Uber CEO quits Trump advisory board after user exodus

3 Feb 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt. Image: TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

With Uber users protesting by deleting their apps and leaving the service, company CEO Travis Kalanick has announced he is leaving President Trump’s advisory board.

Even prior to his inauguration, US president Donald Trump was quick to meet with his economic advisory board made up of some of tech’s biggest names including Elon Musk, Satya Nadella and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

The latter has revealed that following widespread protest among its fleet of drivers over claims that the company favoured Trump’s policies, he is to leave the board – but not without venting his frustration at the decision.

Creation of a ‘perception-reality gap’

In a staff memo seen by the BBC, Kalanick stated that while he had agreed to join Trump’s advisory board, it did not mean that he agreed with many of the policies brought in during the US president’s first few weeks in charge.

“Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that,” he said.

“The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the administration’s agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are.”

On Wednesday (1 February), Uber appeared to have a mutiny on its hands after the company lifted its surge pricing in the area surrounding John F Kennedy Airport during protests against Trump and his immigration ban.

Uber drivers respond

Although it isn’t a taxi service, New York taxi drivers were outraged by Uber’s decision as other organisations representing them were on strike over the ban.

Viewed as a potential attempt to dissuade people from attending the protest, Uber users across the US responded in numbers by deleting the app; so much so in fact, that Uber admitted it had to automate the deleting process to keep up with demand.

Kalanick’s decision to leave the board has been met with praise from the union representing Uber drivers – the Independent Drivers Guild – who said in a statement: “This is an important show of solidarity with the immigrant drivers who helped build Uber and number over 40,000 in New York City alone.”

“We are heartened that Uber has listened to the drivers and the community on this important issue that is so integral to the promise of the American dream.”

Another advisory board member who has reiterated his intention to stay is SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who took to Twitter to explain why he would remain.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt. Image: TechCrunch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic