Travis Cordell Kalanick (born August 6, 1976) is an American entrepreneur. He is an
alumnus of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He is the co-founder of the peer-to-peer file sharing company Red Swoosh and the transportation network company Uber, the hot ride-hailing service that has raised almost $8 billion, including debt financing, from investors who have valued the private company at more than $62 billion.
In 2014, Travis entered the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans at position 290,
with an estimated net worth of $6.2 billion.
Jordan Kretchmer, (the founder and CEO of LiveFyre) remembers what Travis was like
before Uber was Uber. Kretchmer was a 25-year-old college dropout who had a lot of ideas, and
Kalanick had even more. He was in his early thirties, an engineer who talked like a sales guy,
smart as hell and high on life. He wore a cowboy hat and referred himself as the Wolf; after the cold-blooded, cooly rational fixer played by Harvey Keitel inPulp fiction. He was tireless-always on the move, always thirsty.
The most entertaining presentation at the very recent ‘Failcon’ conference in San
Francisco came from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick who spelled out many hurdles he faced at his last company, the peer-to-peer content delivery provider Red Swoosh. Kalanick named names and numbers and shared astounding numbers of low points in his speech. You have to admire the guy for being so level headed and funny through it all, at least in the retelling.
Let us have a look at the career of this fantastic personality. To the date, he has been
the co-founder and CEO of three startups. They are Scour, Red Swoosh and Uber. Let us get
acquainted with all of his startups in brief.
1) Scour– In 1998, Travis Kalanick, along with other classmates, dropped out of UCLA to
help found Scour Inc. with Dan Rodrigues, a multimedia search engine, and Scour
Exchange, a Peer-to-peer file sharing service.
In 2000, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA) and the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)
brought a lawsuit against Scour, alleging copyright infringement. In September of that
year, Scour filed for bankruptcy to protect itself from the lawsuit.
2) Red Swoosh– In 2001, with Scour’s engineering team, Kalanick started a new company called
Red Swoosh, another peer-to-peer file-sharing company.
Red Swoosh software took advantage of increased bandwidth efficiency on
the Internet to allow users to transfer and trade large media files, including music files
and videos. In 2007, Akamai Technologies acquired the company for $19 million by all- stocks transaction.
3) Uber– In 2009, along with Garrett Camp, Kalanick founded Uber, a mobile application
that connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services. Uber
operates in 58 countries and in more than 300 cities around the world.
Uber faced some controversy in some cities in North America, like Washington
DC, Chicago, Toronto, and New York City. Also, the company faces fierce competition from
similar services and “clone companies” in cities like London.
In November 2014, Kalanick faced criticism for creating a “win at all costs”
culture in his Uber organization. Public relations problems the firm faced included
Kalanick’s comments to GQ about how easy it is for him to attract women now, concern
about his blasé attitude regarding safety issues for female customers, and his tolerance
of executive Emil Michael, who recommended creating a large budget to smear critics.
While Kalanick apologized for Michael’s remarks, he did not censure him severely enough
to appease some critics.
At Red Swoosh and Scour.net Kalanick was sued by his own potential investor,
Michael Ovitz; was sued by media companies for $250 billion and then sold at auction;
“started a revenge business” to turn those litigants into customers.
At last, there is only one thing to say, if you want to get your head around Uber’s
wild growth, and its even wilder potential, you have to get to know its wildly ambitious, ever restless, dynamic CEO Mr. Travis Kalanick.