Los retos que Dara Khosrowshahi tendrá que capear en Uber

Uber ha sido noticia estos días por haber encontrado finalmente un sustituto para su CEO y fundador, Travis Kalanick. Finalmente será Dara Khosrowshahi, que viene de Expedia, quien tomará las riendas de la compañía en una votación unánime, según señalan desde la propia Uber en un mail enviado a sus empleados:

“Team,

We are delighted to announce that Uber’s Board has voted unanimously to appoint Dara Khosrowshahi to be our new CEO.

Dara came to America at nine years old when his family escaped Iran on the eve of the Iranian Revolution. He grew up in Tarrytown, N.Y., trained as an engineer at Brown, and spent many years at IAC serving as Chief Financial Officer and in various operational and strategic roles.

In 2005, he became CEO of Expedia, which he built into one of the world’s leading travel and technology companies, now operating in more than 60 countries. He has four children and not surprisingly loves to travel, one of his favorite trips being to the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia where his wife Sydney said yes to marrying him.

We’re really fortunate to gain a leader with Dara’s experience, talent and vision. The Board and the Executive Leadership Team are confident that Dara is the best person to lead Uber into the future building world-class products, transforming cities, and adding value to the lives of drivers and riders around the world while continuously improving our culture and making Uber the best place to work.

Dara will be joining us tomorrow, August 30, for an All Hands. Add your questions for Dara here, and stay tuned for a calendar invite with more details. He’ll also be meeting with employees around the world in smaller groups over the next few weeks, and spending time with drivers.

Please join us in welcoming Dara on what promises to be an exciting ride!

-Yasir, Garrett, Matt, Ryan, Arianna, Travis, Wan Ling & David”

Khosrowshahi, a sus 48 años, está ante la oportunidad de su vida, como él mismo ha declarado, aunque el nombramiento no está exento de responsabilidades. Son muchos los retos a los que tiene que hacer frente Uber que, además, no pasa por su mejor momento en cuanto a imagen pública se refiere. La compañía afronta acusaciones por motivos de discriminación y acoso sexual y cultural, pero el nuevo CEO -de ascendencia iraní-, se muestra deseoso de “ensuciarse las manos” y asumir la toma de decisiones para paliar los problemas:

“Khosrowshahi said in an interview at Expedia’s headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. “Are there difficulties? Are there complexities? Are there challenges? Absolutely, but that’s also what makes it fun. I am not in this to coast. I’m in it to get my hands dirty and build a team and do something that people will look back on with tons of satisfaction.””

“There’s still a bumpy road ahead at Uber. Khosrowshahi will need to hire several top executives, including a chief financial officer. The company also plans to appoint an independent chairman. Two board members — Uber’s co-founder and the company’s largest shareholder — are currently engaged in a courtroom fight. Venture capital firm Benchmark is accusing Kalanick of fraud and asking him to turn over the three board seats that he controls. Kalanick called the suit “a fabrication.””

Max Chafkin señala en Bloomberg otros problemas que tendrá que afrontar Khosrowshahi, además de la contratación de un jefe financiero. Estos estriban en el hecho de que las tarifas que se cobran a los usuarios no cubren en muchos casos el coste del viaje -ya dijimos hace tiempo que posiblemente el futuro del negocio esté en eliminar a los conductores humanos de la plantilla- , además de una inversión fortísima en líneas de negocio secundarias -los coches voladores- o la potencia de diversos competidores en los mercados ruso -donde Uber se ha fusionado con Yandex-, chino e indio.

Uber perdió 645 millones de dólares en el segundo cuatrimestre de 2017, según informa ReCode, donde señalan otra serie de retos que tendrá que afrontar el CEO recién llegado: lidiar con Kalanick y la Junta, manejar los problemas legales derivados de las acusaciones de acoso sexual en la compañía y del follón judicial en el que está metido frente a Alphabet por el asunto del espionaje industrial; y renovar parte del staff y algunos puestos clave en la empresa. Por último, la publicación tecnológica también sugiere que Khosrowshahi también deberá decidir cuando es un buen momento para recurrir a una oferta pública de venta (IPO en sus siglas en inglés) con la que obtener financiación.

Ben Thompson, en su blog Stratechery, asegura que la contratación de Dara Khosrowshahi es una buena elección precedida por los éxitos del iraní-americano al frente de Expedia (el índice de aprobación entre la plantilla de esa empresa sería del 93%, dicen); eso sí, si Kalanick y la Junta -especialmente el primero- le dejan trabajar a su aire y sin entrometerse demasiado:

“To Khosrowshahi’s credit he learned this lesson: Expedia was in big trouble in the years after he took over, and one of the changes Khosrowshahi made was to add the agency model to Expedia’s properties (Expedia now has a hybrid approach). It is a lesson that will serve him well as Uber’s CEO; the fundamental mistake made in so much Uber analysis comes from believing that drivers are the key to the model. For example, there was a very popular piece of analysis some months ago premised on evaluating the cost of driving for Uber relative to driving for a traditional cab company. It was a classic example of getting the facts right and missing the point.

In fact, what makes Uber so valuable — and still so attractive, despite all of the recent troubles — is its position with riders. The more riders Uber has, the more drivers it will attract, even if the economics are worse relative to other services: driving at a worse rate is better than not driving at a better one.

To that end, Uber’s strength — and its sky-high valuation — comes from the company’s ability to acquire customers cheaply thanks to a combination of the service’s usefulness and the effects of aggregation theory: as the company acquires users (and as users increases their usage) Uber attracts more drivers, which makes the service better, which makes it easier to acquire marginal users (not by lowering the price but rather by offering a better service for the same price). The single biggest factor that differentiates multi-billion dollar companies is a scalable advantage in customer acquisition costs; Uber has that.”

 

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