The world’s highest valued private company, Uber Technologies, is planning to go public in 2019. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi revealed this in his first public interview since taking the helm at the ride-hailing company in August.
Co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick and the entire Uber board have said that they’re in favor of an IPO. Khosrowshahi initially outlined an IPO timeline of 18 to 36 months when he took over the troubled start-up, but now there’s a clearer idea of when it may happen.
“We have all of the disadvantages of being a public company, as far as the spotlight on us, without any of the advantages,” he said in his first high-profile appearance since he became CEO. “So Travis [Kalanick] and the whole board now agree we should just go public. The numbers support it.”
Khosrowshahi has already made good progress since taking the top job at Uber. When he took over, Uber was reeling from regulatory investigations and a workplace culture investigation that resulted in the exodus of key staffers.
“I don’t know exactly when it went sideways. Winning can hide rot within an organization, and I think Uber was winning … and I think winning gave some excuses for bad behavior,” Khosrowshahi said.
“I was really worried about the leaks, et cetera, that were going on, and really happy that my name did not leak out there until the very end,” Khosrowshahi said. “Things are never as bad as the press makes them out to be.”
“When I got into this role, I didn’t want to take sides. And I wasn’t interested …. in what happened in the past. I’m interested in the company, and the employees, and the brand, and how we move forward,” Khosrowshahi said. “Don’t tell me what happened, tell me what we’re going to do.”
“The board went in a very bad direction,” Khosrowshahi added. “We’re reconstituting the board. It’s going to be a big board, but that’s OK. … Our bringing in SoftBank as a strategic investor at the right price would be a good thing.”
“You have two parties here who are far from being in concert and are shooting at each other,” Khosrowshahi said. “And to some extent, what I told the board is, ‘If we’re going to shoot at each other, at least let’s shoot at each other with conventional weapons instead of nukes.’ … This is not about control, this is about the company.”
“Over a period of time, I would be foolish not to use Travis’ incredible genius and his knowledge. … Some weeks we won’t talk, some weeks we talk 10 times,” Khosrowshahi said. “I think he understands the ‘why,’ which is that early on I’ve got to have my space. … He’s been very plain with me that he wants to be involved in the company, and I’ve told him I want him involved.”
He’s also reformulated the company’s culture code from the bottom up as the massive start-up prepares to go public. When Uber’s license to operate in London was canceled, Khosrowshahi did something that’s stereotypically un-Uber: Apologized.
“I think we were generally immature about how we dealt with regulators,” Khosrowshahi said.
Even when Uber faced operational issues in Brazil, Khosrowshahi flew over to talk to the senate and took matters into his own hands.