Good morning. This is Polina Marinova, filling in for Erin today. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on Twitter @polina_marinova.
As Uber begins to fill its many, many vacant positions, the company is making some high-profile hires – a few of whom are already being hailed as the tech giant’s key to salvation. If that’s true, it appears the company’s future lies more and more in the hands of, well, women.
Since January, I’ve covered nearly every bump in Uber’s rocky ride. For the most part, I felt that Uber’s conciliatory tour was all talk. The apologies, the pledges for diversity, the promise to recruit more female employees was nice to hear, but at the end of the day, they lacked real substance. Women still didn’t hold key positions of power at the company, which meant it was unlikely it would meaningfully change.
But then Travis Kalanick, Uber’s visionary but also the driver of its aggressive culture, resigned from the CEO role. Amidst the turmoil, the company also made some high-profile female leadership hires.
Maybe things are actually turning around.
Over the weekend, The New York Times published a profile on Bozoma Saint John, the former Apple executive who recently joined Uber as the chief brand officer. She told the Times: “To me, there’s no sense of tokenism because I know I can do the job — I’m qualified to do the job, I can do a great job. Being present as a black woman — just present — is enough to help exact some of the change that is needed and some that we’re looking for.”
According to Uber’s diversity numbers, women in leadership accounted for 22% of Uber’s employee base. For tech and engineering roles, that number dropped to 15%. When it came to race, the tech giant is predominantly white (49.8%). Globally, the Uber workforce is 30.9% Asian, 8.8% Black, 5.6% Hispanic, and 4.3% Multiracial.
As a result, Uber pledged $3 million over the next three years to support organizations working to bring women and underrepresented groups into tech. Although the pledge is a nice gesture, Saint John’s leadership at Uber will likely do more for women and minorities than those $3 million ever will.
And then there’s Frances Frei, the Harvard Business School academic who is now serving as Uber’s SVP of leadership and strategy. She told Recode that Uber’s leadership decisions are key to its future, but “I don’t believe in the savior CEO.”
This brings us to the still vacant CEO role. Obviously, it’s imperative that Uber gets this right. Although it may sound like a long shot, Arianna Huffington would make a lot of sense as Uber’s chief. As I said in June, once the sexual harassment claims came out, Huffington became increasingly involved, speaking with hundreds of women at the company, serving as the public voice, and recruiting leaders like Saint John.
She’s already acting as CEO – just without the title. Making it official would send the ultimate message: Uber’s next chapter will be written by its women.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
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• A-Rod’s next chapter is a whole new ballgame.
A night inside Cabin’s sleep pod bus. An interesting take on how retail can thrive in a world without stores. The hedge fund betting $280 million on a 34-year-old. Cancer researchers are turning their focus to gene therapies.
• GrabTaxi Holdings Pte, a Singapore-based ride-hailing platform for the taxi industry, will raise approximately $2.5 billion in funding from investors including Didi Chuxing, Softbank. Read more at Fortune.
• Rimilia, a U.K.-based cash application and cash allocation software solution provider, raised $25 million in funding, according to TechCrunch. Kennet Partners and Eight Roads Ventures co-led the round. Read more.
• Expert360, a Sydney-based online marketplace to access and manage freelance consultant talent for enterprises, raised $10 million in funding. AirTree Ventures led the round.
• Hinge Health, a San Francisco-based digital healthcare startup, raised $8 million in Series A funding, according to TechCrunch. Atomico led the round, and was joined by investors including Eleven Two Capital, The Vertical Group, and Jon Reynolds. Read more.
• The Town Kitchen, an Oakland, Calif.-based industrial catering company, raised $1 million in seed funding. Urban Innovation Fund led the round, and was joined by investors including Better Ventures, Rose Culinary Ventures, Slow Money, and SheEO.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Internet Brands, a portfolio company of KKR, agreed to acquire WebMD (Nasdaq: WBMD), a New York-based health information services provider, for approximately $2.8 billion.
• Sizmek, a portfolio company of Vector Capital, agreed to acquire Rocket Fuel (Nasdaq: FUEL) for $125.5 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. The deal values Rocket Fuel at approximately $145 million, including debt. Read more.
• Impact XM, a portfolio company of AGI Partners, acquired Atlantic Exhibits, a Dayton, N.J.-based trade show exhibit company. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Platinum Equity agreed to buy United Site Services, a Westborough, Mass.-based portable restroom and temporary fence provider. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Alpine Investors made an investment of an undisclosed amount in Escape Technology, a Roseville, Calif.-based software application developer for K-12 schools.
• Asda, the U.K.-based supermarket arm of Wal-Mart, is considering a 4.4 billion pounds ($5.7 billion) bid for B&M European Value Retail (LSE:BME), a Luxembourg-based general merchandise value retailer, according to Reuters. Read more.
• Rayonier Advanced Materials said it raised its offer price for Tembec Inc (TSX:TMB), a Canada-based paper and cellulose pulp maker, to C$4.75 per share, valuing the deal at C$475 million ($378.6 million), according to Reuters. Read more.
• Davide Campari (BIT:CPR) sold its Carolans and Irish Mist brands to Heaven Hill Brands for $165 million, according to Reuters. Read more.
• Venator Materials, a Woodlands, Texas-based manufacturer of chemical products spun out of Huntsman (NYSE:HUN), set its IPO terms to 22.7 million shares being offered at between $20 to $22 a share. The company plans to trade on the NYSE under the ticker symbol VNTR. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, BofA Merrill Lynch, and J.P. Morgan served as lead underwriters.
• Blackstone Group is in advanced talks to pay $400 million for 40% of NSO Group, an Israel-based maker of spyware for mobile devices. ClearSky will buy 10% of the company, according to Reuters. Francisco Partners, which acquired a majority stake in NSO in 2014 for $120 million, could achieve a partial exit via the deal four times bigger than its initial investment. Read more.
• Partners Group agreed to buy Civica, a U.K.-based software application and cloud services provider, from OMERS Private Equity in a deal valuing the company at around 1 billion pounds ($1.30 billion), according to Reuters. Read more.
• KKR acquired majority control of The Nature’s Bounty Co, a New York-based manufacturer, marketer and distributor of health and wellness products, from The Carlyle Group.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Rebecca Yu joined BelHealth Investment Partners as a senior associate. Previously, Yu was a Warburg Pincus.