Startup Advice

How Uber chief Travis Kalanick’s “biggest strength” nearly brought the ridesharing giant to its knees

Dinushi Dias /

“So, I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules.”

These are the words of Apple chief executive Tim Cook during a meeting with Uber chief Travis Kalanick in early 2015.

According to The New York Times, Kalanick had been “dreading” the meeting. According to the report, the ridesharing giant’s employees has been attempting to “camouflage” the Uber app from Apple because the company had been “secretly identifying and tagging iPhones even after its app had been deleted”. Such activity would be a violation of Apple’s privacy guidelines.

Once Apple engineers caught on, Kalanick was called into Cook’s office for a chat that could have led to the ridesharing giant’s untimely death.

Uber was set to lose millions of customers if Apple removed the ridesharing app from its app store, and so Kalanick “acceded” to Cook’s demand to stop the behaviour.

“Mr. Kalanick was shaken by Mr. Cook’s scolding, according to a person who saw him after the meeting,” The New York Times reports.

“But only momentarily. After all, Mr. Kalanick had faced off against Apple, and Uber had survived. He had lived to fight another day.”

The meeting puts into perspective just how far Kalanick’s is prepared to go for his business.

Billionaire investor Mark Cuban, one of Kalanick’s mentors, once described him like this.

“Travis’s biggest strength is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals,” Cuban said.

“Travis’s biggest weakness is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals.”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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