Culture starts at the top. CEO Travis Kalanick, an aggressive and very skilled businessman, seems to have had a blind spot on some basics of management. He once sent an email to employees lamenting his need to be celibate at a company off-site because employees shouldn’t have sex with anybody in their reporting chain.
Kalanick, like a lot of founders, surrounded himself with people who are similar to him in temperament and attitude — a so-called “A-Team.” Many of those people, like Emil Michael and Eric Alexander, have left or been fired in the wake of the current scandals.
Kalanick, meanwhile, is getting off relatively easy with a self-imposed leave of absence.
Silicon Valley worships founders. The conventional wisdom is that companies lose their spirit and competitive edge when they sideline founders and bring in adult supervision.
To some degree, this attitude is justified by results. Most of the runaway successes in tech, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Intel, HP, Oracle, and Microsoft, had their explosive growth phases under visionary founding CEOs.
There’s also a growing body of evidence that founder-led companies outperform their peers because they instill employees with a sense of purpose and passion.
But there’s another reason: venture capitalists are chasing the next Facebook or Google because that’s how they make the big returns. If VCs gain a reputation for not being “founder friendly,” they risk missing the next Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos or, indeed, the next Kalanick.