There are many unkind ways to end a working relationship, but leave it to Uber to show a true flourish of cruelty.
Uber cleaned out half of its Chicago-based support staff on Friday. In emails obtained by the Daily Dot, the employees were terminated by a representative of ZeroChaos, the third-party HR firm that managed the contractors. The emails were written in, of all things, Comic Sans—the world’s most reviled and visually offensive font.
Uber’s public image has suffered in the past few weeks, what with its Senior Vice President blaming Sarah Lacy for sexual assault against female passengers, and its CEO following up with a preeeeetty unprofessional and unapologetic tweetstorm.
But that didn’t stop the company from announcing the completion of a $1.2 billion funding round today. An Uber spokesperson said the company’s now valued at $40 billion, according to Re/code.
Last week, it was revealed that Uber leadership, from the CEO down to its regional managers, is guilty of serious abuse of power, executive overreach and, at very least, what should be career-ending gaffs.
But Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael hasn’t, in fact, been fired and CEO Travis Kalanick is barely sorry, which has the tech world asking the Great Uber Question: How do you hold a venture-backed startup responsible for erratic and thuggish behavior?
uber? But I just met her
For a company that is struggling with its “asshole” public image, Uber has had a baaaad 24 hours.
A recap: At a private event, Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael told Buzzfeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith that in order to deal with bad press, Uber could run opposition research secretly on contentious journalists, dox them, target their friends and family, and quietly expose the private details of their lives. Then, Mr. Michael said that Pando founder Sarah Lacy should be held responsible for sexual assault committed against women by cab drivers, all because she encouraged people to use Lyft for reasons of Uber’s (suddenly obvious) misogynistic corporate culture.
Just in the past hour or so, Mr. Kalanick took to Twitter to issue an apology, though it doesn’t look like Uber is going to be changing the way it does business. It’s nice to see that he’s taking personal accountability enough to issue the apology on his personal social accounts, but it doesn’t nearly approach the ideal move: giving those same journalists that his executive threatened more access to his typically opaque and shady company.
Uber has a #brand problem: everyone loves to use them, but they wreak havoc on local governments and piss off local taxi drivers everywhere they go. Now, you can hire a veritable tech PR army to deal with local squabbles and wars with other companies, but there’s one problem no flack is cut out to solve: a CEO who is an unsalvageable jerk.
In an expansive profile, San Francisco Magazine waxes skeptical over Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s new attempts to shed his “asshole” image. The profile says that Mr. Kalanick is suddenly being more careful about his rhetoric, musing that during the interview, he was on his best behavior and was “dressed not like the slick cutthroat capitalist that many claim him to be, but like a dad.”
Yesterday night, Vine, the video-clip sharing app Twitter acquired back in October, held its launch party at Marquee. Yes, that Marquee. DJs spun above a lighted sign with the hashtag “#party,” and users obliged by Vine-ing the experience.
There was the meta-Vine of people Vine-ing at the Vine launch. And, because Read More
Ride or Die
“Objectify a man in tech” day is no longer a thing. Tech journalist Leigh Alexander proposed the exercise last week in hopes it would “catalyze discussions about the way we use language and how seemingly-innocuous ‘compliments’ are belittling and distracting”; now she’s “worried that point will be lost and that harm can be done.” [Sexy Videogameland]
The Department of Defense is gearing up to add 4,000 employees to its Cyber Command; The Pentagon may make an honest hacker out of you yet. [NYT]
Is Marissa Mayer’s relationship with Wall Street already on the rocks? Analysts will be looking for tangible improvements under Ms. Mayer’s leadership when Yahoo reports quarterly results later today. [CNN Money]
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has a prediction for e-hailing in New York: “Drivers will make a lot of money.” [WSJ]
“Wait, how ’bout we trade you some promoted tweets for a tax break?” [BuzzFeed]
It’s the year of the sexy, sexy enterprise startups. [Tech Crunch]
Ride or Die
Fast forward a few hours: The ball has dropped, you’ve toasted 2012 and kissed some strangers, and now you’re ready to head to the next party. One problem: So is everyone else, and there’s nary a cab to be found. One solution: Use Uber, the e-hailing app that lets revelers around the world call black cars from their smart phones.
Ride or Die
In a packed meeting at the Taxi and Limousine Commission headquarters this morning, commissioners voted 7-0 in favor of adopting a year-long pilot program to test out e-hailing apps that let riders flag down yellow cabs from their smartphone. The pilot won’t commence until February. After reviewing data from the test run, the TLC will assess whether to make it permanent. The more limited pilot program is an abrupt change from an earlier proposal by TLC chairman David Yassky: to vote on e-hailing rules that would have opened New York’s taxi market up to any app that met guidelines and secured a license.
Tomorrow morning, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission will hold a momentous vote at its headquarters on 33 Beaver Street concerning two sets of proposed rules–one of which could radically alter the taxi hailing experience for New Yorkers.
That highly contested proposal calls for changing e-hailing rules that have traditionally given yellow cabs province over street hails, where black cars and livery cabs focus on prearranged rides. If passed, those e-hail rules would open up New York’s massive, much-coveted market for yellow cabs to any request-a-ride app that meets guidelines and secures a license.
So rather than having to hail a taxi on the street, these apps will let you flag down and pay for a taxi with a few taps of your smartphone.