Uber’s Crisis Continues as Original CEO, First-Ever Employee Exits Company

Uber's Crisis Continues as Original CEO, First-Ever Employee Exits Company
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Ryan Graves, Uber‘s first-ever employee and senior VP of global operations, is the latest executive to exit the troubled ride-hailing company. Graves, who will remain a member of the company’s board of directors, was hired in 2010 after he replied to Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick on Twitter.

Graves briefly served as CEO before being replaced by Kalanick. But amid numerous scandals and a string of setbacks, Kalanick was pressured by investors to resign as CEO in June of this year. Besides currently operating without a CEO, Uber is also in need of a new COO, CBO, CFO, CMO, president, SVP of business, SVP of engineering, general counsel, and head of engineering.

In a company-wide memo, Graves said his transition from his operational role would take place in September, during which he would focus on helping Uber bring on a new CEO.

“It’s clear to me the stability of our board of directors, the selection of our new CEO, and the empowerment of our management team is what is needed most,” Graves wrote in the memo, a copy of which he reposted to his blog. “Regardless of which role I hold in the future, I’ll be dedicated to supporting Uber’s leadership, partnering with Uber’s new CEO to understand the complexities of this business and this organization, and to continuing to deliver on the critically important mission and future we have ahead of us.”

Since Kalanick’s June resignation, Uber has been managed by a committee of 14 executives, with the goal to have a new CEO by September. The search process, however, has been anything but smooth. A July report suggested that the final candidates had been narrowed down to these six names:

  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki
  • former Virgin America CEO David Cush
  • former Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer
  • former Disney COO Thomas Staggs
  • former Twitter COO Adam Bain
  • former SoftBank and Google executive Nikesh Arora

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman was also reportedly being considered, but she declared publicly that she’s not going to be Uber’s new boss. In a series of tweets, Whitman wrote, “Normally I do not comment on rumors, but the speculation about my future and Uber has become a distraction. So let me make this as clear as I can. I am fully committed to HPE and plan to remain the company’s CEO. We have a lot of work still to do at HPE and I am not going anywhere. Uber’s CEO will not be Meg Whitman.”

It was also rumored that Kalanick was plotting a comeback to reclaim his job as CEO, but fellow co-founder Garrett Camp confirmed he would not be returning. In an email to Uber employees, Camp said, “It’s time for a new chapter and the right leader for our next phase of growth. Despite rumors I’m sure you’ve seen in the news, Travis is not returning as CEO. We are committed to hiring a new world class CEO to lead Uber.”

You can read Graves’ full memo below:

Uber team —

In the past 7.5 years of building Uber, I’ve learned so many different lessons, one of which is the fact that people who embrace uncertainty and change have the best grip on reality. In the middle of September, I’ll be embracing another big change on my journey with Uber and will transition out of a full-time operating role to focus on my role as a Board Director.

In every position I’ve held at Uber, as GM, then CEO, then SVP of Global Operations, I’ve focused on people and team. Uber’s launch, our rapid growth, and now global impact, are all a testament to the quality of the folks that I have had the pleasure of working and growing with. That team is now the driving force behind the durability and importance of the business we run in over 600+ cities.

In some ways my focus going forward will not actually change very much — it remains all about people, and it’s clear to me the stability of our board of directors, the selection of our new CEO, and the empowerment of our management team is what is needed most. So I will do everything in my power to deliver on those goals for the benefit of our organization and the millions of people — riders, drivers, eaters and couriers — and their communities that Uber serves every day.

I could not possibly stress enough how insanely proud I am of this organization. The dedication towards our mission of providing transportation that can be trusted, to everyone, is noble. We, as a team, have achieved something that has truly changed the world for the better, and will continue to do so long into the future.

I also have deep gratitude for the lessons learned from Travis, from my colleagues on Uber’s ELT, and my Global Ops leadership team over the years — notably Rachel, Austin, Jo, Mac, Pierre, Droege, Penn, Jambu, Ro, Mike, Amit, Meghan, Barnes, and so many others who have given so much of their hearts and lives to building this company. Thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and for that, I will forever be in your debt.

When you go through an experience like we have building Uber you forget that it’s not just the people across the desk that are making a huge investment, it’s also the partners and spouses, the families and the friends at home also making sacrifices. I would never have been able to make this journey without my wife Molly there to listen and advise. The ride hasn’t always been easy but nevertheless, she’s been there with me to laugh, to cry, to plan, and to celebrate. She deserves more credit than anyone in supporting me through it all. She’s been the most constant and enduring partner, right at my side, and building her own company and our family along the way. I *really* look forward to being able to return the love and spend more time with her and with our boys.

So, why now? Well, there is no great time for a move like this one. But it’s really important to me that this transition doesn’t take away from the importance of the onboarding process of our new CEO, whoever they might be. My hope is that ensuring my transition is known and planned for well before our board’s decision on CEO it will help to make it clear to our team and to our new leader that I will be there to support however I can.

There is another lesson I’ve learned that we should have applied much earlier. We should have taken more time to reflect on our mistakes and make changes together. There always seemed to be another goal, another target, another business or city to launch. Confucius said that reflection is the noblest method to learn wisdom, and fortunately, our new found reflection and introspection has become an asset to us and we have evolved and grown considerably. Our culture, our processes, our leaders, and our teams have become wiser, stronger, and more mature because of it. Regardless of which role I hold in the future, I’ll be dedicated to supporting Uber’s leadership, partnering with Uber’s new CEO to understand the complexities of this business and this organization, and to continuing to deliver on the critically important mission and future we have ahead of us. Again, thank you all, and let’s Uber on!


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Danita Evangeline
Danita Evangeline
Danita is a student, writer, and movie enthusiast. She enjoys food, reading, and traveling. She's currently a content writer and graphic designer for TechFunnel.com.

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