Uber ego

Uber is what many describe as a “disruptive technology,” that emerging portion of the so-called gig economy that is challenging traditional models of commerce with little regard for the niceties of business or, for that matter, regulations.

Uber, Lyft, Bridj, and other transportation network companies have had a chilling effect on taxis and livery; Airbnb, WeNeedAVacation.com, and other private home-sharing apps have chipped away at the hotel industry; and we don’t even need to list the threats to mainstream media.

But with Uber, it seems the culture of disruption can be traced to its CE-bro, Travis Kalanick, who is profiled in the Sunday New York Times as a risk-taker and boundary-pusher extraordinaire. The Times story lays out Kalanick’s rise from the ashes of some failed start-ups to the world dominance of Uber in the transportation network field.

Along the way, the piece details Kalanick’s disregard for rules others live by, from using federal tax withholdings to reinvest in another start-up he had prior to Uber to ignoring taxi regulations when he called his app UberCab.

The story also comes on the heels of what many say is Uber’s worst month ever, not so much from a financial standpoint but in the constant barrage of hits on its image, mainly from accusations of sexual harassment and sexist culture formed by the guy-dominated hierarchy that tolerates – even celebrates – the success of its testosterone-laden executive branch.

The Times story clearly lays the formation of that mindset at the feet of Kalanick. Kalanick, who was sleeping on his parents’ couch when he launched Uber, once told GQ that his company was an aphrodisiac that made him irresistible to women, referring to it as “Boob-er.”

His locker room bravado apparently caused some in the company to think that attitude was contagious and when a former female engineer let loose a scalding indictment of the Uber culture, many thought Kalanick was too dismissive of the charges.

“Just days after a former employee published a blog post in February detailing sexual harassment at Uber, Mr. Kalanick attended Vanity Fair’s Academy Awards party in Hollywood, stunning some colleagues with his perceived insensitivity,” according to the piece.

But it’s his stewardship of the company and his willingness, if not his need, to push the envelope that some say is chipping away at Uber’s ability to stay on top. Uber has organized a number of efforts to undercut its rival, Lyft, including mass requests for Lyft rides then not showing up when the cars arrive. Employees have also gotten into Lyft cars and attempted to recruit its drivers for Uber.

But it’s Kalanick’s brash flaunting of boundaries that many say could be the company’s downfall. The Times piece relates a recent anecdote about Kalanick being summoned to Apple’s headquarters where he was dressed down by CEO Tim Cook for violating Apple’s mandate for consumer privacy. Uber had developed an app to fingerprint and track iPhones even if the Uber app was deleted. To top it off, Kalanick ordered that Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, be “geofenced” so it couldn’t track what Uber engineers were doing.

But its engineers from elsewhere did and Cook was none too pleased, threatening to remove Uber from the iPhone app store, which could kill its business. Kalanick agreed to cease the operations but the Times piece said he saw it as yet another victory, being able to go to the edge and continue to operate.

Not everyone touched by Travis is charmed by his boyish demeanor.

“The Travis Kalanick I came to know 17 years ago was relentless in pursuit of his goals at the expense of those who supported him along the way, deluded by his own embellished personal narrative, and a serial prevaricator,” Peter Yorke, a one-time adviser to a defunct Kalanick start-up called Swoosh, told the Times.

–JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

The Department of Conservation and Recreation is an agency without a vision, says Whitney Hatch, chair of the DCR Stewardship Council. (CommonWealth)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen, the co-chair of a legislative committee reviewing the voter-passed marijuana law, says she is inclined to keep many of the law’s provisions intact. (Boston Globe)

The House is set to begin budget deliberations, and an Eagle-Tribune editorial urges lawmakers to do their amendment-sorting deliberations in public, not private.

State lawmakers file bills that would make Massachusetts a sanctuary state. (Salem News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Massachusetts communities experienced a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, with 125 reported cases compared with 50 in 2015. (Boston Globe)

A Herald editorial supports granting an exemption from a state shadowing law to the proposed Millennium Partners tower at Boston’s Winthrop Square. In an Globe op-ed with a similar headline, former governor Michael Dukakis and Boston City Council President Michelle Wu argue against the exemption, calling it a slippery slope that the city should resist.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Marisa DeFranco, an immigration attorney from Middleton, bucks the prevailing local wisdom by saying the five people who were arrested at an immigration office in Lawrence were trying to game the system and got caught. (Lowell Sun)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, on a tour promoting her new book, says in some respects President Trump is “worse than I thought,” ticking off a list of orders she says he’s signed that hurt middle-class workers. (Keller@Large)

Trump dismisses the significance of the 100-day mark to gauge his presidency even as his administration pushes to secure some victories in advance of the traditional judgment day. (Associated Press)

Why is Congress in no rush to repeal Obamacare? It may be because of the exemption it has from the mandates of the insurance law. (American Spectator)

Author Chris Bohjalian repeats the call to label the early 20th century killing by Turks of 1.5 million Armenians a genocide. Today marks the anniversary of the 1915 start of the Ottoman move against Armenians. (Boston Globe) A Clark University historian says he has unearthed in the archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem a telegram that is the “smoking gun” that should put to rest decades of Turkish denial of the atrocities. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

City Councilor Tito Jackson’s campaign manager has left only a few months after the Boston city councilor launched his longshot bid for mayor. (Boston Herald)

Activist and environmental entrepreneur Bob Massie says he’s running for the Democratic nomination for governor. (Boston Globe) He said in February that he was considering a run. (CommonWealth)

Far right candidate Marine Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron topped the ballot in the French election for president and will face-off in the May 7 runoff. (New York Times)

PHILANTHROPY

Patriots star Tom Brady has helped the charity Best Buddies raise nearly $20 million since 2011, but he also set up an arrangement with the charity that has thus far steered $2.75 million from the organization to his own philanthropic fund, from which Brady has made donations to a variety of pet causes, including his children’s private schools. (Boston Globe) The Herald gauges sports fan reaction to the news outside yesterday’s Bruins game and finds it is mixed.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Food wholesalers in Widett Circle, an area once eyed by promoters of the failed Boston Olympics effort, may be ready to decamp from their 19-acre site, which is seen as ripe for development. (Boston Globe)

Esports: it’s more than a game, says Aaron Van Leesten. (CommonWealth)

Massachusetts business leaders urge the FCC to maintain net neutrality. (Boston Herald)

Thousands descend on Boston for the first New England Cannabis Convention since the state legalized recreational marijuana. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

Grant Bellino says the state must do more to help make college affordable. (CommonWealth)

The Sunday Globe had this report on the hulking garage that is crumbing at UMass Boston and that is exacerbating budget woes at the campus.

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The number of abortions performed in Massachusetts dropped by nearly 11 percent since 2010, reflecting a similar but smaller trend nationally. (Associated Press)

Paul A. Hattis explores the future of the state Health Policy Commission by examining the stances of two of the agency’s board members. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have found a link between a small jellyfish in Cape ponds that delivers a painful sting and a similar species in Russia. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

In Worcester County, law enforcement officials are not following through on a pledge to obtain judicial approval for no-knock warrants. Instead, court clerks are handling the paperwork. (Telegram & Gazette)

A federal appeals court turned down prosecutors’ request for a new hearing concerning the state Probation Department scandal, effectively ending the case against three former officials whose convictions were overturned in December. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

CNN co-anchor Alisyn Camerota, a one-time reporter at WHDH, says Roger Ailes sexually harassed her. Ailes’ attorney says it never happened. (Time)

The Boston Globe published a special Stat supplement with Sunday’s paper. It’s an attempt to grow the audience of the Globe-owned health and medicine website and it may be offered to papers around the country. One other point of interest: Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Globe’s managing director and the wife of publisher John Henry, is quoted explaining the business proposition. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

PASSINGS

Kate Walsh O’Beirne, a conservative pundit who was a mainstay on CNN’s old The Capital Gang roundtable program, died from lung cancer over the weekend. She was 67. (National Review)