For over a year now I have blogged here about the red flags flying about Travis Kalanick and Uber. Many investigative articles have been published over this time, in the New York Times and other publications, which have raised disturbing questions about Uber, Kalanick and some members of his team. The Board of Directors has finally taken action but it feels like its a day late and a dollar short. Why did it take so long? I have bluntly used the epithet that “Uber is Trump,” but now on reflection, it is more apt to describe Uber as Enron the sequel, and “deja vu all over again.” Remember the audio of two Enron electricity traders laughing about “screwing grandma?” That is Uber.
As Fareed Zakaria has pointed out this week in the Washington Post and on CNN GPS, we now have a Trump foreign policy doctrine, and it is not reassuring for the World. Obviously heavily influenced by Bannon, who many had thought had been relegated to backseat status by McMaster, we have been fooled again. As Trump demonstrates his RealPolitik admiration for authoritarians like Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, and Duterte, more sinister scenarios begin to crystallize. Trump’s speech justifying the withdrawal of the United States from the COP21 Paris Climate Change Agreement is a frightening exposition of this new Trump Doctrine. It is Trump thumbing his nose at the World. It is the United States against the World, led by a coterie of plutocrats and their money. The reality is that the evidence points to an ongoing seizure of executive power by Trump that destroys our Constitution in the name of our national security. The question is what we can do about it.
The truth is that for all of the tough talk from Li Xinping about stopping the massive outflows of capital from China, some of it probably dark money obtained from dubious enterprises and kickbacks, nothing has changed in China or in the Western cities eager to share in the wealth. Rich, Young “Fuerdai” Chinese Are Buying Overseas Properties on Their Smartphones. Millennials acquire real estate in other countries as hedge against a weakening currency, homes for their own children when they study abroad
Many observers and former employees say it is run like an offshore sweatshop, complete with stressful bullying No quality customer service can come from such a dysfunctional work environment. The gig economy philosophy is apparent with employee’s reduced to total submission to draconian work rules, total surveillance of all voice and written communication, and apparent high turnover. Burnout is common. Three years ago, there was something of a Sykes employee revolt, when a number of supervisory employees were fired, and an anonymous broadcast email was posted describing the poor management practices. Outsourcing like this has been a common means to cut costs in the wireless industry.
Humility and Leadership Go Hand in Hand
There is a fundamental truth here. Pope Francis and the Harvard Business School are aligned.
UPDATE: This mayo615 post from October 2016, discusses the legal complexities of a potential espionage or conspiracy charge against Julian Assange by the United States. My reading that such a charge was likely and possibly imminent, is now fact. Ecuador’s newly elected government insistence that it will continue to provide Assange with diplomatic protection is becoming very thin. It is more likely that time and diplomatic pressure will force Ecuador to give up Assange and cause his extradition to the United States by Great Britain. The increased likelihood of moving against Assange has been heightened in my opinion, by two factors: Obama’s announcement on October 7th that the United States officially holds Russia responsible for the cyber theft of the Democratic National Committee documents released by Wikileaks, and Assange’s own statements of his intent to harm the United States, most recently in a video interview with Bill Maher, which are now coming back to haunt him.
Perhaps the premiere of Season 4 of “Silicon Valley” twigged me to share this post. but despite the title, the HBO series only connection may be the now viral “mean jerk time algorithm.” The real “Silicon Valley jerk” has been around for decades, buried with all the other dirty laundry. Uber’s Travis Kalanick has only brought it front and center at this moment. It is something of a conundrum as some of the jerks are also the most successful. We all now know about the “bad” Steve Jobs. Oracle for years had a very bad reputation that came directly from Larry Ellison himself. Microsoft was long known as a “sweatshop” with a highly negative culture led by Steve Ballmer. Even venture capitalists themselves have caught the disease as evidenced by Reid Hoffman and the late Tom Perkins of KPCB. The best assessment I have heard is that these aggressive unrestrained corporate cultures destroy their own goals. Or better yet, the saying that “culture trumps strategy.”
Despite all of the revelations of the sources and methods of the Vancouver housing bubble over the last two years, the situation remains largely unresolved. Ditto in Toronto. The foreign buyers’ tax has had only a limited effect and has problems. Fueled by dark foreign money housed in anonymous offshore shell companies like those disclosed in the Panama Papers, the money is managed by local financial manipulators at the behest of unidentifiable persons overseas. The foreign buyers continue to enjoy the weakest enforcement jurisdiction in Canada
The unwritten promise of a post-secondary education has been to earn a degree in an applied field such as engineering and you’ll end up with a good, stable job, but the millennial generation is finding that can no longer be counted on. I have been thinking about this issue for some time. Last year, I posted an article on this blog by Robert Reich, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. I was stimulated to share that article by what I was seeing with my own students from the University of British Columbia, and contrasting that with my own experience years ago, walking into my Silicon Valley dream career by sheer chance. That simply no longer happens. Grads must begin plotting out a plan early, no later than the beginning of their third year, and begin to execute on it in order to find an entry-level position commensurate with their education. Networking and cold calling is imperative, but as this article points out, even that may not guarantee solid employment.
The Vancouver technology industry may well be on the verge of an extraordinary period of growth. Global, national, and regional factors appear to be aligning in ways that could create an extraordinary economic opportunity for the Lower Mainland which could not have been anticipated. Vancouver has been an endless topic of discussion about its comparability (or not) to Silicon Valley, the historical Canadian investment conservatism, and the lack of other resources necessary to create the “secret sauce” that makes a region achieve critical mass. That may be changing if only the convergence of factors is grasped and exploited.