Fixing Uber: An Open Letter to the Next CEO


For starters, trust that my motives come from a good place. To date I have given such advice to only three CEOs—Ivan Seidenberg when he was CEO of Verizon, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and most recently, your predecessor. Not sure they ever read any of it but I do this when I get deeply inspired, if not impassioned, because I truly care about their respective companies and don’t want see them fail. As an entrepreneur I never want to see anyone fail.

Firstly, for Uber’s (and your sake) I hope you are a Fixer (#4) and not a Savior (#6). I almost want to offer my condolences because, as you undoubtedly know, Uber needs a LOT of fixing. Its brand is in the gutter and its board is in turmoil following that Category 5 hurricane landfall. Apparently, it was pretty rough. And they are also scared, scared shitless and deeply worried that Uber could turn into the next Theranos albeit for different reasons. I sincerely hope not. Fortunately, as great chess and poker players will tell you there is always a way out and I plan to spell it out for you. Have you ever gone ‘all in’ with a 7-2 off suit. If not then here goes:

Let’s start with the fundamentals—Uber’s logo and company’s positioning. If you think I am being superficial right off the bat, just google “superficial” and you will see Uber’s current logo pop up. As first order of business I highly recommend you bring back the original logo. I knew Uber would be in trouble when they spent a king’s ransom and hired all of those superficial marketing and ‘positioning’ types to fix something that wasn’t broken. And the subsequent justification even by Travis is the very definition of Superficiality 101. All the drivers made fun of it. That logo was iconic, let’s bring it back and by doing so you will establish a foothold on which you can stand.

Next, let’s address the company’s positioning. The official name of the company is Uber Technologies, Inc. Technologies? Really? Even UberCab – its original name – is a better choice. Wonder why everything out of SanFran and Silicon Valley spells technology? Because to a bunch of hammers everything looks like nails. My recommendation? Just plain Uber, Inc., what’s wrong with that? You don’t see Nike Shoes or Under Armour Sportswear, do you? Big part of Uber’s problem is loss of focus. That ‘we-are-all-things-to-all-people’ mantra has gone haywire – food/packages delivery, self-driving trucks/plains/trains and automobiles. What’s next? Blimps and air balloons? Keep it simple. At the end of the day Uber transports people from point A to point B and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. That is the core that needs to be reestablished. Let’s get back to the fundamentals and leave ‘we-are-all-things-to-all-people’ to Borg, ugh, I mean Amazon, LOL. All that mumbo-jumbo just reinforces Uber’s superficiality. And the motto? How about Your Private Chauffer™? Simple, elegant and to the point with a subtle suggestion of a high-end service. But you will need to pay for that one.

Now comes the hard part—Uber’s deep structural deficiencies. In my aforementioned letter to Travis, I stated that no army will ever win a battle, much less a war, fighting on empty stomachs. What started as the best part-time job ever created has turned into a mass revolt. You drivers are not making money because there are simply too many of them. Here is what I recommend:

Turn your full-timers into employees; they are the backbone of the service that established Uber as the dominant force but they are being treated worse than cabbies, which is not a good thing. This rare gem of a strategic move is not just counter-intuitive. Your Board may vehemently disagree, but they are strategically clueless and … Next Page »

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Bill Baker is the Founder & CEO of Celebrity Food Network. Follow @@foodiebill

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