Steve Jobs’ing it at Uber, Lyft’s Taco Mode, Airbnb and the NAACP


Steve Jobs-ing it.

I enjoyed this excerpt from Kara Swisher Uber’s CEO search:

What’s the biggest problem at Uber? I asked

“Travis,” said one

“Oh, Travis,” said another.

“Man, he’s brilliant and so important, but who wants to deal with Travis?” said yet another.

Travis Kalanick was officially ousted as Uber’s chief executive a month ago, but when has he ever been bothered by rules before? “According to numerous insiders, the pugnacious entrepreneur has continued to try to involve himself in daily operating decisions, so much that top execs have been mulling how to get help from the board to rein him in,” Swisher reports. The solution for now is, apparently, to limit the information board directors receive about Uber’s operations lest the ones on Team Travis try to leak it to him? Or to Mike Isaac? It is unclear, but both options could be effective. “We have had to put guardrails on him,” says one anonymous person of Travis. “Even if he keeps trying to break through them.”

Travis has meanwhile told people he is Steve Jobs-ing it, by which he seems to mean staging his own comeback. Jobs was famously removed from Apple by the board in 1985, at age 30, after losing a power struggle with John Sculley. He went on to launch NeXT and Pixar and eventually returned to Apple as CEO in 1996. Travis appears to have taken the “comeback” moral from this story but not the timeline one, which is that it took 11 years and two other companies before Jobs returned to Apple. Then again maybe he got the idea from Uber VP of strategy and leadership Frances Frei, who suggested at a conference two weeks ago that Kalanick could still redeem himself, as Jobs had.

All the drama is taking a toll on Uber’s CEO search. Last week Meg Whitman, a shortlisted candidate, publicly withdrew from the running in a series of three tweets, a lot for someone who has tweeted only four times this year and 802 times ever. “Normally I do not comment on rumors, but the speculation about my future and Uber has become a distraction,” she wrote. “Uber’s CEO will not be Meg Whitman,” and, well, you can’t get much more straightforward than that. Oh, Travis. Who wants to deal with Travis? There are reportedly four people left on the shortlist but maybe Uber should cast a wider net. I hear the Mooch is available again.

Picking things up.

David Chang’s delivery-only startup is moving beyond delivery:

Soon, Ando will also have an option to let people order ahead and physically pick up their their meal at the downtown kitchen, part of a new strategy for the restaurant that makes it no longer delivery-only. The downside is that people above 45th Street can no longer order Ando. Starting next week, they will no longer be delivering from the Midtown kitchen at all. “We built our downtown kitchen specifically for our needs and can accommodate pick-up there as well, while in Midtown we simply cannot,” the email says.

The hard thing about running a delivery-only restaurant is that you have to do a lot of deliveries, and delivering stuff is a tough business. One way to fix that is by lowering the number of deliveries by asking people to pick their food up instead. Ritual, a food ordering startup in Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, lets you place and pay for orders through its app but makes you pick them up yourself. It tells you how to time your walk, and rewards you with points based on your spending plus occasional discounts on the actual food (like $6.99 poké bowls in New York two weeks ago). Amazon, the king of delivery, last summer started testing a curbside grocery pickup option most comparable to the service offered by Walmart. Its proposed $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods could create even more convenient pickup hubs.

Pickup is not delivery-only but it is also not a bad idea. Before Maple went under in May it took away the cookies and added a $1.95 delivery fee to every order. What if it had also added a pickup option? What if that pickup option still came with a cookie and saved you the $1.95? I am just making this up, but it seems like something they could have at least tried before calling it quits. Maybe it will work out better for Ando. Maybe if it works out really well, David Chang will also outfit the downtown kitchen with a few chairs and tables.

Also in food-tech, SimplyCook is a meal-kit company without the meals:

Unlike other recipe or meal kits, such as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Gousto and Marley Spoon, U.K.-based SimplyCook doesn’t send you all of the fresh ingredients required to turn its recipes into food on your table. Instead, the subscription service consists of recipe cards and what SimplyCook calls “ingredients kits,” which are herbs, spices, sauces and other extras needed to cook each meal.

I also have an idea for an asset-light meal-kit: recipe cards—just recipe cards—shipped to your door. For an extra fee we’ll bind them into a single volume. It’s kind of like a cookbook, except you’ll order it through an app that auto-enrolls you into a subscription and charges you every month.


Elsewhere in delivery, why bring food to the person when you could bring the person to the food? Lyft has launched a “Taco Mode” promo that lets riders request a drive-thru at Taco Bell. The app setting went live in Orange County from July 27 to July 30 and returns this weekend, Aug. 3 to Aug. 6. It is only available from 9pm to 2am, i.e., Lyft and Taco Bell really know their audience. Taco Bell and Lyft are hoping for national expansion by 2018, according to a joint press release.

Oh wow do drivers hate this. “Hahah, what the **** are they thinking?,” writes “Philbert” on, a popular driver forum. “I know how we can beat uber! We'll entice pax with free Taco Bell when they are drunk! Driver won't mind waiting in those long 2 AM lines, the increased chance of vomit, fights, or a messy vehicle for no extra pay.” The rest of the thread is mostly spent discussing the relative merits of Taco Bell (“like goop inside tortillas”), Chipotle (“the authentic Mexican rice”), and “Californian food” (“it’s stuff we eat in California”) but you get the gist.

The good news for drivers is that they get to opt-in to Taco Mode and, contrary to the press release, a national expansion seems a long way off. A Lyft PR rep tells me the initial rollout had only 15 cars.


Airbnb partnered with the NAACP to build its presence in communities of color. As part of the deal, Airbnb will share 20% of company earnings from the partnership with the NAACP (host earnings are unaffected).

Airbnb is still working through the thorny problem of racism on its home-sharing platform. The company’s users are overwhelmingly white and upper-middle class. Last year Airbnb faced several high-profile instances of racism and discrimination on its platform, a few of which went viral under the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack. This year it has committed to figuring that out. In June an Airbnb host was fined $5,000 and banned from the platform after refusing to host Dyne Suh, an Asian woman. California is slated to begin random discrimination testing for hosts.

The NAACP will also help Airbnb increase the diversity of its workforce, which, like that of most tech companies, is poor. The goal is to increase the percentage of minority workers based in the US to 11% from 9.64% by the end of 2017.

The real question is how fast Airbnb will be able to scale up listings in communities of color, especially in cities that already have stricter regulations of home-sharing in place. The good news is now it has the NAACP to help figure that out.

Other stuff.

Sergey Brin “better show up” to Uber-Waymo deposition. Anthony Levandowski can be called to testify in Uber-Waymo trial. Valerie Jarrett joins Lyft. Stitch Fix files confidentially for IPO. Carwow raises $39 million for selling cars. Bill Gates Backs Uber Freight Rival. Didi invests in Taxify. Famed hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek jump to Cruise. Lyft tops 2016 ridership. Uber and Lyft beat out taxis in business travel. Lyft says it will always need drivers. India’s government takes on Uber and Ola. Malaysia lets in ride-hailing services. SoftBank drops interest in Uber. What Uber Needs to Do to Catch Up With Asian Rivals. Why Uber’s Losing to the Locals in Asia. Uber makes riders explain ratings of less than five stars. Uber plans credit card with Barclays. Alphabet wants investor letter asking Travis Kalanick to resign. WeWork launches standalone China business. Eclipse Creates Free-For-All on Room Rentals. Airbnb adds reviews for incomplete stays. Woman sues Airbnb, says she was assaulted by superhost. Airbnb partners with Mizuho on unique stays in Japan. Everything Wrong With That New York Times Profile of Uber’s Bozoma Saint John. Uber for helicopters. Minnie Vans. Tehran’s Uber. AI-powered wine kegs.