Is Uber the Worst Offender in the Tech Industry?

Perhaps it’s just one that got caught

12 July 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation in June wasn’t entirely unexpected considering all the recent negative news about the company. Stories have included problems with its drivers, such as lax background checks and claims by passengers of sexual assaults, as well as a sexist workplace culture.

But are such problems unique to Uber or is the ride-hailing service just the most recent example of a morally challenged startup? In a LinkedIn post, Vivek Wadhwa argues the latter. A Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering, Wadhwa is an author and entrepreneur who made Time magazine’s 2013 Tech 40 list for his work on technology policy. In his post, he writes, “It has for so long been clear that Uber needs management that is more responsible—to its employees, its drivers, and its customers.”

Along with senior management, investors turned a blind eye too. All that seemed to matter to them, Wadhwa writes, is that the stock’s valuation was rising and the business was expanding rapidly.

Wadhwa points out that although not all tech companies are like Uber, too many “Silicon Valley stars” are. He says he hopes Kalanick’s resignation sends a message that public relations is not enough to make problems go away, and that real change is necessary.

The New York Times published an article this month spotlighting sexual harassment by another Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Dave McClure, the founder of early-stage venture fund 500 Startups, stepped down from his position as CEO after it was revealed that the firm covered up allegations of sexual harassment. One woman who expressed interest in a position with the company claimed McClure made advances, and other women threatened to come forward with harassment allegations against him. McClure wrote in a blog post: “I’m a creep. I’m sorry.

In another Times article about harassment in the tech industry, more than two dozen female entrepreneurs spoke up about unwanted advances and comments made by investors.

“The tech industry must grow up and clean house,” Wadhwa says. He suggests increasing diversity in leadership positions in both gender and age to avoid a “boys will be boys” culture, and getting board members to put the interests of the company above their own financial concerns.

Do you think Uber is a scapegoat for the tech industry? Or is it the worst offender thus far?

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