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Morning Report: Uber’s President Quits Amid Gordian Knot Of Controversy At Company

Morning Report: Jeff Jones, Uber’s president and number two to CEO Travis Kalanick, quits after 6 months on the job. But he is not the first executive to leave.

On Sunday afternoon, ReCode broke the news that Uber’s president of Ride Sharing, Jeff Jones, resigned his post after less than one year on the job.

Jones joined the transportation company from Target, where he served as the retailer’s chief marketing officer since April 2012. Jones, a veteran of the corporate marketing business, was previously a partner and president at McKinsey and the executive vice president of marketing for Gap Inc. He joined Uber in September 2016. His job, as ReCode journalists Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan characterized it, “was to remake the company’s tainted image.”

Evidently, that didn’t work out so well.

Suffice it to say that the last couple of months have not been kind to Uber, and the company is beginning to show signs of weakness amid the challenging environment. Uber appears to have some serious issues with retaining executive talent these days, stemming from deep issues with the company’s culture. As Jones told Recode:

“It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.”

Let’s take a look at some of those inconsistencies and how they’ve prompted other executives to leave, both by force and by choice.

Sexual Harassment Claims Force Out Two Senior Executives

In the wake of the now-infamous Susan Fowler post, more scrutiny has been applied to Uber’s senior management team. Uber’s SVP of engineering, Amit Singhal, was asked to resign on February 27th after it was revealed that he left his previous employer, Google, amid a dispute over sexual harassment allegations.

Although Singhal vehemently denied the claims, the optics weren’t great for the company. As Recode‘s Kara Swisher put it in her article: “Having Singhal at the head of an organization under siege over sexual harassment issues when he was not candid with Uber over his departure from Google was considered untenable.”

Less than a week later, Recode also broke the news that Uber’s VP of product and growth, Ed Baker, resigned amid suggestions that he had a sexual encounter with an employee at an internal Uber event several years ago. There was no evidence of harassment, and the encounter was “apparently consensual,” but, again, optics matter here.

Other Executives Leave On Their Own Accord

Alleged sexual harassers aren’t the only executives to leave the company. Just this morning, The New York Times reported that another executive besides Jones will be departing as well.

Brian McClendon, Uber’s VP of maps and business platform, will be leaving the company at the end of the month. His exit was planned and amicable, and he will continue to advise the company from his home state of Kansas, where the Times reports that he will be exploring politics.

Raffi Krikorian, a director in Uber’s problematic self-driving car efforts, which has gotten off to a rocky start, left the company last week after announcing his departure on February 23rd. This was announced one day before Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber. The Waymo lawsuit alleges that Otto, a self-driving truck company Uber acquired for $680 million last year, stole self-driving car plans from Waymo. According to an archived copy of the original report, several senior roboticists also left Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in the time leading up to Krikorian’s departure.

Additionally, Gary Marcus, who joined the company as the director of Uber A.I. Labs as the result of Uber’s Geometric Intelligence acquisition, departed earlier in March.

Culture Is Not Uber’s Only Challenge

The fact that a bunch of executives are leaving Uber is likely a symptom of a larger issue at the company. For the sake of brevity, I left out a number of equally problematic stories which broke in the past couple months. Here’s just a sampling:

  • Uber’s Greyball program, which helped the company evade regulatory authorities.
  • More details of the alleged IP heist from Waymo by Uber’s new head of self-driving car projects Anthony Levandowski, who assumed that role after Kikorian left. (Daniel Compton, a New Zealand-based software engineer with no connection to Uber, wrote a very thorough analysis of the alleged timeline.)
  • That video of CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver.

To help ameliorate some of the issues with corporate culture, Kalanick has asked for “leadership help” in the form of a COO. With Jeff Jones now gone, it’s likely that the executive search process is about to get a lot longer. How badly does anyone want to join the company now?

Today in the Crunchbase Daily:

Uber’s president quits after six months

  • Uber’s president, Jeff Jones, is quitting after six months on the job, citing issues with the company’s approach to management. The move follows Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s announcement that he plans to hire a chief operating officer to provide leadership help. Jones’ departure follows several rocky weeks for the ride-hailing giant, which is grappling with charges of sexual harassment, a lawsuit from Google, and a campaign to delete its app, among other issues.

MuleSoft shares surged in debut

  • The year’s first big enterprise software IPO delivered a first-day pop. Shares of MuleSoft closed up about 40 percent in their first day of trading on Friday, giving the San Francisco-based company a market cap north of $3 billion. The stock was down slightly in Monday morning trading.

Netmarble files to raise $2.35B in IPO

  • Netmarble, one of the largest mobile and PC gaming firms, has filed to raise as much as $2.35 billion through an IPO in its native Korea, TechCrunch reports. A listing in that price range would give the company a valuation that’s just shy of $12 billion.

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