Chief of Uber advocates growth above short-term profit tendencies

Dara Khosrowshahi has talked with the public and regulators of a more responsible Uber and better behavior in the past year, while the private transport company is trying to overcome a tumultuous series of scandals and drama that came from the boardroom.

As he enters his second year as executive director, Khosrowshahi must tell a new story to another audience. As Uber prepares for what is expected to be one of the largest IPOs in the world of technology, the leader has stated that it will focus on demonstrating the long-term value of a company whose investors must assume, for now, huge investments and heavy losses.

(Read: Uber reached 10,000 million trips).

"The real concession will be between profitability and growth, especially as a payment company", Khosrowshahi said in an interview at Uber headquarters in San Francisco. "The large amount of capital invested will have to come up with performance over time."

The key phrase is "over a certain period". Khosrowshahi, whose mandate to become a Uber member establishes a timeline for organizing an IPO, must now convince investors that postponing profits to raise investments will receive even greater rewards in the future.

Silicon Valley operators often complain that public markets are too focused on short-term profits at the expense of the long-term outlook. Uber's long-awaited public debut will break through a long line of leading technology companies that have achieved surprising valuations from private investors, while being protected from the pressure to translate exorbitant sales growth into profitability.

(Toyota and Uber work together to produce autonomous cars).

Khosrowshahi noted that he was confident that Uber had a "convincing" story: investing in projects that go beyond private transport will pave the way for a portfolio of billions of companies – from food delivery and from bicycles and scooters to freight brokerage – market as "extremely valuable".

The measured tone of the 49-year-old ex-executive director of Expedia fits with the function he was hired last summer: calm the waters after the turbulence generated in 2017 and culminated in the resignation of Travis Kalanick, his predecessor and one of the founders of the company.

Khosrowshahi has achieved some notable achievements in the last 12 months, including filling vacancies in Uber's senior management team; withdraw from deficit markets; recovers his license to work in London and resolves a complex lawsuit with Waymo, Alphabet's subsidiary.

He completed a substantial investment led by SoftBank and underwent major changes in the management of the previously chaotic board of directors of the technology company.

He has also taken steps to restore the deep gaps in the company after accusations of a sexist and toxic culture led by Kalanick. The company pays US $ 10 million to resolve claims for wage discrimination against hundreds of current and former employees, including US $ 1.9 million for allegations of harassment.

Uber's head said that all of his executive teams have completed a course on diversity and inclusion and that the company has started to inform the staff monthly about their performance.

"Internal work on culture remains incomplete, and the fact is that it will take years," added Khosrowshahi.

Still, Bill Gurley, whose venture capital company Benchmark, is among the largest investors of Uber and who was involved in the complicated struggle to replace Kalanick – "Most of the cleanup work has already been done," and that Khosrowshahi can now focus on strategy and growth "like any other Executive Director."

Khosrowshahi took one of his most weighty steps last week when he assumed Nelson Chai, a Wall Street veteran, as CFO, a position that had not been fulfilled since 2015.

Similarly, Khosrowshahi, who also has experience in finance and previously was CFO at IAC, the holding company of Barry Diller, Uber has brought a full financial discipline, reducing losses and negotiating an exit from Southeast Asia, thereby losing US $ 2 billion in Grab, a competitive company.

Uber lost $ 4.5 billion in 2017 and is still far from profitable. Khosrowshahi has promised to continue investing in new businesses as part of its goal to make Uber a hub for transport in cars, rental bikes and scooters, and even public transportation, reminding investors that large bets are needed to market that Uber aims for.

"There is a US $ 6 billion mobility market, and no product alone will be able to serve that entire market,"
he indicated.

He also continues to produce an impulse initiated by Kalanick not only to transport people, but also things. Uber Eats, the food delivery service, is growing by 200% annually and is expected to reach US $ 6 billion in annual sales in 2018. Khosrowshahi expects to increase the investment in Eats over the next two or three years.

Uber hopes to repeat that model with Uber Freight, his mediation service that connects freight forwarders to truckers, which is on track to generate US $ 500 million in revenue over the next 12 months.

A big question mark for investors regarding Uber's intensive investment strategy is related to their efforts in the field of autonomous driving. Earlier this year, one of these Uber cars ran over and killed a woman in Arizona, in what was considered the first death of a pedestrian with autonomous technology. Uber has suspended his tests on public roads.

Khosrowshahi said he is committed to investing in autonomous driving technology and at the same time is willing to work with other companies working in the same field, even if some observers wonder if it is logical that Uber will continue the project.

Khosrowshahi said he was willing to make cuts where necessary. "One of the basic principles of innovation and making bold bets is to be willing to get rid of things that do not work", think about the manager.

Generally he said: "There has been no decision that has hurt me." Although we have not corrected everything, I love where we are. If I think about this year, if it could be next year, then I consider it a victory.

Shannon Bond

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