Is Uber 2.0 now possible after CEO’s departure?

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Travis Kalanick is out as CEO, but will remain on the company’s board.


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The next CEO of Uber faces a lot of obstacles.  

After Travis Kalanick’s exit as Uber’s chief executive on Tuesday, the world’s biggest ride-hailing company needs to find someone who can move forward after a series of controversies, defend the service against regulators around the world and who has experience leading a fast-growing, global organization with 12,000 employees. 

Add to that a need to reset Uber’s brash, toxic culture pretty fast, and you’ve got a nearly impossible job on your hands.

“Uber needs someone who’s patient, persistent, has a softer touch, but is just as driven, ambitious and achievement-focused as Travis was,” said Marc Cenedella, CEO of career site Ladders. “It’s a remarkable job and there’s maybe two dozen people on the planet that can do it.”

Travis Kalanick resigns as CEO, stays on as board member

After taking a leave of absence as head of Uber, Kalanick relinquishes some control of the company he co-founded.

by Iyaz Akhtar

The shakeup at the top throws into question the future direction of the world’s highest-valued startup, worth roughly $70 billion. The change could affect how the service is run and how it offers rides to customers in the 80 countries it serves, from Azerbaijan to Vietnam, and give a lift to rival Lyft. Despite its popularity, Uber is now a tarnished brand — if you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen #DeleteUber, the trending hashtag from people boycotting the service over its many missteps.

Even with its woes, Uber’s board will likely have its pick of Silicon Valley’s and the world’s top executive talent, so long as they can assure the incoming CEO that Kalanick — who remains a board member and is Uber’s single-largest shareholder — won’t get in the way.

And recruitment experts say all of Uber’s problems are unlikely to dissuade a new leader from taking on the job. Uber is still the world’s most popular ride-hailing service, and it’s unclear whether most riders even care about the inside drama at the San Francisco-based startup.  

“Top CEOs will relish a chance to fix the issues this extraordinary company has and lay the groundwork for the next phase of growth,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray Christmas, which helps workers find new jobs.

How we got here

It’s not a surprise Kalanick, who helped co-found Uber in 2009, has called it quits. Uber’s image problem was bad enough that some of its key investors saw him as a liability. Bill Gurley, a major investor and one of Kalanick’s early backers, led the effort to force the CEO to resign, according to The New York Times. On Wednesday afternoon, the newspaper reported Gurley would be replaced on Uber’s board by another member of Benchmark, his firm venture capital firm.

His ouster as CEO comes a week after Kalanick announced he was taking a leave of absence, in part to allow him to grieve for his mother, who died just weeks earlier. But it also came on the day that Uber released the results of an internal investigation, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder, that found an overall pattern of unprofessional business conduct. “If we are going to work on Uber 2.0,” Kalanick wrote to employees in a June 13 memo, “I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs.” 

Some people figured he would return from leave, necessitating a formal request he step down from the company, according to The Washington Post. The New York Times said Kalanick asked for advice from Uber board member Arianna Huffington after receiving a letter titled “Moving Uber Forward” from Gurley and four other top shareholders asking he resign immediately. He made the decision to step down hours later on Tuesday, saying “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

The stage for his departure was set by a raft of scandals that erupted over the past year. Here are some of the (low)lights:

  • In February, Waymo, a self-driving car company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, sued Uber, alleging that Uber stole secretive autonomous car technology.
  • Also in February, a blog post by former engineer Susan Fowler described a workplace culture involving instances of sexual harassment, gender bias and unprofessional business practices.
  • In March, Uber was in hot water after using a tool called “Greyball” to evade local officials.
  • In April, Uber reportedly had a run-in with Tim Cook after the Apple CEO was upset that the app allowed Uber to secretly identify iPhones, even after its app had been deleted from people’s phones.
  • In June, a woman raped by an Uber driver in India sued the company and several executives, alleging that they obtained and mishandled her medical records.
  • In response to Fowler’s blog post, the company hired Holder to lead an independent probe into allegations of sexual harassment. The board voted to adopt all of the recommendations in his 13-page report, which included “changes to senior leadership.”  
  • During an employee meeting to discuss Holder’s findings, board member David Bonderman made a comment disparaging women during a discussion about sexism. Bonderman stepped down from Uber’s board a few hours later, saying his comments were “careless, inappropriate and inexcusable.”

Not everyone is willing to pile on. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, and an attention-grabbing leader in his own right, defended Kalanick during an event hosted by Sprint and its prepaid arm, Virgin Mobile

“He’s an extraordinary individual who’s human like the rest of us,” Branson said. He added that he’s recommended an unnamed “he” as a potential CEO candidate.  

And on Wednesday, Uber employees circulated a petition calling for Kalanick’s return to the company in an operational role. “Yes, Travis is flawed, as we all are,” the petition says. “But his passion, vision, and dedication to Uber are simply unmatched. We would not be here today without him, and believe he can evolve into the leader we need. He is critical to our future success.”

On Thursday, news site Axios reported that over 1,000 employees had signed the petition.

Where to next?

Uber, a privately-held company, is now run by a committee of 10 executives and has lost a large number of its leadership due to resignations or firings. As part of Holder’s review, more than 20 executives exited the company, including Emil Michael, senior vice president of business and Kalanick’s second-in-command. This situation is unsustainable and needs to change soon, said Erik Gordon, a professor at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Richard Branson excuses mistakes of Uber’s Travis Kalanick

When asked what advice he would give the next CEO, Virgin’s founder describes Kalanick as “an extraordinary individual who’s human like the rest of us.” Branson also reveals he submitted a name for the CEO position, but not his own.

“You can’t run anything by a committee of 10,” he said. “A company needs real leadership.”

The brand currently stands for “an egomaniacal, semi-evil company,” Gordon added, so the new leadership will have to take what’s good about Uber — the idea that it’s a better alternative to taxi services, for example — and have the startup stand for that.

The culture can also be changed, recruitment experts said, but that’s going to take time and may happen methodically, one issue at a time.

Beyond that, Challenger argued that a major hurdle the board and a new leader will face could be Kalanick, who holds a sizable number of voting shares. Kalanick’s decision to stay on the board might undermine the incoming boss.

“They’re going to have to prove if they want to get one of these top talents that this person would have autonomy and room to move,” Challenger said of the board, “and not be subject to second-guessing from the former CEO.”

Even with all those issues, Uber should still end up nabbing a leading executive, with those we’ve interviewed and other news reports mentioning executives including Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

With Uber in desperate need for someone to take charge — especially if it aims to go public one day — we may find out pretty quickly who that new leader will be.

–CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt contributed to this story.

First published June 21, 1:58 p.m. PT.
Update, June 23 at 4:03 p.m. PT: Adds details about employee petition for Kalanick’s return, additional background.  

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Article source: https://www.cnet.com/news/uber-travis-kalanick-resigns-fresh-start-2-0-now-possible-after-ceo-departure/#ftag=CAD590a51e

An algorithm customizes exoskeletons to fit a person’s needs

The team used a leg exoskeleton, which covered from the upper calf to the toes, for their experiment. Rather than calibrate the device once and use it on all the participants, though, the researchers had the participants walk on a treadmill while the powered exoskeleton helped. The aim was for the device to remove some of the effort it took to walk.

An algorithm took stock of how participants walked using the exoskeleton and adjusted four different parameters on the device to compensate for individual walking habits. They recorded the participants’ metabolic exertion, or how hard they were working in order to walk, during the entire process. They called this process “human-in-the-loop optimization” and were able to cut participant energy usage up to 40 percent.

Not only is this genetic algorithm important for creating exoskeletons that can fit a wider number of people, but it also hints that we may be able to create more complex assistive devices. The responsiveness of this algorithm to continually changing conditions (walking on a treadmill) could be applied to many different types of exoskeletons, including ones related to increasing speed, endurance and balance.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/06/23/genetic-algorithm-customizes-exoskeletons/

Vote: What’s your grade for the Mavericks’ draft?

With draft night in the rearview mirror, here’s your chance to evaluate the pick the Dallas Mavericks made Thursday (point guard Dennis Smith Jr. at No. 9). In his draft report card for every teamInsider, ESPN Insider Chad Ford explained why he’s a fan of Dallas’ move. Are you?

For more coverage of the draft and a recap of all of the picks, check out our Draftcast.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/sportsnation/story/_/id/19709450/sportsnation-your-grade-dallas-mavericks-2017-nba-draft-class

People are now looking to WhatsApp for news, study says

whatsapp-mo.png

A new study shows people are increasingly using WhatsApp instead of Facebook for their news consumption.


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People are increasingly worried about fake news from Facebook, so they’re looking to other places to stay informed — like WhatsApp.

No, really. This trend has “jumped significantly” and is demonstrated in “a number of markets,” according to the Digital News Report, a study from the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford which surveyed 71,805 respondents from 36 countries.

While 47 percent of respondents said they get their daily dose of news from Facebook, making the social network the most popular platform for this purpose, its popularity has declined in over half of all surveyed countries.

On the other hand, 15 percent of respondents use WhatsApp for news consumption, where news items are messaged between friends directly or in groups. Despite the smaller figure, the report says it’s a “significant” jump from the previous year, and it’s the second most popular social media platform for news consumption in nine countries. 

Using WhatsApp as a source of news consumption is most popular in Malaysia, where 51 percent of respondents say they use it to share or discuss news every week. It’s less popular in the US, where only three percent of respondents use it for the same purpose.

Only 24 percent of the study’s respondents said they thought social media does a good job at distinguishing real and fake news, less than the 40 percent that said they trusted traditional news media to do the same. Just under 30 percent of respondents said they intentionally avoid the news, with some citing unreliability as the reason. 

Facebook has been pressed to fix its fake news problem since the issue came to the public’s attention following the US presidential elections last year. The company has since announced measures to fight fake news by enabling a feature that allows users to flag fake news, working with third-party fact-checkers to identify misinformation and shutting down bot accounts.

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Article source: https://www.cnet.com/news/people-are-going-to-whatsapp-more-and-more-for-news-study/#ftag=CAD590a51e

IBM-powered DNA sequencing could find bacteria in raw milk

To be able to build those tools, they first need to be intimately familiar with the substance and the microorganisms that tend to contaminate it. They’ll sequence and analyze the DNA and RNA of dairy samples from Cornell’s farm, as well as of all the microorganisms in environments milk tends to make contact with, including the cows themselves, from the moment it’s pumped. Their tests will characterize what’s “normal” for raw milk, so the tools they make can easily tell if something’s wrong even if it’s an unknown contaminant we’ve never seen before.

This project however, is just the beginning. They plan to apply what they learn to other types of produce and ingredients in the future in order to ensure that they’re safe for consumption, especially if they were imported from abroad. Martin Wiedmann, Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety, from Cornell University said in a statement:

“As nature’s most perfect food, milk is an excellent model for studying the genetics of food. As a leader in genomics research, the Department of Food Science expects this research collaboration with IBM will lead to exciting opportunities to apply findings to multiple food products in locations worldwide.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/06/23/ibm-cornell-milk-dna-sequencing-pathogens/

Rank ’em: Which player made the best fashion statement at the 2017 NBA draft?

The NBA draft is a chance for the latest crop of basketball talent to make eye-catching fashion choices — and the 2017 NBA draft class did not disappoint.

Some players, such as Malik Monk with his “The Woodz” pattern or Zach Collins with his homage to the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, incorporated nods to their hometowns. Other fashion decisions carried deeper sentiment: The lining of No. 5 overall pick De’Aaron Fox‘s suit featured breast cancer ribbons as a tribute to his mother, a breast cancer survivor.

Which prospect made the best fashion statement at this year’s draft? Using the arrows next to each choice, weigh in by ranking the sharply dressed players below.


Bowties and shoes

Still other prospects went for flashy, unique accessories and footwear:

While the NBA draft picks were dressed for success at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday night, it remains to be seen how they’ll look — or play — in the uniforms of their new teams when the 2017-18 NBA season begins.

— Brendan C. Hall

Article source: http://www.espn.com/sportsnation/story/_/id/19712893/which-player-made-best-fashion-statement-2017-nba-draft

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