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Is Uber sincere about changing?

And what happens now that even more executives — SVP Emil Michael and CEO Travis Kalanick — are out or on leave?

Uber driver in an Uber shirt in front of a black car Geoffroy van der Hasselt / Getty

Uber’s no good, very bad 2017 kept rolling this week, with the resignations of SVP Emil Michael and board member David Bonderman, and the start of an indefinite leave of absence for embattled CEO Travis Kalanick. Oh, and it’s now being sued by the victim of a rape committed by an Uber driver in India, because a (now-fired) company executive illegally obtained her medical records.

Board member Arianna Huffington has pledged that “a new Uber” can and will rebound from these failings, and in his email to employees, Kalanick said he planned to return as a more mature “Travis 2.0.” On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode were joined by Recode’s senior transportation reporter Johana Bhuiyan to discuss the big question: Can they do it?

“I believe they genuinely want to change the company culture because, at the end of the day, they have to rectify their business,” Bhuiyan said. “They’re losing talent; really, really talented people are questioning whether they want to be at the company [or] have already left the company.”

“Some people have genuinely asked me — people who have offers from Uber — whether they should join the company, if it actually is really bad for the résumé,” she added.

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On the new podcast, Bhuiyan said Uber’s business is still strong, and that the ride-hailing service is still often faster and cheaper than rivals like Lyft, even in competitive markets like New York City. However, Uber’s latest string of scandals may leave a worse mark than its past brushes with notoriety.

“For the first time in a really long time, I’ve seen people genuinely, at least publicly, express their discontent with the company, and have said they’re going to stop using Uber,” Bhuiyan said. “That never, ever happened before: Not when drivers were protesting, not when they suggested digging up dirt on journalists. Whether or not it’s material on the business end, there is a perception issue, and that’s going to affect recruiting, and that’s going to affect, possibly, getting more funding”

Bhuiyan also stressed that Uber is not the only tech company with a deeply problematic culture, even though it might seem like it to outside observers.

“It’s front and center right now, but this story should either lead companies to clean up their act or force people to start talking about the issues within their company, and force reporters to also pay attention,” she said. “I have young journalists reaching out to me all the time about how to get into the tech industry [press], and my best advice is pay attention to the companies that none of us are paying attention to, because we’re all writing about Uber.”

Have questions about Uber that we didn’t get to in this episode? Tweet them to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed, or email them to

Be sure to follow @LaurenGoode, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to be alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic.

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If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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