake to SoftBank. SoftBank bought the Uber shares at a valuation of $48 billion.

(2018–present)

On March 7, 2018, Kalanick announced via his Twitter account that he would start a venture fund, 10100 (pronounced 'ten-one-hundred'), focused on job growth. The fund is likely named after the address of his childhood home. The fund is going to tackle large scale employment opportunities by investing in e-commerce, innovation and real estate in emerging markets like China and India.

To capitalize on the rapid growth of the prepared-food delivery sector, Kalanick's real estate investment company, City Storage Systems, took controlling interest in U.K.-based FoodStars, a “dark kitchens” start-up with over 100 locations throughout the London metropolitan area in June 2018. Dark kitchens, also known as ghost kitchens, are purpose-built facilities that are leased to restaurants to prepare food for delivery, off-site from their full-service/walk-in location. Ghost kitchens also allow “virtual restaurants” (those with no full-service location) to launch brands and offer delivery-only service. The City Storage Systems ghost kitchen business operates under the name CloudKitchens. In November 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund completed an agreement with CloudKitchens in January 2019 to invest $400 million in the company. Kalanick himself has invested $300 million in the startup.

Kalanick contributes to an advisory board for Neom, Saudi Arabia’s plan to build a futuristic “mega city” in the desert.

Personal life

Kalanick bought a townhouse in the upper hills of San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, which was nicknamed “the Jam Pad” and had its own Twitter account. Kalanick has been described as being a passionate Libertarian, and a fan of author Ayn Rand. However, even with his Libertarian beliefs Kalanick stated that he supports Obamacare because his independent contractor drivers maintain health insurance as they transition between jobs.


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