Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's surprise resignation is drawing comparisons to another Silicon Valley ouster, that of Steve Jobs on his first go-round with Apple in 1985. Here's a look at what people are saying, including the pushback against those comparisons:
- Deja vu: "This is shocking," writes Axios editor Dan Primack. "It's this generation's version of Steve Jobs being kicked out of Apple. (I know — not apples/apples since he's staying on the board, wasn't the founder, etc.)"
- Ditto: A similar sentiment is common on Twitter, notes Maya Kosoff at Vanity Fair. Sample tweet: "Be it whatever, my heart goes out to #TravisKalanick #Uber who is forced to resign from the company he formed, similar to #SteveJobs"
- Not the same: Kosoff herself is skeptical, pointing out that "Jobs was fired unceremoniously over what amounts to a leadership dispute and not a series of scandals involving alleged harassment and retaliation in the workplace." Kalanick, she adds, deserves no sympathy.
- Ditto: Kalanick "shares certain traits with Steve Jobs, including a fierce rule-breaking streak," writes Adam Lashinsky at Fortune. "But the comparisons are thin and of limited value. Jobs built one of the best companies the world has ever seen. Kalanick hasn't."
- Gates, too: At Time, Matt Vella draws a comparison not only to Jobs but to the "famously aggressive" Bill Gates. "Kalanick had a reputation for being a jerk. This brawler persona was useful for Uber," but under Kalanick's watch, it went too far and, if the critics are right, "provided cover for misbehavior of the worst sort."
- Jobs is the exception: Yes, it's possible Kalanick could follow Jobs' example by returning to Uber at some point and leading it to greater success. But don't bet on it, writes Oliver Staley at Quartz. "Most fired CEOs, particularly those who leave under the cloud of scandal, don’t make it back to the C-suite. The more conventional path is to take on an advisory position at a hedge fund or private-equity firm, sit on some boards, and fade into a comfortable semi-retirement." But he can see Kalanick going another route: creating a new start-up.
- Another lesson: The New York Times notes that since Jobs' ouster, tech founders have generally had the upper hand with investors and boards. Even with repeated scandals, then, Kalanick seemed safe—at first. "It is the swiftness of the fall that’s interesting here," writes Farhad Manjoo. "In another time, Mr. Kalanick might have been able to hang on. But we live in an era dominated by the unyielding influence of social feeds." The online campaigns of the sort that targeted Uber have become "one of the most powerful forces in business."
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