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What Will Rise From Uber's Ashes?

By Jeff Kagan
Aug 12, 2017 11:11 AM PT
uber

There has been quite a bit of churn in the waters around Uber during the last few years. Now that founder Travis Kalanick is no longer CEO, what does the future look like for the company, workers, drivers, investors and customers? Will Uber continue to grow and lead, or has it seen its best days?

Most people connected to the company probably would say the same thing: They want calm but rapid growth. There is now a good possibility for growth if they get the right CEO and right strategy. However, Uber has been like two different companies in recent years.

On one hand, it created a new space -- that is its biggest accomplishment. Whether Uber lasts or not, the space will, and that can be traced to Uber's use of wireless and smartphone technology, like the wireless data network and the wireless Internet.

On the other hand, behavior of certain key people has not been good. Issue after issue -- and there were quite a few -- kept them in the headlines in a negative way, and that was a drag on the company. The company was like someone with behavioral problems. In one respect it was a superhero -- but in another, was miserable and very troubled.

The Right Chief

Uber's future depends on who it brings in as CEO to run the company and build it going forward. Can a new chief create a smooth-running operation in which everyone wins and everyone is satisfied? That's something Uber never has experienced.

I've heard speculation about several impressive candidates, like Jeff Immelt, who is retiring as CEO of GE. If Uber can get someone of that caliber, it could make all the difference in the world. It would take that sort of individual to shake things up at Uber, and that's what it needs.

It reminds me of when Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank eventually retired from The Home Depot, a company they created. The company struggled for years until it found the right new CEO to replace them. So, the question is this: How quickly will Uber turn around? It depends on how long it takes to find the right CEO.

If you listen to its advertising, Uber sounds like a winner. That attracts customers, drivers and investors. The big problem is that after a bad experience, workers and customers who started with Uber sometimes move to competitors like Lyft -- and there are companies like Lyft in countries all over the world.

Uber's Growth Wave

Uber is still king of the hill. That may change, but if it can recover, then it can continue to grow. Will it get the right leadership and growth strategy? Will it transform itself into a respectable company? Will it be the company that gets past the rocky road it's now on and continues to grow? Will it hang onto its industry leadership? Or will it be a company that created a new space but then lost its leadership position to bad behavior?

Only time will tell. I'm the eternal optimist. If GoDaddy could turn itself around, then Uber can do the same. There have been plenty of companies that struggled with this image problem. I hope Uber can dodge all the rubble in its road -- rubble that Uber itself put there.

We'll have to wait till it has a new CEO and a new strategy to see whether the company will turn itself around or not.


Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.


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