Travis Cordell Kalanick ( born August 6, 1976) is an American businessman.
In 2014, he entered the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans at position 190, with an estimated net worth of US$6.3 billion. In June 2017, he was forced to resign as the CEO of Uber amidst mounting allegations of workplace culture and sexual harassment rampant at Uber, which he was accused of having done little to stop.
Early life and education
Kalanick was born on August 6, 1976, in Los Angeles. He grew up in Northridge, California, where he graduated from Granada Hills High School and later enrolled in college at University of California, Los Angeles, to study computer engineering. While studying at UCLA, Kalanick 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.
Kalanick’s parents are Bonnie Renée Horowitz Kalanick (née Bloom) and Donald Edward Kalanick. Bonnie worked in retail advertising for the Los Angeles Daily News, and Donald was a civil engineer for the city of Los Angeles.
His father Donald grew up in a Catholic family with Slovakian and Austrian roots. They had all immigrated to the United States in Donald’s grandparents’ generation. Donald’s parents were Michael Andrew “Mike” Kalanick (the son of Ján Kalanin, later John Kalanick, and Anna Polanská) and Mary Zeyock (the daughter of Ji?í “George” Zeyock and Anna “Annie” Androsová). His mother Bonnie is Jewish.
Kalanick has two half-sisters, one of whom is actress Allisyn Ashley Arm‘s mother Anji, and a brother, Cory, who is a firefighter.
In 1998, Kalanick, along with Michael Todd and Vince Busam, dropped out of UCLA to help Dan Rodrigues found Scour Inc., a multimedia search engine, and Scour Exchange, a peer-to-peer file sharing service. In 2000, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) brought a $250 billion lawsuit against Scour, alleging copyright infringement. In September of 2000, Scour filed for bankruptcy to protect itself from the lawsuit.
Red Swoosh (20012007)
In 2001, with Michael Todd, Kalanick started a new company called Red Swoosh, another peer-to-peer file-sharing company. 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 got much help from former Scour employees.
Kalanick has an archived blog, Swooshing, where he shares struggles during this time. This included living over 3 years without a salary, moving into his parents’ house in 2001 (which he told the Failcon 2011 audience and commented that he “wasn’t getting ladies. It sucked.”), owing “$110,000 to the IRS in un-withheld income taxes, which is a white-collar crime that pierces the corporate shell, and it doesn’t matter whether you knew or not. If you’re an officer of the company you’re going to jail,” witnessing “all but one of the company’s engineers” leaving (who eventually also departed), and moving to Thailand as a cost-saving measure. In 2007, Akamai Technologies acquired the company for $19 million.
In 2009, Kalanick joined Garrett Camp and gives him “full credit for the idea” of Uber, a mobile app that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services. Camp, 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 shit”, 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 being brought on as a “mega advisor” to the company. In December 2010, Kalanick succeeded Ryan Graves as CEO, who had held the position for ten months.
Uber operates in 66 countries and in more than 507 cities around the world. Uber faced some controversy in some cities in North America, such as Portland, Oregon, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Toronto, and New York City. The company faces fierce competition from similar services and “clone companies” in cities such as London.
On June 13, 2017, it was announced that Kalanick would take an indefinite leave of absence from Uber. His responsibilities would be assumed by his direct reports in the organization.
On June 20, 2017, Kalanick resigned as CEO after multiple shareholders reportedly demanded his resignation. Despite his resignation, Kalanick will retain his seat on Uber’s board of directors.
Economic Advisor to Trump Council
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 circulated 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 vocally opposed President Trump’s executive order banning travel from select countries and believed that remaining on 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 on 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 the council.
In 2017, it was reported that Kalanick had knowledge of sexual harassment allegations at Uber and did nothing. In the same week, he asked his direct report, 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 about it in media. According to Reuters, he 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 arguing with an Uber driver during a heated debate 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 into hiding an HR complaint. This backfired, with her speaking to The Information as a source present during an executive team outing with Kalanick, where Michael and four more Uber managers selected numbered women at a Korean escort bar, prompting a sexism complaint one year after the event by the female manager who attended. She also has since spoken to Businessweek about Uber’s India rape case.
On June 21, 2017, he stepped down as the CEO of Uber because of the pressure from a majority of the investors as he was seen as a liability but will continue to stay on the companys board.
On August 10, 2017, Axios reported that Benchmark is suing Kalanick for “fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.” The suit is based on Uber’s decision to expand the number of board seats, with Benchmark arguing the decision is invalid due to withholding of material information prior to the vote.
Kalanick and Angie You, his then-longtime girlfriend, bought a townhouse in the upper hills of the San Francisco’s Castro section, which was nicknamed “the Jam Pad” and had its own Twitter account.
From 20142016, Kalanick dated Gabi Holzwarth.