Amid another leak of documents revealing large-scale international tax avoidance, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said Monday that tax avoidance was fast becoming a thing of the past. “When we’re talking about the ‘Panama Papers’ or ‘Paradise Papers’we’re talking about a legacy that is fast disappearing,” Angel Gurria said. Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in London, Gurria said governments were working hard to stop tax avoidance and evasion.
The genius of Steve Jobs lies in his hippie period and with his time at Reed College, the pre-eminent Liberal Arts college in North America. To his understanding of technology, Jobs brought an immersion in popular culture. In his 20s, he dated Joan Baez; Ella Fitzgerald sang at his 30th birthday party. His worldview was shaped by the ’60s counterculture in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had grown up, the adopted son of a Silicon Valley machinist. When he graduated from high school in Cupertino in 1972, he said, “the very strong scent of the 1960s was still there. After dropping out of Reed College, a stronghold of liberal thought in Portland, Ore., in 1972, Mr. Jobs led a countercultural lifestyle himself. He told a reporter that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life. He said there were things about him that people who had not tried psychedelics — even people who knew him well, including his wife — could never understand.
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.
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.
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.”
UPDATE: KALANICK VIDEO SURFACES. Suffice to say, people are angry with Uber, and things aren’t getting better. This is actually deja vu all over again. We have seen this before in Silicon Valley. The hubris of a company founders or founders creates an ugly overly aggressive and unrestrained culture in its employees and before long things begin to unravel. This has been quietly observed at Uber for some time, and can be gleaned by its own actions as reported in the press. Now, new self-inflicted cracks are appearing. More than 200,000 people have deleted the UBER app off their smart phones in the past month. After former employee Susan Fowler Rigetti published a detailed blog post about the sexual harassment and discrimination she allegedly experienced at the company, people began deleting the ride sharing-app again. As more and more employees have spoken out about the alleged poor working conditions, Uber’s customer base is dwindling … and the company is getting desperate.