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Uber’s Travis Kalanick: “When you’re the big guy you’re not allowed to be scrappy and fierce”

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is starting to see the error of his ways. Or at least, he says he is. During TechCrunch Disrupt Monday, he admitted that the scrappy tactics that people lauded Uber for when it was a startup haven’t work quite as well as a giant corporation valued at $18.2 billion.

“Some see you as Darth Vader,” TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington said.

“I’m a Star Wars fan but that’s a little intense,” Kalanick replied.

He didn’t directly reference the recent controversy of Uber’s SLOG program, using burner phones and a national campaign to recruit away Lyft drivers. Instead, he spoke of his past failures, as the founder of a P2P networking company. In the first four years he didn’t make a salary, had no money, and lived with his parents. During that time, scrappiness was the only thing that kept him and his company going.

“If you bring that scrappy fierceness with you, it works until you get big,” Kalanick said. “When you get big, really pushing all the way feels uncomfortable.”

“Being scrappy is uncomfortable?” Arrington asked.

Kalanick explained that it’s not uncomfortable for him because that’s his background – the underdog fighting the incumbents. “But as you get to a place where people perceive you as the big guy or the man you have to approach things different,” Kalanick said. “We’re not there yet. We want to be there and we’re going to get better.”

That was about as tough as Michael Arrington’s questions got. For the rest of the Q&A he played for team Uber, going so far as to call Lyft “annoying,” “whiny,” and a “copycat.” At one point he even said that Lyft imitated Uber’s carpooling service, a fact that Travis Kalanick was quick to correct. “I don’t think Lyft copycatted this particular service,” Kalanick replied.

As some tweeted, at no point did Arrington disclose on stage that his investment firm Crunchfund is an Uber backer, having taken part in its Series B. There is a disclosure buried at the bottom of Arrington’s TechCrunch post that announced Kalanick was the opening speaker.

The only other notable point in the interview was Kalanick’s answer to whether Uber will acquire Lyft — for — as Arrington graciously put it — the purpose of “shutting up their whining.”

“We’re not in acquisition mode right now,” Kalanick said.

7 Responses to “Uber’s Travis Kalanick: “When you’re the big guy you’re not allowed to be scrappy and fierce””

  1. Hey, Jeff …………….you got that right . My friend got fired by, Uber because he only took 4 Uber passengers when all 9 of them wanted to get in his Honda Accord to go out of Town . You can not legally & lawfully take 9 people in a car designed for four . Due to the rating system he was rated one because the customers got pissed and had to take another Uber car . He explained via email to his Uber reps what happened to be reinstated . They said he would be reinstated but was lied to and never was . They are liars all right and think that safety & laws don’t apply to them . Right now he’s out of a job because he didn’t want to drive unlawfully . The rating system encourages Uber drivers to violate traffic laws per customer request to keep a high rating so they won’t be fired .

  2. Travis Kaputnik of Goober is a liar & uses deception to trick, lie and fool anyone that gets in his way . A goober driver I know was suspended ( fired ) by Goober because he refused to run traffic lights at customer’s request & the passenger rated him one . As a result he was terminated , After explaining all of this to Goober so he could be reinstated he was ignored . Uber has been lying since they started to bypass all rules, safety requirements, insurances, regulations . No wonder why they are constantly needing drivers .

  3. Michael Arrington is a first rate clown. And naturally he wouldn’t disclose financial ties, because that’s what I’ve come to expect from him.

    As someone who occasionally uses Uber, I wish Kalanick would STFU sometimes. There’s a fine line between “scrappy” and being a first rate douchecanoe.

    • Uber drivers have endured 3 Rate Cuts in less than a year. Their commission has gone up from the discounted 5% to 20%. Then Uber started charging the drivers $10/week for the locked down UberPhone, with the UberDriver App as its sole functionality! This despite that this charge was never was mentioned when these drivers signed up, and is not spelled out in the Partnership Agreement between Uber and the Drivers.

      The first two rate cuts were intended to undercut taxis. The latest Rate Cut of upto 25% is intended to undercut Lyft. This rate cut, along with massive poaching of Lyft drivers, and forcing UberBLACK/SUV drivers to accept UberX fares at UberX prices is part of the Uber strategy to KILL LYFT!

      It’s perfectly okay for TravisK to want to eradicate any competition, but he Doesn’t get to do it on the backs of hard-working and good Drivers who’ve invested their Time & Capital (cars) in this venture! These full-time drivers are now in fact making poverty level wages, while Uber continues to lure in new drivers with ads touting bloated and borderline fraudulent earnings claims!

      • More drivers thinking they’ll earn $5k a month (or whatever) will lead to market saturation of drivers for a somewhat finite pool of users who will use Uber will lead to less money for drivers. Mark my words: 18 months from now you’ll hear of Uber drivers who will lose money per shift.