The big debate: Can Uber’s Kalanick do a Steve Jobs and make a comeback?

Inside Travis Kalanick's resignation as Uber CEO

At thirty, Steve Jobs had already revolutionized personal computing, and was a global celebrity. But in 1985, thanks to a power struggle in the boardroom, he got fired from the very company he had created. Fast forward to 2017, and Travis Kalanick has just faced the exact same fate after fundamentally disrupting the taxi industry. The point here is not that history is repeating itself in Silicon Valley, because many an icon have fallen in disgrace in the business world, and will probably continue to do so. The key questions are: How do these two exits compare, and will 40-year-old Kalanick be able to make the spectacular comeback that Jobs managed in 1997?

Jobs was passionate about Apple’s products, and had a burning desire to change the world. So great was his passion for perfection that he could not tolerate anything but the very best. As a result, he was impatient, impolite, and downright rude with people until in his mind he got the product just right. Once he did, he believed in it so much that he was willing to defy all odds to make it succeed, ignoring any feedback to the contrary.  This strategy worked until 1985 when the market did not well receive the new Macintosh Office. Jobs then went head on against CEO John Sculley, whom he had lured away from PepsiCo just two years earlier – demanding a drop-in pricing, and increasing advertising spend.  Sculley finally won the boardroom battle and removed Jobs as the head of the Mac division.

Kalanick too wants to change the world and has already done so.  But the main reason for his ouster was not his impatience to bring the best products to market. Sexual harassment, and creating an overall toxic corporate culture that is particularly harsh on women are among the charges against him.  Under Kalanick, the company is also accused of unethical and opportunistic business practices like the way-over-the-top surge pricing during a terror attack in Sydney.

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