Uber exec: We can't behave like a startup anymore
Posted July 13
Uber can no longer behave like a startup and needs to take a more mature approach to business.
So says Andrew Macdonald, the company's top executive in Asia and Latin America and friend of founder Travis Kalanick.
"Sometimes we've acted as a startup, and the world doesn't view us as that," Macdonald told CNNMoney. "We're not at a scale where we're a startup anymore."
Macdonald is one of the key people tasked with helping Uber move on from six months of scandals and PR crises, including the resignation of Kalanick as CEO.
"We need to have process, we need to invest in our HR functions ... we need to invest in diversity and inclusion," he said. "What you're going to see us do is build upon the things that are great about Uber and improve the things that aren't."
Related: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigns after months of crisis
The 33-year-old Canadian joined Uber in Toronto, back when it was a scrappy upstart. During his five years with the company, Macdonald worked closely with Kalanick, and was taken by surprise when he resigned.
"I actually woke up to the news," Macdonald said. "It was a shock."
"He was both a boss and a friend. He built Uber, and he set our mission in motion. So much of my experience here is defined by his vision," he said.
Kalanick resigned from Uber in June. His brash management style helped the company overcome many obstacles, including taxi owners who argued that Uber wasn't abiding by local laws in many places. Kalanick called it "principled confrontation."
Related: Uber to add another woman to its board amid crises
But that style may have helped fuel a growing crisis over Kalanick's leadership, which eventually ended with investors demanding his resignation.
Now, the company is undergoing an "evolution" in its approach to doing business.
"On the one hand I think we need to continue to be principled about doing what's right ... and being principled about how we approach conversations with governments, with stakeholders," Macdonald said.
"But I do think we need to work to be more collaborative," he added.
Despite the turmoil, Uber's global expansion continues at a pace. The company operates in 105 cities across Asia, and is launching in Cambodia soon.
Macdonald said he was "pumped about the momentum we've got, particularly in [Asia Pacific]."
Related: Uber has a leadership void at a time of crisis
Uber's push into India illustrates the company's strengths, as well as its flaws.
Earlier this year, an Uber executive resigned after allegations that he obtained the medical reports of a woman raped by an Uber driver in 2014. Company executives reportedly suspected that the assault was a conspiracy drummed up by a competitor.
"We've definitely had some missteps and we need to make sure we're correcting for those," Macdonald said, adding that Uber is constantly working to improve safety. Uber's app in India has an SOS button that directly links to local police stations, for example.
Uber is also battling local rivals like Ola, GoJek and Grab across the region. To stay competitive, the U.S. company has tailored offerings for local markets.
Following competitor GoJek, which started out offering rides on motorcyles, Uber launched uberMOTO in Indonesia, expanding the service to Vietnam, India and the Dominican Republic.
Related: Uber set for changes after board reviews report on workplace culture
Macdonald exudes confidence, but he is also keenly aware of the shadow the company's recent turmoil has cast.
Parked under a wooden conference table in Uber's Hong Kong office is a large, electric go-kart. The toy's name, Crazy Cart, could be a slogan for Uber's last few months.
Macdonald laughed at the sight of it.
"I think we need to rethink the branding on that maybe," he said.