The word “hypocrite” is so ugly, don’t you think? So much more so than “pragmatist.”
In unrelated news, Uber founder Travis Kalanick has further cemented his reputation as a grotesque pragmatist by hiring former Obama advisor David Plouffe as Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy. According to the Wall St Journal, Plouffe’s role will be “to help the taxi-hailing app win battles with regulators and soften its image in the public sphere.”
To the untrained eye, Plouffe’s role sounds a lot like that of a lobbyist — but, of course, that can’t possibly be what he’ll be doing. After all, the famously libertarian Kalanick has long despised both lobbyists and government officials, especially those who also try to plant stories in the press. As Kalanick told that same Wall St Journal last year…
” the taxi industry and black-car industry sees [positive press about Uber] and then the lobbyists get working and then they try to shut us down.”
As I wrote a week ago, Uber has become increasingly combative, especially towards its smaller rival Lyft. On stage at the Code conference earlier this year, Kalanick said that, regrettably, he would have to resort to more mud-slinging to defend his position.
Plouffe’s introductory post on Uber’s blog, in which he celebrates the “strength of character” of Kalanick’s team, telegraphs clearly that his role will be to present the $17bn Uber as the plucky underdog, even as it does everything it can to obliterate the competition.
Uber has only been around a few years. In that short time, some companies can begin to lose their start up mentality and sense of urgency – and insurgency. Not Uber. This is a hungry team, with big vision and the skills to execute on that vision. The strength and character of the senior leadership team Travis has assembled is one of the major reasons I’ve decided to join them.
Kalanick is equally enthusiastic about Plouffe, describing him as “a proven field general and strategist who built the startup that elected a President.”
Yeah, that too. Here’s what the New York Times said about Plouffe when he returned to the White House after a brief hiatus…
Today, Mr. Obama seems every bit primed for “brass-knuckle time,” as Mr. Plouffe once termed campaign brawling, with Mr. Plouffe leading an effort that has shown every sign of doing whatever it takes to succeed.
And it turns out that, like Kalanick, Plouffe is a pragmatist too!
Mr. Plouffe railed against the corrosive political culture in Washington, even though he has worked there for years. Mr. Obama himself would talk about those who entered politics for “the right reasons” and those who wanted to make money. And Mr. Plouffe, in his memoir, denigrated Republicans as “a party led by people who foment anger and controversy to make a name for themselves and to make a buck.”
Actually, it’s odd that Kalanick skips over Plouffe’s activities during his White House hiatus, especially as it involves mobile technology, something key to Uber’s success.
Here’s the Washington Post…
David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser who was President Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, accepted a $100,000 speaking fee in 2010 from an affiliate of a company doing business with Iran’s government.
A subsidiary of MTN Group, a South Africa-based telecommunications company, paid Plouffe for two speeches he made in Nigeria in December 2010, about a month before he joined the White House staff.
Since Plouffe’s speeches, MTN Group has come under intensified scrutiny from U.S. authorities because of its activities in Iran and Syria, which are under international sanctions intended to limit the countries’ access to sensitive technology. At the time of Plouffe’s speeches, MTN had been in a widely reported partnership for five years with a state-owned Iranian telecommunications firm.
Welcome to Uber, David. I have a feeling you’re going to fit in just fine.