Benchmark explains why they're suing Uber's Travis Kalanick
Benchmark Capital has penned an open letter to Uber employees explaining why the firm is suing former CEO Travis Kalanick.
“We know that many of you are asking why Benchmark filed a lawsuit against Travis last week”, the letter said, “perhaps the better question is why we didn’t act sooner.”
The letter was published just four days after the investment firm announced that they were suing Kalanick for fraud and breaching his fiduciary duty to investors.
The lawsuit revolves around three board seats that Kalanick controls - one filled by himself and two empty seats.
The letter alleges that when the CEO search first began, Kalanick agreed to “modify the company’s voting agreement to ensure that the board was composed of independent, diverse, and well-qualified directors.”
Benchmark, an early investor in Uber, says that Kalanick failed to follow through on this agreement and was “undermining” the board’s search for a replacement CEO.
In the letter, Benchmark also claims that it warned Kalanick a month ago that it would sue him if he did not stop meddling in the CEO search.
Travis Kalanick stepped down as CEO on 20 June after the 'Holder Report' scrutinised the culture of sexism and rule-breaking at the ride-hailing company.
Uber has publically faced a string of scandals in 2017 after the company investigated 215 workplace violations including claims of sexual harassment, unprofessional behaviour, bullying, and discrimination.
Benchmark claimed it was necessary for Kalanick to step down.
“We acted out of a deep conviction that it would be better for Uber, its employees, and investors to have a fresh start,” the letter said.
“We believed then, as we believe now, that failing to act would have meant endorsing behaviour that was utterly unacceptable in any company, let alone a company of Uber’s size and importance.”
A spokesperson for Kalanick responded to the Benchmark letter. He said: “Like many shareholders, I am disappointed and baffled by Benchmark’s hostile actions, which clearly are not in the best interests of Uber and its employees on whose behalf they claim to be acting.
"The lawsuit is completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.