When it comes to drama, Uber ($UBER) is the gift that keeps on giving. Whether it’s CEO meltdowns, ridiculous articles or PR disasters, there is always something to rag on Uber for and always turmoil happening at the company. This time, former Senior Vice President Emil Michael has some choice words for one of Uber’s largest investors.
Last week, Michael tweeted in response to VC firm and Uber investor Benchmark ($PRIVATE:BENCHMARK), citing a 3-year-old tweet by the firm in which they stated their confidence in Uber’s long-term performance and its $100 billion value. "Your annual reminder that Uber is worth a little more than half the projection below and all shares were distributed within months of lockup expiry. #Missing$50billion," Michael wrote.
The implication being, at least according to Zenefits co-founder and Rippling CEO Parker Conrad’s interpretation, is that after Benchmark took control of the company, it bungled management and watched tens of billions of dollars of value spiral down the drain.
On some level, Michael is right. Uber’s had it rough since 2017, when Benchmark began to wrest control of the company. Job listings have tumbled down nearly 76% over the last three years, and while the rate of decline was certainly accelerated by the pandemic, which has been unkind to Uber, the downward trend is evident in both 2018 and 2019 when job listings took dramatic drops.
But it would be an understatement to say that there’s personal bias involved. Michael has a bone to pick with Uber, and specifically the new leadership that ousted him, former CEO Travis Kalanick and the rest of the “A-Team,” who were a group of senior Uber executives who shared Kalanick’s alternative (read: extremely aggressive) beliefs and behaviors.
Michael was reportedly pushed to resign from the company in June of 2017 after a series of scandals, one of which involved a personal vendetta with a journalist. Kalanick stepped down shortly afterwards, and Benchmark swooped in and sued Kalanick for fraud. And that’s just the short version of the story. Even Parker Conrad, who is unrelated to Uber but chimed in in the replies to Michael’s tweet, has his own history of scandal and spats with venture capitalists. Michael and his crowd are firmly anti-VC, which is an unusual position for someone in the business of startups to place themselves in.
What we’re left with is a classic “everything sucks” scenario. On the one hand, you have a venture capital firm that has driven down the value of a titan to the point where many are questioning if it had any worth to begin with. On the other, you have a pack of executives who created a toxic work environment and constantly attracted scandalous headlines — but managed to build a multi-billion dollar behemoth by doing so. Bad behavior is rewarded by investors, and bad investors are hailed for snuffing out the bad behavior.
Somewhere in America, while all this squabbling and talk of valuations and venture capital is going on, an Uber driver silently wheels their car through the quiet streets of a COVID-stricken city, unsupported by the company whose very name is in their job title, wondering how they’re going to pay rent.