Uber Technologies Inc. has taken another hit to its public image, and this time there might be no one left to clean up the mess. Rachel Whetstone, Uber’s communications chief, announced Tuesday she would be leaving the ride-hailing giant while the company faces an onslaught of public relations nightmares.
Whetstone, a former executive at Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL Google who joined Uber in 2015, resigned without giving reason. It is still unclear what prompted Whetstone to leave in the midst of a pivotal time for Uber, but the timing seems a little odd given that PR disasters have piled up recently.
Her second in command, Jill Hazelbaker, is set to take over the position, which has become more important than ever.
Whetstone’s departure marks the seventh high-ranking Uber employee to depart from the company in 2017 alone. Not all of them left on bad terms, but Ed Baker, head of product and growth, resigned after the company’s internal workplace culture investigation ramped up.
Many of the top Uber employees supposedly left on good terms, but it seems hard to think the massive amount of recent public, political, and legal backlash had nothing to do with it.
But does the mass executive-level exodus signal Uber is doomed to fail? Or is the company that is currently valued at almost $70 billion just experiencing growing pains?
Potential Long Term Problems
Among other things, Uber is looking into claims of rampant sexual harassment at the company’s corporate offices. The company is also fighting a lawsuit from Google’s self-driving leg Waymo, which claims Uber stole a ton of its proprietary self-driving car technology.
More recently, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto voiced his concern that Uber was not pulling its weight financially in the agreement to test its self-driving car technology in the city. Pittsburgh one of the only places in the U.S. willing to let Uber test its new technology.
Travis Kalanick recently apologized for a video that went viral of the Uber CEO berating and demeaning an Uber driver while he was a passenger. In wake of the incident, Kalanick, 40, also recently admitted that he needed management guidance.
It is a positive sign that Uber’s CEO admitted to needing some guidance in order to help drive his company forward during rocky times. The only problem is that no one with the proper experience has stepped up to the plate yet.
Scandal is not a good thing for any company, and it could prove to very bad for Uber as it looks into the possibility of going public in the next couple of years. Still, despite the controversies and a need to bolster leadership, things are not all bad for Uber.
It’s Not All Bad
In today’s mile-a-minute world, people simply forget things. It seems like ages since the “Delete Uber” hashtag first popped up. Even though the company and its controversial CEO are still taking deserved heat almost daily, the rider numbers speak to a different narrative.
The head of Uber North America’s operations, Rachel Holt, spoke with reporters in late March about the ride-hailing company’s eye-popping rider numbers. “In fact, in our most mature country, we’ve grown faster in the first 10 weeks of 2017 than in the first 10 weeks of 2016,” Holt said. “Looking at less-mature regions, trips were up 600% in February, year on year.”
Holt did not go into any further details about the privately held company’s most recent numbers, but it seems that even as Uber tries to navigate a tumultuous and sometimes toxic road, many riders cannot resist the convenience and ubiquity of the ride-hailing company’s service.
Head here for a more in-depth look at Uber’s competition, controversy, and the possibility of a 2017 IPO.
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