“Stand by your principles and be comfortable with confrontation. So few people are, so when the people with the red tape come, it becomes a negotiation.”
Travis Cordell Kalanick (August 6, 1976 – ) is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of the wildly successful ride-sharing service, Uber. Kalanick was like many entrepreneurs, a self-starter looking for opportunities and not as interested in those opportunities he can create for himself as he was in school.
He dropped out of UCLA in his senior year to take his first company big.
While best known for Uber, which he founded well into his 30s, Kalanick has had his hand in other disruptive companies and has tasted his fair share of failure.
His first company, Scour, was started with some college buddies in 1998. Built on the cutting-edge file sharing technology of the time, Scour was a peer-to-peer file sharing service designed to help people search for and share multimedia. Scour was not immune to the controversies of file sharing at the time. Like many of its competitors, it was swept up in a storm of lawsuits from establishment industries. Scour eventually folded under bankruptcy filings brought on by the storm of lawsuits.
This didn’t stop Kalanick and he was out starting his second company not even a year later. Red Swoosh, another file-sharing company, was founded with the same engineers as Scour, but took advantage of the chaos surrounding the dot-com bubble, the increasing acceptance of file sharing among the tech community and consumers, and exponentially increasing bandwidth, which allowed users to transfer larger files.
Nine years after founding Scour, Kalanick earned a modest payout when Red Swoosh was acquired for $19 million.
Most people would have quit after their first company was forced to fold under lawsuits. Those remaining would have probably sat back and lived out a modestly comfortable life after their second company was acquired. Kalanick was just getting started.
He founded Uber in 2009 with Garrett Camp and moved from taking on media producers to taking on a much larger opponent: the taxi industry. After six years at the helm of Uber, with a valuation of over $54 billion, and an expanding global presence, Kalanick admits that upending the taxi industry is only the beginning of what Uber is going to do. The company has started delivering everything from groceries and McDonald’s to flu shots and ice cream.
The amazing thing about Kalanick isn’t simply that he’s been able to build two successful businesses without a bachelor’s degree, but that he’s been able to do so while remaining in control of so much. From interviews to negotiations with regulators, Kalanick stands by the core values of his company and his desire to make his company the best service possible. Where most companies would be forced to water down their products to appease regulators and competition, Uber not only doesn’t do that, but they go into overdrive and guarantee continued best service to customers while continuing growth.
This extends from the clear no-bull attitude shown in Kalanick’s business career and his companies. Fiercely opposed to compromising his goals and values with established interests, ready to jump on amazing opportunities, and exuding the self-esteem and confidence won by the real world — not a degree — make Kalanick a great case study for dropout success.