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Uber's CEO reveals what scared him most about the job

Melody Hahm
·West Coast Correspondent

When Dara Khosrowshahi was biking around San Francisco with his wife and children a few months ago, a guy drove by and shouted, “Couldn’t afford an Uber?”

Khosrowshahi served as the CEO of Expedia (EXPE) for 12 years, but his leadership experience did not prepare him for the scrutiny he’d face when he became the CEO of Uber.

Speaking at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit 2018 on Tuesday, Khosrowshahi said he was most scared of the “public profile of the job.” Despite Expedia being a consumer-facing company, Khosrowshahi was hardly a household name. Now, he gets recognized on the street, in restaurants, and everywhere in between, much to his family’s chagrin.

“I’m still honestly getting comfortable with it. My wife gets pissed at me because people come by our table to chat. Most of it is pretty positive. There’s a lot of ideas that come out,” he said.

“At Expedia, I had a chairperson with whom I was aligned. We built a company together without the public glare that we have now on Uber. It’s exciting when you read about it and you can try to imagine what it’s like, but until you’re in the seat you really don’t know how it feels,” he added.

After Uber founder Travis Kalanick was ousted as CEO in June, Khosrowshahi inherited a beleaguered company that had endured months of scandals and negative press.

Over Khosrowshahi’s tenure, Uber has invested heavily in advertising campaigns and countless public appearances to prove that the company is turning over a new leaf.

“The culture change is still happening, but it doesn’t happen overnight. There was a very different view of Uber from the inside versus the outside. We believe that we can be a force for good. We demonstrated that externally on how we’ve approached regulators, cities, and on the safety front. We’re deeply rooted in what we’re doing, which is democratizing movement for everybody. You never stop working on the culture of a company,” he said.

Dara Khosrowshahi says he was most nervous about one thing before taking the helm of Uber last year.
Dara Khosrowshahi says he was most nervous about one thing before taking the helm of Uber last year.

He insists there’s no bad blood between him and Kalanick, despite the founder’s unceremonious departure.

“I interact with Travis at board meetings. Offline we talk every once in a while. I think he wants to help the company, but he also wants to do his own thing. He’s an entrepreneur at heart… he’s off to building another business. He’s provided me advice when I need it,” he said.

When asked whether he’s nervous about Kalanick vying to take back the company post-IPO, which is “on track” to happen in 2019, Khosrowshahi said he’s not worried.

“I want to be in my job as I deserve this job. I’m focused on building a team and creating a company that we as a team can be proud of. The job will take care of itself.”

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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