Travis Kalanick is an American entrepreneur who has served on the board of directors of the car-ride service provider 'Uber.' A ‘UCLA’ dropout, Travis initially co-founded a file-sharing company called 'Scour.' The start-up flourished over time. Unfortunately, it was later accused of copyright infringement. The company was sued and faced a lawsuit worth a substantial amount. Kalanick had to eventually declare bankruptcy. He also traded all of the company’s assets. Kalanick, however, managed to get back his investors and established a new start-up called 'Red Swoosh.' After he sold 'Red Swoosh' to 'Akamai Technologies,' Kalanick co-established 'Uber.' His tenure at the company was highly controversial. He was accused of being negligent in handling sexual harassment cases at the company and termed an inefficient leader. The company's unethical HR policies also came under scrutiny. He was eventually forced to resign. 'Forbes 400' has included Kalanick on its list of the wealthiest Americans.
Childhood & Early Life
Travis Cordell Kalanick was born on August 6, 1976, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., to Bonnie Renée Horowitz Bloom, a former 'Los Angeles Daily News' employee, and Donald Edward Kalanick. Bonnie died in a boating accident on May 26, 2017.
Kalanick grew up in the Northridge suburb of California. He has two half-sisters and a brother, Cory, who is a firefighter.
Travis Kalanick was quite young when he developed an interest in computers, and by the time he reached middle school, he had already learned to write computer code.
Kalanick attended the 'University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA), where he studied computer engineering and business economics. He was a 'Theta Xi' fraternity member. He dropped out in 1998 to start his first business venture.
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In 1998, Kalanick and his ‘UCLA’ dropout mates Michael Todd and Vince Busam joined Dan Rodrigues (Founder and CEO of 'Kareo' software service) to establish the online file-exchange service called 'Scour Exchange' and a multimedia search engine named 'Scour Inc.'
In September 2000, ‘Scour’ had to be declared bankrupt to close a lawsuit worth $250 billion. The company had been accused of copyright infringement by the 'Motion Picture Association of America' (MPAA), the 'Recording Industry Association of America' (RIAA), and the 'National Music Publishers Association (NMPA).'
By 2001, Travis Kalanick had recovered from the bankruptcy. He then collaborated with Michael Todd to establish his second start-up, again a peer-to-peer file-sharing company, named 'Red Swoosh.'
As Kalanick has shared on his archived blog, 'Swooshing,' his initial years in 'Red Swoosh' were difficult, as he did not receive any salary. He was living with his parents to save rent and owed a debt of $110,000 to the ‘IRS’ in un-suspended income taxes. Almost all of the company's engineers quit. Following this, Kalanick lived in Trivandrum (India) and Thailand to save money.
'Red Swoosh' eventually accelerated its business and acquired prominent corporate clients. In 2007, Kalanick sold it to 'Akamai Technologies' for approximately $19 million. However, he got involved in tax & securities fraud and perjury, as he failed to pay the shareholders.
In 2009, Travis Kalanick joined Canadian entrepreneur and investor Garrett Camp to co-found 'Uber,' a car-drive share service provider. He, however, gave the credit for the idea to Camp. He created the base model of the concept, and then Kalanick, Oscar Salazar, and Conrad Whelan joined him as advisors.
In October 2010, Kalanick became the CEO of 'Uber.' The company faced severe criticism after the news of Kalanick joining the 'Strategy and Policy Forum' of President Donald Trump as an economic advisor, as announced in December 2016, surfaced.
Due to Trump’s negative image, especially after the announcement of his controversial immigration order, people criticized Kalanick for his political association with Trump. However, Kalanick maintained he would use the position to address issues related to immigration and emerged as a prominent opponent of Trump's immigration orders. Nevertheless, he was pressurized to withdraw, and he gave in. Kalanick had to withdraw from the forum in February 2017.
The same month, a former 'Uber' employee pointed out the failed HR policies of the company related to sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace. In response, Kalanick dismissed the SVP of engineering at 'Uber,' Amit Singhal, for hiding a sexual harassment charge filed against him during his tenure as the VP at 'Google Search.'
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Travis Kalanick also introduced former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to investigate the charges, working with his law firm. Kalanick had the reputation of being an "abrasive leader."
Amidst the investigation, a video released in February 2017 showed Kalanick in an 'UberBLACK' with two women, having a heated argument with an 'Uber' driver.
The following month, the 'Uber' VP of business, Emil Michael, reportedly asked Kalanick's former girlfriend not to speak about an HR complaint related to sexual harassment, which infuriated her. In response, she revealed to 'The Information' that Kalanick and a few other 'Uber' managers had visited a Korean escort bar to look for escort service, during a team outing. She also spoke to 'Businessweek' about the rape case in India involving 'Uber.'
These events amounted to a strong case against the company and Kalanick. According to Holder's investigation report, submitted in June 2017, a "review and reallocate" order was passed with respect to Kalanick's responsibilities in the company, and the company's board had approved it. Kalanick later took an indefinite leave of absence and then resigned as the CEO on June 20. Five significant investors in the company had reportedly demanded the resignation. Kalanick, however, remained on the board of directors.
In August that year, Kalanick was again involved in a controversy when the venture capital firm 'Benchmark' accused him of "fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty." According to the court's order, Kalanick was to settle the case arbitrarily. 'Benchmark' withdrew the case in January 2018, with the condition that 'Uber' would trade a considerable number of shares with 'Softbank Group Co.,' to which the company agreed.
In March 2018, Kalanick ''tweeted'' about its new venture fund, '10100' (or “ten-one-hundred”). It aimed at providing employment opportunities by investing in e-commerce and real-estate development in emerging markets.
In June 2018, the U.K.-based start-up 'FoodStars' sold a controlling interest to Kalanick's real-estate investment company, 'City Storage Systems.' With that, he entered the rapidly growing prepared-food delivery sector, commonly known as "dark kitchens.''
Travis Kalanick stepped down from the board of directors of 'Uber' in December 2019. He also traded about 90% of his shares in the company.
Kalanick currently serves on the advisory board of 'Neom,' a planned cross-border futuristic city established in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia.
Family & Personal Life
Kalanick owns a townhouse in the upper hills of the Castro District, in the Eureka Valley neighborhood in San Francisco. The townhouse has been nicknamed "the Jam Pad" and has a dedicated 'Twitter' account.
Kalanick is a huge supporter of the 'Libertarian Party' but still advocated for the 'Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,' signed by former ‘Democratic’ president Barack Obama.
He loves to read novels by Ayn Rand.