Data Sheet—Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Travis Kalanick’s wild ride is over.
I woke up this morning in Cannes, France to the news that Kalanick had resigned. Like a heavyweight boxer whose momentum had turned, Kalanick has taken punch after punch this year, from the outrage in January over his association with Donald Trump, to the widely-viewed video of his berating an Uber driver, to the explosive blog post by an ex-employee alleging systemic sexual discrimination at Uber, to Google’s charges of theft of its self-driving car technology.
I thought Kalanick’s leave of absence, announced just last week, was a weak half measure. It was a way to appease the gods of outrage without really giving up power or influence. He didn’t say when he’d be back; he implied he’d keep watch on the most important issues at Uber.
Now, under pressure from investors, Kalanick has completed the task. By resigning, he’s giving his company an opportunity to move forward. Two areas in particular might benefit from Kalanick’s exit, keeping in mind he hasn’t resigned from the Uber board nor given up his influential voting shares of the company’s stock.
First, his removal will make it immeasurably easier to recruit a new leader. The company had been looking for a chief operating officer, an awkward proposition at best given the uncertainty over Kalanick’s status. Now, this still-global company with widespread customer acceptance and billions in the bank can recruit a CEO and offer her or him total control.
Second, to the extent that Uber’s legal problems worsen, and to the extent they focus on Kalanick’s personal role, including in recruiting an ex-Google engineer to head autonomous vehicle development, some of that legal heat can be focused on Kalanick, rather than Uber.
Kalanick’s spectacular flameout is one for the ages. His stubborn persistence and vision made Uber what it is. Flying in the face of convention was an asset, but ultimately a horrible liability. The way forward for Uber is unclear. But now it doesn’t include Travis Kalanick.
Given the news, I’ll save for tomorrow my additional reports from Cannes, where I’m attending the International Festival of Creativity. But I’ll leave you with one thought. At a small dinner last night hosted by the Alphabet/Google unit Jigsaw, the conversation turned, as it does so frequently when the subject of great companies arises, to Apple. Today’s Wall Street Journal has an elegant and comprehensive review of the rise of Apple in the decade since the iPhone launched, complete with a fascinating chart plotting the iPhone’s success with that of other great products.
Travis Kalanick shares certain traits with Steve Jobs, including a fierce rule-breaking streak. But the comparisons are thin and of limited value. Jobs built one of the best companies the world has ever seen. Kalanick hasn’t.
The boot. As Adam noted, Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO of embattled ride service Uber on Tuesday, amid massive pressure from the startup's venture capital backers. The New York Times has details of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering to dump Kalanick.
The pivot. Adobe's brilliant shift from selling packaged software to selling software as a service continues to pay off. The maker of Photoshop and Premiere said fiscal second quarter revenue jumped 27% to a record $1.77 billion.
The bend. Online sports service fuboTV raised another $55 million to fuel the move beyond its soccer roots. The streaming video company rose to prominence by bringing international soccer, including the English Premier League, to an American audience, but it's adding NFL, NBA, MLB, golf, college football, entertainment, and news channels.
The top. The U.S. may need a more powerful supercomputer. For the first time since November, 1996, none of the three most powerful calculating machines in the world are American. Two Chinese supercomputers and an upgraded supercomputer in Switzerland topped the biannual list of fastest machines released Monday by the TOP500 organization, which tracks supercomputer speeds.
The challenger. Intel's near-monopoly on microprocessor chips for servers is under all-out attack by Advanced Micro Devices. AMD CEO Lisa Su unveiled the company's new Epyc line up on Tuesday, saying, "One size does not fit all."
The style. In case clothing retailers haven't suffered enough lately, Amazon said on Tuesday it has begun testing a service called Prime Wardrobe to let customers try on clothes before they buy them and return them for free. Amazon's Prime Wardrobe will be available to Prime members at no extra charge and gives customers one week to decide whether they want to keep what they ordered. Meanwhile, Walmart is telling some tech companies it does business with to get their apps off of Amazon's cloud platform.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Apple's legendary culture of secrecy is no accident. William Turton at the Outline got to see an internal Apple video presentation on security and discovered that the iPhone maker has hired former military, FBI, Secret Service, and National Security Agency veterans to protect its confidential information.
The expectation of secrecy is deeply embedded in the culture, as well. Greg Joswiak, vice president of iPod, iPhone, and iOS product marketing, lays out the common view in the video:
I have faith deep in my soul that if we hire smart people they're gonna think about this, they’re gonna understand this, and ultimately they’re gonna do the right thing, and that's to keep their mouth shut.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
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Someone Just Bought an Old Apple Computer for $356,000 by Jonathan Vanian
What You Need to Know About Uber’s New In-App Tipping Feature by Polina Marinova
How Whole Foods and Amazon Fell in Love by Beth Kowitt
Big Nintendo Switch Update Helps Users Find Friends by Don Reisinger
BEFORE YOU GO
Global climate change is radically altering where different crops can be grown and threatening the livelihood of farmers around the world. A new study finds that some African coffee growers should be able to transition to new plots. While up to 59% of current Ethiopian coffee farming areas are at risk, up to four times as much land may become suitable for the beans as the climate shifts.