Uber’s Hired A New Top Tech Leader From Amazon But Is Losing Its CIO

A sign for the Uber ride share pick up area at Los Angeles international airport.
A sign for the Uber ride share pick up area at Los Angeles international airport. AFP via Getty Images

Uber Technologies has hired Sukumar Rathnam as its new chief technology officer (CTO). Previously a vice president at Amazon, where he headed product selection and catalog systems, Rathnam will start his new role on September 28.

Separately, Forbes understands that Uber’s CIO, Shobhana Ahluwalia, who had reported to Rathnam’s predecessor, Thuan Pham, has decided to leave. A source close to Uber said her departure is “very amicable” and that she had accomplished an incredible amount during her five-year-plus tenure. It’s unclear whether Ahluwalia was hoping to get the top technology role.

Rathnam’s arrival was announced internally on September 17 and first reported by The Information. He will take over several months after the departure of Pham, a veteran leader who resigned from the company in May just before it laid off 6,000 employees, or around a quarter of its workforce.

In a message sent to the company’s employees this week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he had gotten to know Rathnam well over a number of months and that he would be a great asset to the company and to its engineering teams.

Journeys on hold

The new CTO joins as Uber continues to grapple with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has crushed demand for transportation. Its results for the fiscal second quarter, which were published last month, revealed that gross bookings in its core ride-sharing business were 73% lower than in the same period of 2019 on a constant currency basis and that overall revenue had fallen by 27% year-over-year, to $2.18 billion.

PROMOTED

Although its ride-share business is suffering, Uber has seen demand soar at its food-delivery service: Bookings there more than doubled year-over-year, hitting $7 billion. Cost-cutting nevertheless remains a priority: Earlier this week, the company announced it would be reducing its staff in the U.K. by 30%.

Khosrowshahi will no doubt be hoping Rathnam can come up with smart ways to deploy technology fast to boost Uber’s efficiency and support its rapid growth in the food-delivery area, where the company has announced a plan to buy delivery-service Postmates for $2.65 billion. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Martin Giles

 Martin Giles

I am the editor of the CIO Network at Forbes, leading coverage of the rapidly evolving role of senior technology leaders. I also develop topics and programming for Forbes CIO events. Previously, I covered frontier technologies such as AI-driven cybersecurity and quantum computing for MIT Technology Review. Before that, I was a partner at a Silicon Valley VC firm that invests in enterprise tech, which I joined after covering the Valley for The Economist Newspaper, where I was a writer, editor and business leader for over 25 years. I am a graduate of Oxford University and hold an executive MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Follow me on Twitter @martingiles.

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I Spoke Out Against Sexual Harassment at Uber. The Aftermath Was Terrifying

In February 2017, I published a blog post about my experiences with sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Uber, where I had recently left my role as a software engineer. In it, I described a year of employment that began with a sexual proposition from my manager and only grew more demeaning and demoralizing from there. The post quickly went viral, tapping into a conversation about systemic discrimination throughout Silicon Valley.

What I wrote changed the world, some said: for the first time, a woman had spoken up about mistreatment, the world listened to her, and she walked away unscathed. And, in those early days, it really did seem that I had turned the tables, and I started to wonder if most of my fears had been unfounded. It seemed too good to be true. And it was. I was soon jolted out of my daydream, and I awakened into a nightmare.

It started with strange stories from my family, friends and acquaintances. Reporters had been contacting them from day one and asking for information about me, but now they were also being contacted by people who didn’t seem to be reporters at all, who asked questions about my personal life, questions about my past.

Initially, it was mostly my relatives and friends from Silicon Valley who were being contacted, but then they—whoever “they” were—began contacting people I hadn’t spoken to in years, like an old neighbor I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. “Someone’s digging really deep on you, Susan,” my neighbor said, “and it’s scary how far back they’re going.” Whoever was trying to dig up dirt on me was going deep into my history, talking to people that I’d forgotten I’d even known. I didn’t know who was trying to get this information, and I didn’t know how they were able to find out so much about my past. I didn’t know what they were looking for, and I didn’t know what they were going to find. It was terrifying.

TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers

For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing all of us to stop accepting the unacceptable, the Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year.

Eventually, private investigators started reaching out to me directly. At the time, I rarely answered my phone, but one day, when I was waiting for a furniture delivery and expecting the furniture company to call me, I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize and I answered it. A woman was on the line. She gave me her name, identified herself as a private investigator, claimed that she was working on a case against Uber, and asked me to help her. I declined with a laugh, then did some detective work on my own; a quick Google search showed that the PI firm that she worked for had been hired in the past for cases in which people were trying to discredit victims of sexual misconduct.

I was being attacked on other fronts, too. My phone would “ding” whenever I received a two‐factor authentication text belonging to my email or social media accounts, which meant that someone was trying to access them. I changed my passwords frequently, and eventually got a second phone for 2FA texts, but it wasn’t enough. My Facebook account was hacked several times, as were several old email accounts I hadn’t used in years. Around the same time, my younger sister’s Facebook account was hacked. The moment she told me that someone else had gotten into her account, I logged in and looked at the messages I’d recently sent her. I watched in horror as they went from “unread” to “read.”

I started to hear rumors about myself and my motivations in writing the post—rumors that were often accompanied by phrases like “someone close to Uber,” “someone close to the board” or even “someone at Uber.” The first rumor I’d heard had come from a reporter who called me in late February to see if I could confirm something: that Lyft had paid me to write a defamatory blog post about its primary competitor. It was obviously false, and I told the reporter so. Within a few days, I heard versions of the same rumor from other reporters, from people in the tech industry and from employees at Uber, all centered on Lyft’s paying me to write the blog post.

As soon as this rumor died down, another one quickly took its place: that powerful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley had been responsible for writing the blog post and making it go viral; in some versions of this rumor, those “powerful people” were investors in Lyft, Google or my husband’s company. A reporter from Business Insider wrote in an email (which I never responded to) that she was covering a “conspiracy theory that someone related to your husband’s company encouraged you to write the post and then helped it go viral after you wrote it.”

As terrifying and infuriating as the investigations and rumors were, nothing was as scary as being followed, which started happening shortly after I published the post that February. I noticed a peculiar car parked outside my house. When I walked from my house to the BART station on my way to the office, I’d often see the same car drive past me. (Or is it really the same one? I would wonder.) Whenever I left the office, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being followed. I told myself that I was imagining it.

Then, one afternoon in early March, I left work earlier than usual. As I walked down the back steps and turned the corner toward the street, I noticed a man jump—as if in surprise—and start walking after me. I changed directions as I walked, going down side streets, and whenever I glanced back, I saw him following a short distance behind. I eventually ducked into a Whole Foods, and watched as he walked past, sighing in relief. But when I went back out into the street, the man was leaning on a tree, looking down at the sidewalk. I had to walk past him, and he followed closely behind until he moved ahead of me, stopped, turned around and looked right at me. Panic rose in my throat, and I felt my heart beating so loudly I could hear it. I looked around for the police, hoping to find someone, anyone, who could help. Then I bolted as fast as I could down the street, into the BART station and onto a train.

That was the first time I knew I was definitely being followed, and it wasn’t the last.

I didn’t know who or what I was up against. I suspected it was Uber, though at the time I had no concrete evidence to back that up. Several security researchers offered to look into it, and came back with the names of various private investigation firms that Uber had hired in the past. Its most recent PI firm, I was told, was Ergo, an opposition research company run by former CIA operatives. This terrified me even more.

I feared that Uber would send a private investigator to break into my home, either while I was there or while I was out. Another former employee, Morgan Richardson, described an intimidating incident with an investigator who entered her apartment without her permission (Uber denied that the man came inside). If they did it to her, what would stop them from doing it to me? What if, I wondered, someone had already come to my home and I just didn’t know?

A deep, aching terror fell over me as I prepared for the worst parts of my life to become public. Meanwhile, I was growing increasingly isolated—I was working from home, and there were very few people I could talk to about the things that were happening; more than once, I confided in a friend, only to have our conversation parroted back to me by a reporter a few days later.

I felt sick to my stomach every day and had trouble sleeping. I’d lie awake in the middle of the night, racking my brain for memories of every mean thing I’d ever said, every mistake I’d ever made, every wrong thing I’d ever done, every lie I’d ever told, every person I’d ever hurt. I was haunted by every fight, every angry text message, every mean word, every breakup. I went over and over in my head everything I’d said that could be misinterpreted, that could put me in a bad light and undermine the authority of my claims.

At times, the anxiety, fear and horror of it got so bad that I would curl up into a ball on the floor and cry until I felt numb. Sometimes I would stand in the shower, turn on the water, cover my mouth with my hands and scream until my voice was hoarse. Part of what felt so scary was the randomness of it all: I never knew what to expect. One morbid thought gave me comfort, however, and it’s what I told myself every time I noticed someone following me, or whenever I was warned about possible threats against my life: if anything happened to me, if I was harmed or killed, everyone would know exactly who was responsible.

Three years have passed since I published that blog post and shared the story of what I experienced at Uber. The company hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate its culture, which ultimately led to CEO Travis Kalanick’s departure—and just months later, my story became part of a watershed movement against sexual misconduct. I could never have predicted the positive impact my story had in Silicon Valley and throughout the world, nor could I have predicted the backlash and terror that my loved ones and I faced because of it. And I’ve asked myself countless times whether I would do it all over again if I truly knew just how bad the bad part of speaking out would be.

Some days, when I think about all of this, I wish I hadn’t come forward. At times I fear that if I could have seen how this decision would affect my life, I would not have gone through with it. But that would have been the wrong choice. Writing that post was the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences.

Speaking up comes at great personal cost. Being a whistleblower is not easy. It is not glamorous or fun. It will terrify you and scare you and forever change your life in ways that will be beyond your control. But, despite all of this, shining a light in the darkness is the right thing to do. In some cases, like my own, it is the only way to leave the world better than you found it.

Source: I Spoke Out Against Sexual Harassment at Uber. The Aftermath Was Terrifying

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Susan Fowler discusses her book, “Whistle Blower”, at Politics and Prose. One of the first women to speak out in what became the #MeToo movement, Fowler came to national attention in 2017 when she posted an account of the sexual harassment she’d endured as an entry-level engineer at Uber. The story went viral, led to extensive shake ups at the company, and put Fowler on the cover of Time as one of the year’s “Silence Breakers.” In this powerful memoir, Fowler, now technology op-ed editor at The New York Times, reveals additional details about her time at Uber as well as reporting on the company’s response to her charges. She also puts these recent experiences into the larger context of her life, recounting the determination that took her from an impoverished childhood in rural Arizona to an Ivy League education and on to her brave public stand. Fowler is in conversation with Liz Bruenig, New York Times opinion writer. https://www.politics-prose.com/book/9… The technology op-ed editor at The New York Times, Susan Fowler has been named a “Person of the Year” by Time, The Financial Times, and the Webby Awards, and has appeared on Fortune’s “40 under 40” list, Vanity Fair’s New Establishment List, Marie Claire’s New Guard List, the Bloomberg 50, the Upstart 50, the Recode 100, and more. She is the author of a book on computer programming that has been implemented by companies across Silicon Valley. ——————————————————-Be Sure To Click SUBSCRIBE————————————————————– Visit us online at http://www.politics-prose.com/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PoliticsProse Follow us on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/politicsprose Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/politicsandp… Founded by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade in 1984, Politics and Prose Bookstore is Washington, D.C.’s premier independent bookstore and cultural hub, a gathering place for people interested in reading and discussing books. Politics and Prose offers superior service, unusual book choices, and a haven for book lovers in the store and online.

Uber Cofounder Travis Kalanick To Resign From Board

The Topline: Former CEO Travis Kalanick has announced he will resign from the Uber board next week, ending his time with the company he helped found in 2009.

  • Speculation that Kalanick was moving on from Uber began amid reports he had sold the vast majority of his stake in the company, more than $2.5 billion over the past two months.
  • On Tuesday, his spokesperson said Kalanick has sold the remainder of his stock and will use his time to focus on philanthropy and other business ventures.
  • Kalanick will turn to his latest project, Los Angeles-based (and largely self-financed) City Storage Systems, also known as CloudKitchens, which leases space to restaurants that serve food via delivery apps like Uber Eats and Deliveroo.

Crucial quote: “At the close of the decade, and with the company now public, it seems like the right moment for me to focus on my current business and philanthropic pursuits. I will continue to cheer for its future from the sidelines,” Kalanick said in an Uber release.

Key background: Kalanick cofounded the ride-sharing app a decade ago but was asked to step down from his former position as CEO in 2017 after a series of scandals rocked the company, including reports of sexual harassment.

The news of Kalanick leaving the company comes at an interesting time for the ride-sharing app— Uber is dealing with being banned in cities around the world over clashes with local regulations. Just a month ago the transport regulators in London, a major market for the company, announced Uber’s license to operate would not be renewed. Uber has appealed the decision.

Credited with helping shape to shape the gig economy we know today, passengers have taken on some 15 billion trips on Uber since 2010.

I am a Texas native interning at the Forbes office in London, and have previously been published in London and Austin newspapers. I am an alum of City, University of Lo

Source: Uber Cofounder Travis Kalanick To Resign From Board

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Read more: http://cnet.co/2sBWXSD After taking a leave of absence as head of Uber, Kalanick relinquishes some control of the company he co-founded. Subscribe to CNET: http://cnet.co/2heRhep Check out our playlists: http://cnet.co/2g8kcf4 Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cnet Follow us on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/cnet Follow us on Instagram: http://bit.ly/2icCYYm Add us on Snapchat: http://cnet.co/2h4uoK3

Uber Disclosed 3,000 Sexual Assaults In US Rides Last Year In Its Long-Awaited Safety Report

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Uber disclosed 3,000 sexual assaults reported in U.S. rides last year in its long-awaited

safety report, amidst widespread criticism of its safety practices and pressure to increase its transparency over the issue.

In a lengthy report, which divides sexual misconduct into 21 categories, Uber said it recorded 235 rapes last year and hundreds more reports of assault which could involve unwanted touching, kissing or attempted rape.

The report also examined other safety categories, including violent crimes such as physical assaults and motor vehicle deaths. Uber said there were 107 motor vehicle fatalities in 2017 and 2018 in a total of 97 fatal crashes involving users on the app. The company also said there were 19 fatal physical assaults.

It was the first time the company has released those numbers amid heightened scrutiny from lawmakers, advocacy groups and consumers to improve the safety of the app.

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Uber has been criticized over its safety practices and perceived stonewalling of law enforcement on sexual offenses. Its rival Lyft has faced lawsuits from at least 34 different women in San Francisco who allege they were raped or sexually assaulted on the app.

Uber said it conducted the safety report with an eye toward transparency and improving the app for riders and drivers.

“Confronting sexual violence requires honesty, and it’s only by shining a light on these issues that we can begin to provide clarity on something that touches every corner of society. And, most importantly, by bringing hard data to bear, we can make every trip safer for drivers and riders alike,” the company’s Chief Legal Officer, Tony West, said in the executive summary of the report. “The moment is now for companies to confront it, count it, and work together to end it.”

Experts note that sexual assault is a chronically underreported issue, however, and the figures were likely to undercount the true prevalence of sexual offenses on the app.

Uber also noted in its report that the numbers are largely dependent on victims coming forward. While Uber said that reports of sexual assaults declined by 16% in 2018 as compared to the year prior, that could increase again if victims know that the company is taking the issue seriously and feel more comfortable reporting.

Along with Uber, Lyft has pledged to release a transparency report of its own. It was not immediately known when that report would be released.

Uber has a unit devoted to handling the most sensitive safety reports, but a September Washington Post investigation found that investigators are are instructed to keep the company’s interests foremost, including through restrictions on their ability to report apparent felonies to police and a ban at the time on sharing information with competitor Lyft about possibly dangerous drivers. The restrictions meant that some drivers who were banned from Uber or Lyft for violations like poor driving or even assaults on passengers could, with impunity, simply register as a driver for the other company.

More than 20 workers from the division, known as the Special Investigations Unit, said it is designed primarily to shelter the company from legal responsibility and quietly resolve serious allegations to avoid press or regulatory scrutiny. Uber has denied those claims.

Scarce outside data on sexual assaults or deactivations at Uber exist. However data obtained from a public information request show that in Chicago alone more than 300 drivers were banned from Uber, Lyft and rival Via for allegations of sexual misconduct between January 2016 and August 2019. More than 1,100 of the nearly 70,000 active registered drivers in the city were barred for matters of safety during that time, according to the data, which showed that drug use or possession and traffic accidents ranked after sexual misconduct as the top reasons for a driver being blocked.

Uber’s report, which looked at the time period of 2017 and 2018, examined data during a time period for which it said an average of more than 3.1 million trips took place each day. The vast majority of those had no problem, it noted, placing that number at 99.9 percent.

Uber has made made safety changes as attention has been drawn to safety issues. Uber instituted an in-app safety tool kit with a 911 button so passengers can alert authorities immediately if they are in danger, and added check-ins for riders and drivers when trips veer too far off course. Meanwhile, Uber has given riders the option report uncomfortable interactions, such as invasive questioning or erratic driving, directly to safety specialists.

“We believe transparency fosters accountability,” Uber said last year when it pledged to release the report. “But truthfully, this was a decision we struggled to make, in part because data on safety and sexual assaults is sparse and inconsistent. …. Making things even more complicated, sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime, with two out of three assaults going unreported to police. But we decided we can’t let all of that hold us back.”

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/uber

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Uber released its highly-anticipated safety report on Thursday that revealed, among other details, that it received over 3,000 reports of sexual assault in 2018. Mark Sayre reports (12-5-19)

Former Uber CEO Adapts A Copy From China Idea With His U.S. Startup CloudKitchens

The latest example of the copy from China innovation trend comes from former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and his new startup CloudKitchens, a kitchen sharing concept for restaurants and take-out orders.

This shared kitchen model originated in China, with a Beijing-based startup named Panda Selected. Little doubt that Kalanick saw this idea at work in China. He has China experience and some scars to show from his ventures a few years ago with Uber in China doing battle with Chinese ride-sharing leader Didi and eventually selling to the rival.

These shared food preparation services are part of the sharing economy that has blossomed in China. Sharing has extended from taxi rides to bikes to even shared umbrellas and battery chargers.

The shared kitchen could disrupt the traditional restaurant business. It caters to a young on-the-go population who order food by mobile app and get quick take-out deliveries. No need for large dining areas or kitchens that serve just one restaurant. The shared model lowers the cost of doing business for commercial restaurants and makes it easier to do business around the clock in a hurry and manage operations.

Today In: Innovation

The model has already caught on in China, where new business ideas particularly for mobile gain traction quickly and have no problem in attracting customers. Panda Selected, which was started in 2016 by CEO Li Haipeng, has more than 120 locations in China’s major business hubs.

This shared kitchen concept could gain quick uptake in the U.S. too. On-demand instant delivery for take-out food ordered by mobile app hasn’t yet caught on in the U.S. like it has in China’s congested cities but that doesn’t mean that the model can’t work in the U.S.

Venture capital investors have already decided the business could scale quickly and have funded the shared kitchen business model. CloudKitchens has funding of $400 million from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund on top of initial seed capital from Kalanick. Panda Selected has attracted $80 million in funding from DCM Ventures, Genbridge Capital and Tiger Global.

It is interesting to see successful serial entrepreneurs like Kalanick trying their hand at new ideas they’ve seen work in China. No doubt more ideas from China’s advanced digital economy will filter into the U.S. Already, we have digital entertainment app. How long before we see the social commerce model that Pinduoduo has perfected in China get transported over to the U.S.?

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Rebecca A. Fannin is a leading expert on global innovation. As a technology writer, author and media entrepreneur, she began her career as a journalist covering venture capital from Silicon Valley. Following the VC money, she became one of the first American journalists to write about China’s entrepreneurial boom, reporting from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Today, Rebecca pens a weekly column for Forbes, and is a special correspondent for CNBC.com. Rebecca’s journalistic career has taken her to the world’s leading hubs of tech innovation, and her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and Inc., and Techonomy. Her next book. Tech Titans of China, is being published this year. (Hachette Book Group, 2019).Rebecca’s first book, Silicon Dragon: How China is Winning the Tech Race (McGraw-Hill 2008), profiled Jack Ma of Alibaba and Robin Li of Baidu, and she has followed these Chinese tech titans ever since. Her second book, Startup Asia (Wiley 2011), explored how India is the next up and comer, which again predicted a leading-edge trend. She also contributed the Asia chapter to a textbook, Innovation in Emerging Markets (Palgrave Macmillan 2016). Inspired by the entrepreneurs she met and interviewed in China, Rebecca became a media entrepreneur herself. In 2010, she formed media and events platform Silicon Dragon Ventures, which publishes a weekly e-newsletter, produces videos and podcasts, and programs and produces events annually in innovation hubs globally. Rebecca also frequently speaks at major business, tech and policy forums, and has provided testimony to a US Congressional panel about China’s Internet. She resides in New York City and San Francisco, and logs major frequent flier miles in her grassroots search to cover the next, new thing.

Source: Former Uber CEO Adapts A Copy From China Idea With His U.S. Startup CloudKitchens

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Business Insider reports that former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is making progress with his food-delivery and “dark kitchen” startup. CloudKitchens is the venture, it’s one of the units of Kalanick’s company City Storage Systems. The CloudKitchens unit builds kitchens for chefs who want to start food-delivery businesses. CloudRetail builds facilities to support online retailers. The company has hired dozens of people including former Uber employees. Employees are being asked to keep mum about it all, not even publicly acknowledging they work there. Kalanick is said to be focused on growing his food delivery fast as he did with Uber. https://www.businessinsider.com/stock… http://www.wochit.com This video was produced by YT Wochit Tech using http://wochit.com
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