In just four years, Uber has virtually overhauled the taxi and ride-sharing industry – especially in metro areas where people are likely to avoid owning or using their own cars.
However, the “win at all costs” culture within the start-up company may put the brakes on its growth. Without some changes in its approach to criticism and overall tactics, investors, employees and the public may be seeking a ride elsewhere.
Journalists don’t like Uber a whole lot. As revealed in a report from BuzzFeed, an executive at Uber publically suggested that journalists that have been critical of Uber’s culture should have their private lives investigated. This revelation wasn’t the only bad news for the company, which has gained a reputation for a hard-charging and overly competitive culture.
It’s a dark shadow on Uber’s overall business success. The app, which arranges for rides for consumers in major metro areas, has raised about $1.5 billion. It’s valued at more than $17 billion, and there’s talk on the horizon of a public offering. But all of that could be lost if all of the news about the company is about the culture and not about its car service.
Uber is still getting lots of negative attention. In addition to the journalist spying story, Uber has gotten attention for a variety of less than flattering situations. An Uber driver (who was, like all other drivers, an at-will contractor) hit an immigrant family in San Francisco, killing a 6-year-old on New Year’s Eve 2013. Other drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting passengers. There have also been concerns about drivers having access to rider’s private information and travel habits, which could amount to privacy violations.
Even though these accusations paint a grim picture for the future of the company, it’s not uncommon for fast growing tech companies to have some problems cast a shadow on their success. Facebook, for example, was often subject to outrage from its users during its rapid rise. It shifted its approach and was able to win users’ trust back. Uber may be able to do the same, but it would require some changes to its technology as well as to its leadership.