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Full transcript: Journalist and author Adam Lashinsky, live onstage for Recode Decode

His new book is “Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination.”

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This episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, was recorded live onstage for Inforum at the Commonwealth Club. Kara’s guest, Adam Lashinsky, is the author of “Inside Apple”; his new book is “Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination.” The two discussed Uber’s current round of scandals — sexual harassment allegations, frat culture, etc. — then turned the mic over to the audience for questions.

You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn or Stitcher.


Kara Swisher: Hi everybody, welcome to tonight’s program with Inforum at the Commonwealth Club, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode and host of the Recode Decode podcast.

It’s my pleasure to be talking with my friend Adam Lashinsky. He really is a friend — that’s accurate — a veteran journalist, currently the executive editor of Fortune, the best-selling author of “Inside Apple,” here to talk about his latest book diving deep into the crazy world of tech — the appalling world of tech, really — “Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination.” Hello.

Adam Lashinsky: Hello, Kara.

I texted ...

Excuse me for interrupting, we have the same title: Executive editor. I didn’t know that.

Well that’s nice, excuse you for interrupting, that’s an interesting thing when we’re talking about Uber. Let’s start with the news of yesterday and then I want to get into the book itself, obviously. It’s an interesting story, but I think the news has precluded all the history of Uber and people really do care about what is happening there now.

Let me get your assessment: Yesterday was a super busy day, down to the wire, Travis finally decided to leave after a lot of pressure, he’s the CEO. In the course of the day they released recommendations that in any other company would have gotten the CEO fired. Then by the end of the day a board member had to resign because he told a joke that wasn’t funny in any way on the stage about ... It was essentially a forum about the problems of sexual harassment at Uber and then he told a sexist joke onstage to another director. It was a busy day from a news point of view.

It was a woman.

It was a woman, right, exactly. Talk to me about what you think happened yesterday, because we’re just a day later, essentially.

A couple of interesting things to me, one is as you pointed out they released Eric Holder’s recommendations, they did not release his findings. The findings would have been far more interesting.

Yeah, I’ll be releasing those soon.

Good, I’m looking forward to that, as I’m sure everybody else is.

Me too.

The details of what he found ... In other words, you have to infer everything from the recommendations and you can infer a fair amount but not a lot. You don’t know scale, you don’t know details, you don’t have dirt, which again is where you will come in. The other thing that I think is interesting ...

I prefer to think of it as actually exposing ridiculous behaviors on the part of overprivileged white men in Silicon Valley. Anyway, go ahead, move along.

Like I said, I think if you want to ... You made the point that at any other company these recommendations would have included the firing of the CEO. I thought the precise wording of Travis Kalanick’s email to the employees was interesting. First of all, he’s taking a leave of absence of an undetermined length, that could be Monday or it could be 2019. That he will continue to be involved, I believe the way he put it was with the most strategic decisions. I read that as him not leaving at all, not stepping down, stepping down as CEO is sort of beside the point. I think where you’re going with this is that it’s not over, it’s clearly not over.

Why do you think that? Tell me, because it’s a really interesting situation. Let me get back to that idea that it wasn’t just that there were all these issues at the company, the report — I’ve had parts read it to me, it’s quite devastating about a culture out of control, never built, run badly, breakneck speed, sexual harassment, sexism, all kinds of things. It was as if the quintessence of Silicon Valley’s problems concentrated themselves in one company. You think that he’s still in power, that he’s still pulling the strings?

I don’t know how much, but I think even what we saw yesterday, there’s clear evidence that he is. Again, I can’t quantify it or qualify it but he said, “I will be involved in the most strategic decisions.” The question is, why? How was he able to hang on? I think we’ve known for quite a while that he has the ability to control the board through the form of his shares and he had to acquiesce in whatever they decided. I think you would agree with me that if he had his druthers he wouldn’t have gone at all.

Right, nobody would have fired the board.

That’s certainly where he was six weeks ago or a month ago.

That’s where he was till 9:30 that morning.

Things changed and he acquiesced in this but he didn’t acquiesce in leaving.

Explain to everyone why that is, to the board structure, because he and his friend and close colleague Garrett Camp —

The true founder of Uber.

— essentially control everything. Why is Camp sticking so closely to him?

People have asked me as I’ve been out talking about the book, “Why wasn’t Camp the CEO? Why did Camp turn over the reins of Uber so willingly to Travis Kalanick so early?” My answer has been, among the many controversial things that have gone on at the company, that wasn’t one of them. Nobody ever said, “Gee, Garrett Camp should have run Uber.” I think — and I’ve heard many people say to me — that Garrett Camp was grateful from the beginning that Travis took this thing that Garrett had created — and he created many little things like what this little Uber cab thing was in 2009 — and made it into Uber.

I think Garrett Camp was very comfortable with that. He’s been grateful. He was really the first person to take serious money out of the company and one of the very few people to take serious money out of the company. He was grateful to Travis for that and so I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.

He doesn’t want more serious money because at this point you imagine this company would go public with that CEO? Because going public is the goal, presumably, of the company.

Even before this week, even before last month, I didn’t think they were going to go public anytime soon. I don’t know, a lot can change, let’s say it’s 2019, that’s a long time from now.

I understand.

Dog years in Silicon Valley time.

I get that, I understand that, but it’s not dog years in terms of being a financial leader in a public company, correct?

Yeah, I understand, we can discuss the morality of it, but we know that Silicon Valley venture capitalists will tolerate almost anything if they can make their almighty buck. I think there’s ample evidence that the same is true for public shareholders. Again, there’s just almost no evidence of ... Well, I shouldn’t say ... There certainly have been instances of CEOs being drummed out for one transgression or another, I’m not saying people don’t care and I’m not saying that it’s a slam dunk that Kalanick will be the CEO when this company goes public, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Right, more on his side because I don’t think there are morals, I agree with you. I think there’s a lot of issues around the Waymo lawsuit, criminal indictment surrounds several different things. I suspect if Anthony Levandowski — who Uber ultimately fired — faces any kind of criminal problems, I don’t imagine he would not roll over and point upward. That’s how it seems to work. Those are the kind of things I’m more interested in.

Huge, existential threat. Forgive me for mentioning the book but it’s germane to your question, which is: The final chapter includes this anecdote where Travis Kalanick and I take this long walk through San Francisco, we walk for hours from headquarters down to the Ferry Building almost to the Golden Gate Bridge.

That’s such a thing with internet executives taking a long walk.

I think Steve Jobs was a walker and a talker too.

I never walk with them but go ahead.

Believe me, I would rather have been sitting at a table taking notes with my recorder sitting right there. Instead I’m walking down the street holding my recorder in my hand, praying that I’m getting it.

That it works.

I did.

You’re on the bromantic walk of ...

Yeah, we’re on a bromantic walk, me and my buddy, and I do remember where I was going with this. He told me at some point during that conversation, “You know, there’s one other person I take this walk with frequently but I can’t tell you who it is yet.”

Oh God.

It was Anthony Levandowski, and this was before the Otto purchase, which was why he couldn’t tell me about it. I’ve published that, other people have published that they walked together. The judge has specifically said that he’s allowing Waymo to interview anybody who has had any interaction with Levandowski on the subject of this acquisition, which means that the content and the context of their conversations while they were having this bromantic walk is going to be germane. Anyway, it’s quite serious, right? Because Waymo is alleging theft of ...

Explain the Waymo lawsuit.

Sure, Waymo is this ... I think it’s a terrible name.

I would agree.

Waymo is the renamed Google self-driving car unit, it’s actually not part of Google now, it’s part of Alphabet because it’s another bet or something like that. Waymo has sued Uber because it says that Anthony Levandowski, who worked as an engineer for the Google self-driving unit when that’s what it was called, left. He started a new company called Otto, sold it for $640 million very quickly to Uber, and they allege that this was Uber’s way of stealing their technology. Embedded in this is that ... This hasn’t happened yet but the next step would be that that’s fraudulent behavior, not merely stealing of trade secrets.

No, they also didn’t sue Anthony, they sued Uber.

Uber, which presumably has more assets than Levandowski and to knock them out of the box.

I don’t think that’s why and because maybe they did something wrong, I know crazy didn’t matter, this company could do something wrong.

Uber has tried vociferously to settle, to go to mediation, the judge disallowed that. Uber obviously would rather write a check. My only point is that Google Alphabet doesn’t seem to be too interested in receiving a check.

Also Google doesn’t really need money, does it?

That’s my point.

They’re kind of rich. We just recently had Ruth Porat onstage or our Code conference and talked about that. I said Google never ... In fact, Google usually pays people, they don’t like even to leave, you know what I mean? I said, “Well, you don’t usually sue people.” She says, “We don’t usually sue people.” I said, “You’re suing Uber.” She goes, “Oh yes, we’re suing Uber.” I said, “That’s different?” She goes, “Oh yeah, that’s different.” I think they’re very intent on taking this down to the wire, that’s a big issue.

Let’s talk a little bit about the book and getting to it. Because all these matter in terms of what’s going to happen to this company, I think they’re in much more serious trouble than most people do. Talk about the genesis of the book, when you started the book it was like, “Look at this bare-knuckled startup that’s changing the world and its pugnacious in-your-face CEO who’s just such a character” kind of thing. Tell me what you were thinking about when you wanted to ...

Sure. When I sort of started thinking about it, it was 2014 or so and what I was witnessing was this company — at that point barely four years old, had already expanded around the world very quickly. Of course, they’d done it in their second year of operations, and that fascinated me in particular because I was only at that point 18 months out of publishing a book about Apple. Uber wouldn’t have been able to go around the world without the iPhone, without the app stores everywhere, the iPhones everywhere so Uber could be everywhere very quickly in a way that startups couldn’t have done in another era — that other era being five or 10 years earlier. They had raised already billions of dollars, they already had a multi-billion dollar evaluation, they had had this profound impact on taxi systems in many places.

I thought — and think — that it was and is an important story and that it was if you believe that this app revolution was serious. I’m far more interested in what the app enabled than phrases like the gig economy or the sharing economy. I believe that it was the best example of what this thing could power.

Well, they also talk about the Uber of ... I don’t think they’re going to do that anymore.

Well, if it helps them raise money they will.

Yeah, I don’t think it’s a good pitch, at this point, in Silicon Valley. The idea was that this was a different ... How was it different? Because it is one of the few — Airbnb, I guess, and some others — that have come out of this next era of Silicon Valley.

What I think was compelling about it was that it was both an internet digital software company and a hard assets people company that involved messy things like regulators and drivers and cars and transportation networks in a way that Facebook and Google and Yahoo weren’t.

Not purely digital.

In the way that Apple, which was this amazing hardware company with software, wasn’t an internet company.

That it represented what from your perspective?

The next stage of these kinds of companies that we cover. If you put them in buckets or phases of evolution from the companies that existed around Microsoft and Intel to the companies that existed around Yahoo and Google and then the companies that existed around Facebook and Twitter and what not, this was the next thing. I thought that was interesting, I do.

What do you think made them stand out from what they’re doing? I did a profile with Travis a couple years ago for Vanity Fair and a lot of it had to do with his early years, most of which were not great. He presided over two relatively failed startups, one completely failed, very difficult relationships with almost every investor he had and everything ended in tears for this guy.

Including his own.

Yeah, and he just created a lot of trouble, it just seemed like he was at the nexus of trouble and then was like, “I can’t believe this trouble.” A lot of this stuff seemed to me to be motivated by rage about that, he had sort of a rage in his heart that is very different than other entrepreneurs and also older.

I don’t think necessarily that ...

I want to know what you think motivated him.

Well, I don’t know if the rage accounted for his success — certainly for his ultimate success — with Uber if we call it that. I think there was a period of time when that would have been a less controversial statement, now it’s a more controversial statement. He’s clearly — and I talk about in the book — he’s a stubborn, persistent, relentless, ruthless person, and so those things became important in Uber. The part of the story that I think is really interesting, he was part of the founding team of this company called Scour, which as you said went completely belly up.

Essentially not-Napster.

A pre-Napster but less successful, less mediocre, so it started and failed more quickly than Napster did. Red Swoosh, the next company, was an iteration of that technology intended to be legitimate — it was legitimate, they sold to corporations instead — but it took forever to get going. Then it was down to one person, him at one point, and ultimately he sold it for what nobody in the Valley would consider a lot of money.

No, and he had a lot of successful friends around him.

Yeah, and the point I was driving to is that happened in — off the top of my head — ’08, I think. I’ve been here since 1997, I tend to know the people who are modestly successful. I never knew the guy, I met him in 2010 after Uber was starting to go up.

I only point that out to say that he wasn’t one of these A+ players by the time Uber came around. He was a player in that world but we could quickly name 20 people who were more important. There’s a lot of luck involved. This was like the right thing — and, by the way, right when he decided that he was going to go to Uber ... I love all these references to him having founded Uber, which simply isn’t the case.

Although you could argue ... I did a book on AOL, Steve Case didn’t found AOL but he kind of found it and he made it.

Howard Schultz didn’t found Starbucks but he made it, right. Not to take away from him, but Garrett Camp’s idea was an important one. Travis Kalanick was around when they started operation so he was the founder.

We’re going to take a quick break now, we’ll be back with Adam Lashinsky, the author of “Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination,” after a word from our sponsors.

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What do you think ... I want to get to what motivates him. The guy spent time with his parents — including his mom who just died, tremendously lovely woman. His father was a civil engineer, I think, his mother sold newspaper ads. I went to their house, it was a very modest house, above Los Angeles in Northridge, brother is a firefighter, I think sister is a nurse or something like that.

Somebody works at Kinko’s.

Yeah, just really modest but lovely people and very funny and I couldn’t believe this ... I thought he hired these people, his parents. I’m just like, “Where is the mean mom and the abusive father?” It was really interesting because it was sort of an unusual place for him to come from. So I’d love to know what you think, how that happened.

I would love to tell you that I found Travis’s Rosebud. I absolutely set out to find it and I asked people who knew him back them, you know, “What do you think his Rosebud was? What was motivating him?” He tells me this story in the book about when he was an Indian Guide — do you know what Indian Guides were? They’re no longer called Indian Guides but it was this program run by the YMCA for boys to spend more time with their dads.

Indian Guide.

I also was an Indian Guide about 10 years before Travis was and he tells me this story about a fundraising drive for a camping trip or something for the Indian Guides where they sold pancakes in front of the supermarket or tickets to the pancake event in front of the supermarket. He was bound and determined at age 10 or whatever to sell the most freaking pancakes — as you said repeatedly — than any other Indian Guide. He’d stay there until the wee hours of the night in order to do that. The point was that he was motivated like that at a very young age. He was driven, but if he was being beaten in the basement by his lovely mother or his hardworking father I don’t know about it, and you didn’t get that either.

No, as far as a hunter, had waffles and dead animals heads, which was disturbing.

There are other Americans who ...

Yes, exactly, not many in the internet space, but yes.

No, that’s true.

It was interesting because he talked about bullying, that’s why he talked a lot about being bullied.

Yeah, he was teased, he was a mathlete of sorts but he was also an athlete, he was a good runner, good baseball player. He sort of played both those positions. Yeah, he tells stories about having been bullied for being a nerd. That was a bad word, probably, growing up in Northridge; it’s a badge of honor in Silicon Valley. I didn’t get the sense from him telling those stories that they were deep emotional scars. He got made fun of, he got teased. A lot of kids get teased.

Yeah, I always thought he made it up.

Well, I’m just giving you ... I’m not saying that but ...

I am.

My impression is that it wasn’t so ...

Talk a little about the founding. The reason I’m talking about his personality is because maybe he’s just an asshole, you know what I mean? That really is often the explanation for a lot of people in Silicon Valley. But what do you think got them different? What did you come to the conclusion? Was it the app? Was it the ... What was it?

Yeah, the cliché these people love to talk about is product market fit and they had it, they had it in the sense that anyone who rode a taxi in San Francisco before Uber came along knew that the experience sucked, you might get picked up, you might not. If you called for one it might come, it might not, you might make it to the airport on time. And they figured out an abundantly better way of doing that.

And again the cliché — but I felt it, I remember feeling it, it was magical — “Wow, this just works.” There was a great market, it’s a big market, and they hit it hard. It’s interesting to remember that they built it up by doing a limousine product.

Yes, it was a ... They wanted to ride around.

Yeah, it’s what they wanted, they wanted to be ballers and to ride around town. Not my word.

I know it’s not, I just recall them saying it to me years ago and I was like ...

You remember him saying it, you say?

All of them.

The story that I love to tell is that the first time I met him, I don’t know if I had ridden Uber or not but I had used it to send our babysitter home because I didn’t have to take her home and I could watch her progress and make sure that she got home and I could pay for it. I thought that was great and I told him this, I said, “You know, I got a great idea for you, you need to market this as a great thing.” He’s like, could not have been less interested in the babysitter idea.

No.

I’m not ... Your business not mine.

Just ran right through my head. We’re getting to the sexual harassment.

I know we are.

I warned you about that question.

They built it out, they built out this product that worked well by having this limousine service.

Why was it better than a Lyft or whatever?

Well, Lyft wasn’t doing that at the time. What we now know as Lyft had a business called Zimride, which was organizing rides for corporate campuses and university campuses. Lyft then had the idea, “Let’s pivot, take this idea, make it into a way that we can power ordinary people with their cars and by the way we can make the calling part look a lot like what Uber does.”

It took Uber some time to realize that they had been beaten. Once they realized they’d been beaten they were able to move really quickly into Lyft’s product because the app worked, they were already established all around the country and in other parts of the world — which Lyft wasn’t — and they had a lot of money.

Uber X.

Uber X, right.

How do you strike the differences between those two companies? They couldn’t be more different in terms of the CEOs, for example. I mean, [John] Zimmer is really ... I don’t know how to even describe him. He came over one time to — I was sitting with Dick Costolo, someone else who used to be the CEO of Twitter — and he came over he goes, “You know Kara, the reason I’m doing this is because 80 percent of the car’s not in use and that’s wrong for our planet.” He’s right, there’s one person sitting in the car, I get it. He was like, “80 percent, just think about that.” I was like, “Okay, I’ve thought about it.” He goes, “That’s just wrong and I feel like I can save the world that way.” He really meant it, it wasn’t like some ... You know what I mean? He really meant it and he walked away and Dick Costolo turned to me and said, “Travis is going to kill him.” It was so funny.

And Uber talks about the same exact statistic but they talk about it in terms of unused inventory.

Right, even their offices: You go in and you get a foot massage at Lyft and they give you fresh kombucha and then there’s pink everywhere, it’s lovely. Then you go to Uber and it looks like a Bond movie.

The Death Star.

Death Star. You think, “I better not stand on these stairs because it’s going to open up” and you’re going to fall in the shark pit. I think about that all the time. And then the war room — which Arianna just re-dubbed the peace room — was called the war room, for example.

Yeah, when you get off the elevator at Uber it’s sort of like those dreams where you’re a little scared because you’re not sure which way to turn or if the floor will ... That’s true.

Yeah, what is the difference between them? Because the war room is a perfect example. When I was let in there for the first time I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

They let you in there?

Yeah. I was like, “You’re kidding me.” They’re like, “We think it’s great.” I said, “I think you’re 12-year-old-boys, but okay.” That was different. What was the mentality? What was the difference between those two?

The funny thing about the way you introduce that is that Zimmer isn’t even the CEO. Logan Green, who nobody knows, is the CEO.

I’m thinking founder, also real nice.

Very nice. But look, we all go with what we’ve got. I think Lyft is gone, that’s who they are and Uber is who they are.

Is that the difference with Uber, the obnoxiousness, the pushing around of regulators, the sort of ugly statements that he would make? You talked about that in the book quite a bit, that he’d just pop off with a statement that was usually somewhere between appalling and disgusting, at any one point.

Yes, I think this is who Travis is, it’s not a corporate strategy.

Has it been? I’m just curious if you think ...

What’s that?

Has it been? Has it made them successful? Has it been the reason they’ve been able to win their way through city after city?

There’s no question in my mind, although it’s hard to separate the bravado or the attitude from the actions. Because again, it’s worth pointing out that Lyft was the first to do a damn-the-regulators strategy to say, “We don’t think these taxi rules apply to us so we’re going to do it anyway.” Uber did a white paper. I think Travis wrote a white paper to say, “We think this is illegal and we’re concerned about that.” They had conversations about it. Then they said, “Oh, well, okay, it may be illegal but we better do it quickly or we’re going to get beaten by these guys.”

What you’re talking about is yes, they sort of led with their chin, they said, “We’re not going to be a little sneaky about the regulatory issue, we’re going to be completely transparent that we don’t care. We’re going to go in and we’re going to start operating and when they come to us to say, ‘Uh we think you’re illegal,’ we’re going to fight with them. We’re going to get drivers and riders to be on our side.” We forget in 2017 that there was this moment when Uber was beloved. Headlines saying what a great thing this is, people saying how much they love their Uber rides, and so on.

Early on they did that, but let’s get to sneaky, because sneaky seems to be their favorite move on lots of things, not just greyballing, but it goes back in history. Like one sneaky move, what’s the word that they used to call Lyft drivers? I forget.

I’m blanking out too.

Anyway, they do all kinds of sneaky.

It was Operation Slog.

Slogging. That’s slogging.

They gave people burner phones — which I only knew the expression burner from “The Wire” with drug dealers. Burners are anonymous phones to call for rides and then cancel them or take the ride and say, “You know you really ought to be driving for Uber.” I interviewed this guy who worked at Red Swoosh who told me that Travis — this is 20 years ago — had a whiteboard or whatever the version of a whiteboard was then and he would write a dollar sign with big numbers on the whiteboard. This guy said to me, “You know, I’d go by there and he just wrote a large number for people who would be walking by to see the large number. It was shifty.”

Yes, shifty. Is that at the heart of the company? The shiftiness? Because in every two weeks you think it’s sort of one thing after the next.

One person’s shifty is another person’s pushing the envelope.

I think greyballing is being criminally investigated. It’s not shifty, that’s criminal. What do you think that does to a ... Is that something that it can get you successful to a certain point but not fully?

Well, if by not fully you mean not profitable, yes. And if by not fully you mean brings a storm down on you that ends up having real ramifications on the company, then yeah, right.

I want to get to when you were doing the research. Why do it? Why continue? Because it doesn’t really work, it doesn’t ultimately work, you get found out and now you sort of have a target on your back almost. These people just assume that you’re going to lie to them, assume you’re going to be aggressive. Do you think it’s a good strategy? Then we’ll get into where they’re going next. But when you were doing the research for this book it seems like it’s a neverending theme of that company, correct?

No. 1, it’s not the only theme. They didn’t project to me or I didn’t have the daily feeling like this is a criminal enterprise. I have had people who say to me, “Well don’t you think it’s like a Mafia organization?” I didn’t, I didn’t have that feeling. Some of the things — and I know we’re going to get to this — some of the things I simply didn’t know about, I didn’t uncover, but No. 1 along the way I saw plenty of good. Look, if I did think it were a criminal enterprise ...

I don’t think you have to go as far as criminal enterprise, it’s not like it’s the Gotti family here. But you know what I mean? Like when they have a choice to do something a little sneaky possibly criminal or the right way it seems this is the shift that they go to.

All I’m saying is that there’s probably a good book in the Gotti family, I’m sure there have been.

Called “The Sopranos,” but go ahead.

And others right? I see my role as a journalist to write about the Gotti family and to tell the story and you know maybe we could have a conversation about the notion of passing judgment. I think my style is to present it, analyze it and tell it in an entertaining way. You get to judge.

When you did that, you still can come to conclusions, correct?

I don’t disagree with that.

What conclusion did you come ... This is what made it the way it is?

No.

Because it’s not like any company we’ve covered, I think you and I can both agree. You would never think Facebook behaves like this or that they’ve done plenty of sneaky things, but it’s not the same ... I’m thinking of all the companies we cover, is there a close ... The only close company I can think of is Microsoft. Even he looks like a little kitten comparatively. He’s not a kitten.

I promise you I’ll answer you. I once had this conversation with Mark Zuckerberg. I saw the lightning-quick wit and intelligence when someone else at Fortune was about to start a feature story and I said, “You know, we’re just starting this feature story and I think we’re really concerned about some of these Russian billionaires who are involved in killing people being investors in Facebook.” Without batting an eye he said to me, “I’m glad you’re not writing the story.” I think there’s good people doing good work and doing good corporate work at Uber, and I don’t think that takes away from your question and the things that you’re talking about. I think it’s possible to do what they’re doing without being shifty. The example will be that Lyft is doing it. We have a separate conversation about, “Is this a real business? Can it be a real business?”

Yeah, we’re going to get to that.

I also think the answer is yes. I can’t prove it, no one else can either.

When you say there’s good people, this week it’s shown it’s just rained down on those good people, they’re sucked into the middle of incredible misbehavior. I want to get to the financial parts of it too, how you think about the business going forward and all these businesses. I told you I was going to ask this question but in this book nowhere do we have ... really small amounts of, “Oh they’re such pros and they’re so tough and this and that.” Nowhere is there any of the stuff that Susan Fowler ... same thing in the Brad Stone book. It’s as if it didn’t exist. That’s not all that matters, but it’s what’s causing all the problems, this explosive blog post by a very brave woman named Susan Fowler who worked there who was alleging sexism, sexual harassment and essentially just corporate maleficence.

More so than anything else it’s how they run the company like it was an episode of “Game of Thrones” essentially, that the managers were untrained, there was no way to report things, there were no HR systems in place. And I think Uber’s excuse the whole time to me and others has been, “Well, we’ve been so fast building it we had no ability to do this.” Which to me is sort of an “I didn’t clean my bedroom” excuse, you know what I mean? Are you kidding me? Like you can’t put in normal systems. I’m going to say, why did you miss this? Because there was a little sexual harassment problem going on there, there was a sexism problem, there was a party problem, there was a sort of careless behavior towards employees and drivers. And literally it’s pervasive through this company, it’s hard to miss.

First of all, I’m not nowhere, I have a whole section that was strengthened after the initial manuscript and it was strengthened by my two editors who were women, where I discuss Susan Fowler’s allegations, which came out after I turned in my manuscript and the subject of women and Uber more generally. That’s No. 1.

Which had been raised for years. The safety of women passengers.

I addressed it. You can judge me if I addressed it enough or sufficiently, fine.

No, I don’t think you did.

I understand that, and secondly because this is an important element of the story, shame on me, shame on me that I didn’t get it adequately. You also mentioned Gabe Sherman’s book.

Yeah, I would compare it to that.

He wrote this scathing expose of Roger Ailes, and nowhere in there did he mention the rampant allegations of sexual harassment. Well, it wasn’t rampant allegations of sexual harassment at News Corp or at Fox News, it was multiple settlements of sexual harassments which had been ... The terms of which had been that those people didn’t talk about it. This is Gabe Sherman’s reporting.

My issue is that you couldn’t cover Fox News without knowing his reputation. Did you know about this stuff and not write about it or did you just feel it was like nothing or was it an issue of covering Silicon Valley, that people turn a blind eye to some really serious things? Which you referenced with Silicon Valley venture capitalists don’t care about anything except about getting the payoff, essentially.

I interviewed women on the record for this book, I interviewed women off the record for this book, and this subject didn’t come up. If you’re asking me did I not know? I didn’t know. And if you want to say, “Why weren’t you looking harder for it? Why didn’t you push harder on it?” Fine, I spoke to women who complained to me about how they were treated by their managers because they were jerks or whatever word you want to use.

“Brilliant jerks” is the word Arianna ...

I talked to women who described the work-cations, you know about work-cations? They would send teams to places to launch a city and then they would all go out partying at night. Who told me about it as being one of the things they love the most at Uber. All I can do is tell you what my reporting led me to.

What they told you.

I could have done more and I could have done better.

Were you aware of the memo we published last week from Travis? The party memo?

No. In the back of my brain I remember before I ever started working ...

Can you explain what the party memo is?

You published a memo that Travis wrote this ... He felt compelled for some reason to write a memo to his employees before an off-site in Miami giving them ground rules on how they should behave at the meeting. I think it includes something like, “Don’t have sex with someone who’s your subordinate.”

Well, “Don’t vomit because it costs $200 dollars, don’t throw kegs off of roofs.”

Off of roofs.

Which is like, “What? Okay.” Then, “Don’t have sex with someone in your direct report but if you decide to have sex or three of you do make sure everybody is consensual.” Okay, good advice, but from a frat guy, not a CEO of a company. And then at the last part — which I thought was to me the crowning glory of this particular appalling memo — was, “I can’t have sex with anyone because I’m the CEO” and then “#FML!” Which is “Fuck My Life,” meaning he’s lamenting not being able to have sex with his employees, which I think is not appropriate for a CEO. I know I’m strict about these things but I’m saying that memo was famous within Uber, like that, “Whoa we’re such ballers.” So to say.

Tell me if I have my facts right. Your Vanity Fair piece was 2014?

No, earlier than that.

It was after the Miami thing? I don’t know, I don’t remember.

Yeah. I’m saying, what happens that this gets overlooked? I’m not going to give you the blame necessarily but it does get overlooked. In Brad’s book it’s not there, in Gabe’s book it’s not there. I want you to talk about a bigger issue around Silicon Valley that even the women you interviewed didn’t ... Men, I don’t think just women, men ...

No, but if anyone is going to bring it up unsolicited when I say, “Tell me what I need to know,” you would think it would be women. And I think ... I can’t do any better than answer your questions as directly as I can. I think that when you read my book you will get a sense of an immature grown-up running an immature company. I think I got that, and after the ... again, after I turned in the manuscript and that video of him berating the driver came out that became a viral sensation and he said that he needed to grow up. Point out toward the end of the book, this was a man who had recently entered his fifth decade, saying that.

By the way I also rode an Uber with him and the driver recognized that he had the CEO of Uber in the back seat and started to really give him the business like, “You don’t understand ...”

They do.

“This isn’t working right, I can’t get my emails answered on that.” They did an email, he said, “I’m going to follow up with you.” Then of course very quickly, late at night, he copied me on the email. I later said, “Did you do that because I was in the back seat?” “No, of course not, I do that all the time.”

Absolutely. There’s sexism and sexual harassment at every company we cover, but nothing of this [magnitude]. Also, will it change at Uber? Because again, just last week we wrote about this India thing, which was I think what pushed it over the edge, was that ... For those who don’t know, they got the medical records of a rape victim, an Uber customer, and were essentially questioning her story, blaming it on Ola, this is the CEO.

Ola being their competitor in India.

Ola being their competitor. And then carrying them around for a year, medical records of a rape in a criminal case. I’m saying, does it change? Because that was literally last week kind of thing they were doing, and then they lied to the New York Times about it when they asked about it and the New York Times didn’t write about it.

Uber is a ... This is a situation where on an almost daily basis recently things happen that you couldn’t make up if you try.

Them changing.

Can you imagine a meeting with the employees for the board members to explain to them what they’re going to do next and this revered financier David Bonderman making a sexist comment at Arianna Huffington’s approach at that expense, at that meeting?

I’m wondering, do you think spending all this time with this company and saying there are good people there, do you imagine these recommendations are going to be taken seriously and that they will change? You just made a face, like no.

Because I think given the scrutiny of it there under that, it’s going to be hard for them not to take them seriously. They will institute ... You know, when you read through the Holder recommendations, they’re like operating manuals for how you’re supposed to do human resources. They’ll institute those changes and I don’t know if it will stick.

You spend a lot of time inside this company.

I think they have a shot at making those things stick because I don’t believe that every person is right and I’m not making any ...

No, I get that, that’s what I mean, do you believe that?

I’m not making any excuses for the people who are.

Do you believe that this culture can ... Because sometimes, as you know, a lot of cultures [are imbued] with the DNA of their founders or their immediate creators and they don’t change.

I’ll make an observation. I think Apple was 30 or 35 years old when I did my book on them, and it was a huge education for me because I had always discounted the notion of corporate culture. I thought it was one of those soft topics that have nothing real to talk about. And I decided I was completely wrong. At Apple the culture was everything and it was a three-decade-plus-old company. Uber’s hope has to be that at a six- or sevenish-year-old company that the culture isn’t as ingrained. I mean, I’d like to be optimistic for them — you think no chance, I think chance.

I’m a Maya Angelou fan and her quote is, when someone shows you their face for the first time, believe them. You know what I mean? I just do. I think companies are what they’re born like and every single company will always have an element of that.

Let’s get to their finances. We’ll just have a few minutes for questions really soon from people. I’m sure you have lots of them for Adam. The financials, losing a ton of money, billions and billions. A lot of people, they like to try to compare themselves, Uber to Amazon, “Well, Amazon lost a lot of money and then they became what they are today.” Amazon built a lot of moats, they built warehouses, they built very different systems. Amazon didn’t have any real rivals, they really didn’t if you really think about, they had small rivals but nothing ... real, big retailers never got in the game, there was never a Lyft version of an Amazon competitor or an Ola or a Didi or whatever.

Yeah, there were quite a few and they were bad, they failed.

Yeah, but they never had a real, serious competitor.

A credible one.

They built moats, everywhere they went they built moats and now they’re benefiting from those moats they built.

I get it.

Losing this much money, you said I think there’s a business there. Can you explain? Because that’s something that I feel is not the case.

Even with what they release, we don’t have a super clear view of what the finances are. They’re fairly opaque, so what we know is that for a while they were losing a ton of money in China, they stopped that. They’re losing a ton of money by trying to build up an India business. They’re losing a ton of money by investing heavily in their very own version of autonomous vehicles — which we talked of earlier — could end up ending in tears for them, but that’s expensive, right?

Right.

That’s bringing in zero revenue. The question is, does the business itself have a shot at bringing in money? There’s been evidence at various stages of their development that it had the possibility to bring in a lot of money. Just take the United Sates: Uber and Lyft are in this arms race, you could also envision a scenario where not by collusion but because they’ve either spent themselves into exhaustion that they both pull off these subsidies and they make money. The flip side of that is, already we go around town and we see drivers who have the Lyft decal and the Uber decal on the same window, because it’s interchangeable to them.

I guess I’m asking is there a moat for them given all these? Because to me their biggest thing was their brand and that’s gotten ...

That’s right, the best moat was that they’ve become a verb, “I’m going to uber there.” It was easy to explain and people around the country and around the world knew it and they’ve been severely tarnished. They have the data at their fingertips, I don’t.

They say everything is fine.

What’s that?

They’ve been saying.

No, I’m not saying ...

No, they have said that.

The data that would be interesting to know is what consumer behavior is like. Anecdotally, there’s places where people just take Uber.

Anecdotally, “I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Well ,I was going to say no, but that’s more like in our circles, that’s the more prevailing thing. I won’t do that but there’s people out there who do.

My mom doesn’t want to take Uber. It’s interesting.

I understand, she’s your mom.

No, she’s not very technical, she’s just like, “Ew.”

She’s aware of ...

No, I know, but I think it’s interesting.

Also a lovely woman, just like Travis’s mom.

No. But in any case, this is the last question, then we’ll get to Q&A. When you have that idea of this brand is the most important thing and it’s not just this sexual harassment thing, it’s not just Waymo, it’s not just greyballing, before that it was delete Uber, were they trying to screw people who were going to the protests. It’s like, every single day it feels very Trumpy and like, “What? Oh, I forgot he insulted someone who’s disabled. That was months ago.” You know what I mean? Can a brand sustain this much? Because you’ve covered brands for years, internet brands.

Brands can rejuvenate if they do things right. You need the right people and the right money and the right strategy. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

Who’s the COO going to be? Who does it have to be? They’re looking for a COO, they’re looking for a CMO, CFOs, they’re looking for head of engineering. Only because we’ve gotten some of these people fired. Head of business, yeah, that guy, he’s gone.

If there’s ever a conversation I’d like to be a fly on the wall it’s the conversation with the top prospect who says, “Well okay, explain one thing to me, who do I report to?” “You report to Travis Kalanick.” “He’s not there right now, right?” “Right.” “When is he coming back?” “I don’t know.” “What are my specific responsibilities going to be?” “Well, they’re going to be these.” “How do I know that’s not going to change when Travis comes back?” “Well, because we say so.”

“We’re a very weak board and have never stopped him before and we’re complicit in all these activities but please come.”

It’s a toughie. So the person they want wants to be CEO, not COO.

Right, who would you pick? Pick two names.

I mean the ... What about Jared Kushner?

We’ve just added that to his portfolio. You got one?

You just what?

We just added to his portfolio, but go ahead. He’s solving Middle East peace but he can do it on the side.

Add to his portfolio running Uber, right, that’s a great idea. Two people who ... one name that has been floated is the former heir apparent at Disney.

Tom Staggs.

Staggs, right, with a T.

Staggs.

He’s a business guy who has run a complicated operation and done it ... He’s a very diplomatic guy, you’ve had him onstage.

Yeah, I know him well.

He’s the kind of person who would work.

Sources close to Tom Staggs go, “Ah.” Okay.

In what sense?

No.

No, he doesn’t want or no ...

No, “Ah.” No, thank you, maybe there’s enough money in the world, I don’t know. That was a professional ah.

Again, I’m talking about types of people. The type of person who’d be perfect in this situation if he wanted to do it would be Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Ford. Who had been the CEO ... He gets complex organizations, he knows how to wrap things up in a bow.

That’s a very interesting thing.

I don’t know how old he is but he doesn’t need either the recognition or the ...

He really can rock a sweater vest. We’re going to take another quick break now for a word from our sponsors, we’ll be back in a minute with more from Adam Lashinsky, the author of” Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination.”

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All right, questions from the audience, come on up, okay, go for it.

Question 1: Is this on? Kara thanks for your time, Adam as well and for bringing Ruth, always an added plus.

Kimberly is referring to my wife sitting in the front row.

KS: Right here. His better half, and I really mean it.

Question 1: My question is, Adam, you’ve had this amazing opportunity to write about Inside Apple and now kind of inside Uber, what’s one similarity or one difference of these two companies with pretty unique CEOs?

Well, superficially there’s a lot of similarities. Jobs prided himself in breaking the rules, large and small, not so large as Uber has, but that was part of his persona. I wrote a thing this morning that Travis told me once ... I said, “How do you like running a big company?” I think it was a very telling response, he said, “I like to think of it in small pieces.” I reflected in the book — and again, I don’t think he had grasped that that wasn’t acceptable.

He’s running a big company, but in fairness, from a storytelling perspective that was one of Jobs’s lines, he said, “I like to think that Apple’s the largest startup in the world.” He made it work, he was Steve Jobs, it was not a small company, it had a ton of professional processes. Anyway, you would hear these stories about people being screamed at by Steve Jobs and others being treated horribly, but that’s not against the rules, that’s not against law, screaming at people because you think they suck.

Yeah, I would ...

That’s where the comparisons end.

I would not compare them in any way ever.

I’m talking about ... let’s say in aspirational tone, in Uber’s aspirations.

I don’t.

That’s fine.

Sorry, Jobs was a very great CEO. Sorry.

Question 2: Hi there. I should probably preface by saying that I haven’t read “Take A Wild Uber Ride” but I’d love to know from the both of you what you think is the realistic and practical future of Uber, given a lot of its shortcomings that we’ve talked about tonight amongst leadership, management and culture.

I think I’ve ticked at that, you’ve got a company with ... I’m going to give you the cup half full because Kara is going to give you the cup half empty, which I’m fine with, I could give you that too. It’s a company with global operations and — I’m reaching for a business cliché, which is mindshare with consumers, with writers, and some huge problems including these legal problems, which are way worse maybe than the public perception problems or the reputation being tarnished. If you could get past that, if they can get past that and you bring in the right leadership to run that global operation, that would be the cup half full future.

I would say the sexual harassment, sexism. Sadly I will say they’ll probably get over that if they do the right things, they shouldn’t, they should not. I think that lawsuits are really problematic, I think the criminal investigations are problematic, I think the fact that they have a very thin management staff and how do you attract really good people there. You’re not going to get Sheryl Sandberg to show up there. Someone like that is never going to do that, so you have all these problems of attrition, keeping staff, keeping drivers happy. This is such a logistically complex company to have the mindshare of what one executive that remains at Uber to do it is really hard. Then I think they’re going to get sold. That’s what I would say.

To who?

Google.

To Google?

Yeah, they can’t compete in this self-driving area, they can’t do it, they just can’t. There’s A players and B players and now they don’t have the A players anymore. They’ve managed to create one of the most toxic cultures I’ve ever seen in tech. I don’t know who could go in. And then you have the CEO floating around saying, “I really need to get to ...” This drives me nuts: “Uber needs to get to Uber 2.0 and Travis needs to get to Travis 2.0.” Like it’s all going to rest on his Jesus-like shoulders. That mentality is so Silicon Valley, and I think here’s someone who created most of the damage not taking responsibility for it, not having any kind of sorry, there’s not a real sorry here.

You don’t need to prostrate yourself but David Bonderman, whenever you think of that joke — and I think he meant something slightly different when he said it, I think he was talking about having discussions with ... There’s more discussion with more women around the table. It was a bad, stupid joke at the exactly wrong time, but he quit immediately. He did the right thing, he knew he was going to be a distraction for that company, he did the right thing. He did one single stupid joke, Travis Kalanick has done a dozen very serious, disturbing things including the India stuff, please read about that because it will disturb you to no end.

He was probably delighted to be done with it.

Who?

Bonderman.

Bonderman, he probably was. Someone called me and said it was a plot by him to get off the board. I was like, “Really? To look like an asshole, no I don’t think so.”

I’m saying once it happened, he probably ...

Right here, sorry, there’s a thing back here, can you run back here?

Question 3: Hi, I was expecting that you guys will talk tonight about topics like Uber in a job market, Uber’s impact on urban life, Uber and the economy, Uber’s impact on our social life. You chose not to talk about any of those things and I’m not asking you now to address them.

KS: He can.

Question 3: No, I’m mostly curious why you don’t find those topics important and interesting enough to discuss?

I do. Well, I do and I can’t tell exactly which direction you’re hoping I’m going to go or which direction the people who are clapping are going to go. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about the impact on the economy as part of my research for the book. I became an Uber driver because I wanted to experience what it was like, I didn’t do it for a long time and I did it long enough to learn very quickly that I enjoy my job a lot more than being an Uber driver. It’s tough.

What is the impact ... It’s not just Uber but it’s Airbnb, it’s all these companies of this gig economy, it’s not something you cover a whole lot in the book, but what is the ...

I think it’s very complicated. On the one hand, Uber and Airbnb didn’t invent piecemeal work, they didn’t invent a contract thing.

They’ve systemized.

They’ve, I don’t know, made it more efficient maybe with the smartphone or the web being the procurer of people and things for that piece work. I’ll just tell you because we don’t have a ton of time. My observation in talking to a ton of drivers and briefly experiencing it myself is that in one breath Uber drivers will tell you the many reasons why they hate being Uber drivers. In the next breath will tell you why they’re Uber drivers, which is that they’re hard up for cash and for many reasons and they like that Uber gives them the ability to get it quickly and to do it when they want to do it, which is no trivial thing. But like I said, they’ll give you, in the same conversation, those two arguments.

What about their impact on a city? Because that’s self-driving cars is what you’re talking about, the idea of self-driving cars.

Are you? Or were you talking about all the clutter of cars, of Uber and Lyft cars on the road? Because I think they’re different subjects. I’m not one of these futurists who sees how self-driving cars is going to work quickly. When you talk to these people they tell you it’s a when not an if that it will happen. It is safe but it’s going to take consumer acceptance and regulation to get there and that may take quite a bit of time. I just think it’s funny, it’s interesting. I’ll make an observation: Uber and Lyft, they’re cluttering the streets, but Lyft in John Zimmer’s words are taking cars off the road, which is a wonderful thing.

Right, taking cars off. Can you say the quote that Travis used in the book about horses, which ...

Yeah, this was classic right? Travis Kalanick was asked in China, “Do you envision a future where people don’t drive cars themselves?” He said, “Oh no, people still ride horses for leisure even though that was once our primary form of transportation, and I can envision a day when people take their cars out for a ride on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.”

Then the quote he used about drivers at our conference where he’d got into big trouble, which is the flip side of that.

Where he called taxi ...

No, where he said that ...

Some dude in a car.

He wanted to get rid of all drivers. He said, “Some day my business will work when I can get rid of all drivers.” I know that was what the crowd said at the time too. It was a really interesting observation. I think he was telling the truth and was brutally honest about what a lot of these people don’t say is that they’re hoping to get rid of all humans in the process of driving.

The logical conclusion of the billions of dollars that all of these companies are spending on automation is the elimination of human jobs, which is the same conclusion of all the other examples of automation that’s happening in the economy. There’s no question.

He just said it out loud.

He says it in the most embarrassing foot-in-his-mouth way.

He’s correct, correct?

More or less, yeah.

Two more questions.

Question 4: Hi, I have a question that follows on your conversation about the culture of Uber. I wonder whether there is any connection you think from your research in a culture where there is sexism and discrimination and drivers’ incomes, there was a story in New York about I guess they’re being sued because they didn’t ...

KS: They didn’t pay the enough.

Question 4: They didn’t pay them enough. That kind of culture is connected to the fact that the company’s mission is to disrupt the taxi industry and as you were just talking about eventually to possibly take out the transportation sector worldwide. I would imagine working in that environment would be very different from any other job because you’re dealing with all of these large, humanistic, ethical, moral questions as you go about your daily tasks. Is that part of the culture? Is that something people talk about? Are there connections there?

KS: The idea is in the company they understand the impact that their business is having on people’s lives?

Question 4: I would think that that would be something employees at various levels and particularly at top levels but at all levels would possibly think about. Or is it not something that they think about?

KS: That’s a good question.

No, as I’m sure you’ve heard, it absolutely is something that they talk about. And to give you a window into the mindset of the company, this was for Travis Kalanick and the people around him a badge of honor — and I’m paraphrasing him now, these are my words — “Taxi commissions and taxi owners are corrupt; we are doing something about that corruption. They want to keep the number of taxis available to consumers down and to keep prices high and we’re going to have as many cars on the road as possible and drive prices low for consumers.” That was the founding mentality of the company and they weren’t shy about that.

KS: What about the second question of driverless cars, the idea that they may disrupt ... Maybe that’s yesterday’s fight, fighting the corrupt taxis, they don’t talk about that anymore at Uber.

No, that’s over.

KS: The idea of getting rid of humans in the driving process?

Question 4: The way that might affect the corporate culture, I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that there’s rampant sexism at a company that has essentially anti-humanistic values, but call me crazy.

KS: That’s a very good point.

I’m a humanist, right? I think that what Kara and I do and what you do is going to be the last industry to be disrupted by robots. Can you imagine a robot doing what Kara Swisher does?

Yes, totally, they actually are making them.

No.

They’re making them.

No.

They are.

You know that’s not going to happen. Not in your lifetime.

I know it is, yeah, I’ll be dead, I don’t care. Don’t you think? Both of us, we’re at the end of our ...

I think so.

Yeah, we’ll be dead, we don’t care.

I do.

Go right ahead, Larry Page, that’s probably who’ll do it to us, right? Zuckerberg. That’s a great question. Last question.

Question 5: Hi Adam, Hi Kara, thank you so much for coming. My question is what is your advice for founders, aside from not writing these memos and not going to brothels with your employees?

KS: We didn’t even get to the brothel, that other girl would have been mad at us.

Just to really steer away from this and make sure that the people that you’re bringing on embody the values that will get you to the next stage and not let you be dragged down by this. I know there are good people at Uber, but the fish stinks from the head.

That’s a great thing because people change, Zuckerberg has changed, Evan Spiegel presumably has changed, talk about that. The founder, what happens to the journey of the founder?

I mean, there’s little evidence that ... Gates changed after he became a philanthropist, Bezos never changed, Zuckerberg grew, which is different from change. Steve Jobs didn’t change, he also grew tremendously. It’s a great question. I structured my Apple book all around lessons that you can learn from Apple both for entrepreneurs — which Jobs consider himself to be one — and corporate executives.

What about tips? What are some of the things that ...

Tips from Uber?

What do you think? You’ve interviewed hundreds of founders, what do you think the key assets are or things to avoid? Obviously not writing bad memos, but think of some asset.

Well, the one that ... What Uber did well from the outset was a core tenet of what Apple did well, which was to be laser focused on as few things as possible. When Uber was thriving and growing they were really focused on one thing, which was making Uber X huge. Jobs sort of took this to an art form, they were going to say no to more things than they were going to say yes to, they were only going to make products they could fit on a conference room table. We could have a long conversation about how the fact that that’s over at Apple now and it’s over at Uber, right? Because they do UberEATS and they’re investigating flying cars and they’re transporting kittens and barbecue in helicopters. I think great entrepreneurs and great business executives try to focus on as few things as possible. That was my learning from writing about Apple and I think some of the people ask me, “What advice would you give Uber?” I really ...

Yeah, what advice would you give?

Well, I hate to do that, but that would be the obvious advice.

Focus.

Lyft is focusing right now.

Got a great product focus kind of thing. What would you do if you were CEO? What would be the first thing?

No way. Well, you’ve done what I’m saying I won’t do but you’ve done it a little ... You run a company, you sold the company but you’ve kept being a journalist the entire time and I’ve had nibbles over the years, would you be interested in doing this? I’m just blessed that there isn’t anything else that I want to be doing, I get to do a lot of fun things, I like being a journalist. I don’t want to be the CEO of Uber, are you kidding me?

All right, they’re not asking.

Neither of us, right?

Right, no. What do you imagine will be around in 10 years?

You just predicted that Google is going to buy them, which I think is very clever.

Someone will.

I would never counter you, Kara.

You can have your own opinion. I’m often wrong. I’m frequently wrong but never in doubt.

I’m frequently wrong, and 10 years is a ridiculously long time.

What I mean is, can you be a pioneer and not necessarily survive the transition?

Sure, yeah.

You think not, you’re optimistic.

We’ve seen it happen countless times. No, I’m optimistic because I have joy and warmth in my heart, not because I’m making a prediction. And I do.

Yes, you do. What’s your next book?

By the way, can you do me a huge favor?

What?

I’ve always wanted to get you to sign this.

Another time.

Afterwards will you sign this? Do you realize this is almost 20 years old?

Don’t kiss up to me, yes I know that I’m very old, I got that, thank you. So are you because you and I were young at the same time.

I was.

Anyway before the program’s up, I know we’re running a tiny bit late. It is now an Inforum tradition to ask all our speakers the following question: What is your 60-second idea to make the world a better place? Don’t be snarky.

By the way, they give you 60 minutes preparation.

You got 60 seconds. Go.

I’m going to get there because it’s really short. I wish I could be snarky but I just try really hard to do three things: To say please and thank you and to be grateful for all the blessings that I have and I think if everyone shot for that tough goal the world would be a better place.

Fantastic answer, so nice. All right, let’s give a big round of applause to Adam Lashinsky, there’s a lot in his book, it’s a fascinating history of Uber if you want to find out how they got where they got. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, it’s called “Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination,” it’s a great cover actually, it’s fantastic. He will be signing this excellent book “Wild Ride” down the hall and copies are for sale. He’s ready to write personal notes to all of you, so please take your time with him and ask him for whatever you want. He is a great journalist, he’s one of my favorite journalists in Silicon Valley, Adam Lashinsky.

Thank you, Kara.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.