Uber is a mess — the “bad boy” ethos shattered, a nervous breakdown in its place. This week, the CEO announced he is taking a sudden leave of absence. A former U.S. attorney general released a brutal audit of the startup’s culture. It’s a terrifying moment for many investors who want that $70 billion unicorn to make them rich or richer — not implode.
But there is one Uber investor who stands out for how she decided to speak up. It was not very Silicon Valley-like of her, but Freada Kapor Klein wanted to turn the crisis into a teachable moment. And while this week’s events could lead her to say “I told you so,” she has a different takeaway.
Let’s rewind a few months. Kapor Klein decided to write an open letter to Uber — which she published with her husband — after a young woman shared an explosive account of sexual harassment at Uber headquarters.
Kapor Klein is a venture capitalist, or a VC. That means she makes money by betting on technology startups. Uber is one of those startups. She has committed to “impact investment” — businesses that can turn a profit while also making the world a better place. For too many years, she says, critics would question her on Uber, and she stayed silent. She tried to influence the company from the inside, though she didn’t see a real will among leadership to change. While “Silicon Valley prides itself on pattern recognition,” the letter said, Uber had “toxic patterns” that needed to stop.
Kapor Klein thought she was just saying what insiders knew: This is not a one-off. Turns out, her peers didn’t like that and wanted her to pay for it.
Photos: Talia Herman for NPR