The True Story Behind Showtime’s Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber

The Showtime anthology series is available in English Uber’s Battle for Superpowers premiering Feb. 27, the ride-share company’s former CEO Travis Kalanick(played By) Joseph Gordon-LevittThe following is an example of a comparison: David Koresh, cult leader. Mike Isaac, the author of the titular 2019 book that inspired the eight-episode series, doesn’t recall any of his sources equating the embattled Uber one-time bossThe man who was a key player in The 1993 Waco Massacre. But he admits it’s an apt comparison, if not a compliment.
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“In Silicon Valley, ‘cult’ is not a dirty word,” says It New York Times He is a tech reporter and has covered Uber since 2014. (He’s also an executive producer on Super Pumped, as well as the show’s resident researcher and fact-checker.) “If you think about it, most startups fail. You are all being supported by everyone. The person at the head of the company has to be a true believer in what they’re doing.”

Beyond just believing in Uber’s potential, Kalanick was committed to its mission to a fault. This series was created by Billions Brian Koppelman and David Levien.How Kalanick’s blind faithHe was a successful entrepreneur and his company, which he cofounded in 2009. It led to his downfall. 2017 Kalanick quits as Uber’s CEO amid a myriad of scandals that included allegations of workplace discrimination and sexual harassment under his leadership. (He continued to serve). Uber’s board of directors(Until 2019: The same year as the public listing of the company.

Yet Super PumpedKalanick is not portrayed as a villain with a mustache. Instead, it offers an unvarnished look at the man Isaac once called “Mark Zuckerberg meets a can of Axe Body Spray.” “Travis is a complicated, nuanced, flawed person who fought like hell to bring this industry to light,” Isaac says. “But schadenfreude is real. Stories in which the aspirational figure is too near to the sun are what people enjoy. Travis did that, too.”

The author assists in fact-checking the series which examines the rise and fall Kalanick as it unfolded. Constructed one of Silicon Valley’s most successful—and destructive—companies.

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Elizabeth Morris/SHOWTIMEJoseph Gordon-Levitt in ‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’

Did Travis Kalanick really start off every Uber job interview by asking, ‘Are you an a–hole’?

When viewers first meet Travis he’s asking a prospective new hire a very important question: “Are you an a–hole?” The takeaway is that nice guys finish last at Uber. So if you want to work there, you better answer “yes” to his query. Isaac doesn’t believe Kalanick or anyone else who worked for the company ever said those words.

The recruiters probably had enough self-awareness to not ask, ‘Are you an a–hole’ in a job interview,” he says. “But they definitely made it clear to people that this was not play time, this was a tough job, a daily fight. If you wanted to sign up at Uber, you had to know what you’re getting into.”

Super Pumped Uses the provocative question foreshadow the pitfalls of Kalanick’s overly aggressive leadership style. He could get away with being a bit of an a–hole back when he was a David taking on Silicon Valley’s Goliaths. But once Uber became the company to beat, he couldn’t continue acting like a scrappy upstart. “The best CEOs change and mature over time,” Isaac says. “They are able to take guidance from mentors and change the way the company operates, but I think Travis really only had one mode, which was ‘go as hard as possible.’ Had he been able to drastically change how he operated, maybe he would still be there.”

Uber invented a way to secretly deny riders service?

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Elizabeth Morris/SHOWTIMEFred Armisen in ‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’

In episode 2, Travis and his team launch “Greyball,” a secret program that punishes riders that the company deems persona non grata by forcing them to schedule “ghost cars” instead of real ones. “It’s like a video game and we have the cheat code,” Travis says giddily as he watches a transportation agent hellbent on shutting down the company’s operation in Portland, OR. Fred Armisen plays the role of Fred. He fails to get a ride.

Isaac was a bachelor in 2017. Greyball: The StoryFor The New York Times. He says the “paranoid tool” used data collected from the Uber app to evade authorities in cities like Boston, Paris, and Las Vegas, as well as countries like China, Australia, and South Korea. The tool was used by the company as part of an initiative called “The Program”. VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service.” Greyball had been approved by Uber’s legal team but, in 2017, the United States Department of Justice Initiated an inquiry into the legality of it based on Isaac’s reporting.

At the time of Isaac’s story, Uber claimed the tool “denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.” Less than one week later, Uber it would review how the technology was being used, but would “expressly prohibit its use to target action by local regulators going forward.”

Did venture capitalist Bill Gurley make an enemy of Travis Kalanick after implying Uber was a “dead unicorn”?

Episode 3: Bill Gurley, an Uber board member (Kyle ChandlerThe ride-sharing firm is discussed by Bill (a reporter named Isaac, making his acting debut at South by Southwest). When asked whether he thinks Silicon Valley is in a “tech bubble,” Bill says, “I think we’re in a risk bubble especially with these These so-called unicorns,” a term used to describe sUber and other tartups have valuations exceeding $1 billion. He then says that some of those unicorns are “acting irrationally” and there “isn’t enough fear in Silicon Valley,” before adding, “I think you will see some dead unicorns this year.” His comments result in Travis revoking his all-access privileges to the Uber office.

Gurley made the suggestion at 2015 SXSW that, although he didn’t name any names, there would be a festival. some “dead unicorns”In the not too distant future. The partner at the venture capital firm Benchmark has a reputation for being a pessimist—Kalanick called him “Chicken Little” behind his back, according to Isaac—but his statements raised eyebrows. “What he said definitely applied to Uber. It was subtly or not so subtly aimed at them,” Isaac says. “People on the inside at Uber felt that too. That it wasn’t an accident that he’s saying this stuff.”

Gurley didn’t lose his key card for what he said—though, he would later Get the electronic pass removed for unspecified reasons—but it may have foreshadowed the fallout to come. While Gurley and Kalanick seemed simpatico at first, the combo of the young CEO’s shenanigans and the veteran VC’s worries didn’t make for a good marriage. “By the end, they weren’t talking to each other at all directly. They had to have intermediaries,” Isaac says. It’s Gurley who reportedly spearheaded the call for Kalanick to resign in 2017, enacting a coup of sorts. Kalanick was fired as CEO one day later. Gurley left Uber’s board of directors.

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Elizabeth Morris/SHOWTIMEKyle Chandler and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’

A blog article about discrimination against workers over leather jackets was written by an ex-Uber employee.

Susan Fowler (site reliability engineer) focuses on the toxic culture in Uber’s workplace. She shares her experience with the company during episode 5. She claims that her supervisor sexually harassed her on her first day. When she reported the incident to Marie in HR, she was told to switch teams so she wouldn’t have to work with her harasser who was likely to give her a poor performance review if she stayed. While her new boss wasn’t a pervert, he wasn’t interested in giving her the promotion she deserved—or the leather jacket that all SREs were promised but was only given to the men. After leaving the company, she wrote a blog post detailing her “very, very strange year at Uber.”

In detail, the allegations are covered. Fowler’s February 2017 blog post This includes the debacle with the leather jacket. Fowler claimed that the six female SREs on staff received a “comically absurd” email from her director saying the company could not justify placing a jacket order for so few women at such a high cost. When she rebuffed his excuse, “the director replied back, saying that if we women really wanted equality, then we should realize we were getting equality by not getting the leather jackets.”

“To Susan’s absolute credit, [her blog] blew the lid off the long simmering issues of dysfunction inside of Uber and Silicon Valley,” Isaac says. She spoke out and Uber quickly changed: Kalanick quit, Uber started an investigation into the culture of its work environment, and at least 20 employees were fired for sexual misconduct. It’s easy to forget that Fowler’s blog went live eight months before The #MeToo movement started. “Susan’s story was kind of a precursor to a really large movement that would hit across the country and across the world later that year,” Isaac says. “Her blog was enormous in The Valley, but it was really part of a continuum that would take off after the Harvey Weinstein allegations.”

Fowler received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Time’s Person of the YearAlong with other “silence breakers”Included Taylor SwiftAshley Judd; Tarana Burk, activist, The term #MeToo was coined. Fowler’s memoir was published three years later. Whistleblower: My journey to Silicon Valley, and the fight for justice at Uber.

Travis Kalanick had Arianna Huffington as a mother.

Episode 4: Travis and the Huffington Post co-founderThe song is played by Uma ThurmanHe was at a contentious conference about tech. Arianna becomes his ally, just as Gurley is beginning to fall apart. Arianna teaches him meditation, and he has a friend on the board who he can rely upon when he’s feeling down. After Travis’s tragic drowning in a boating accident, she stays by Travis through all the tumultuous times.

It was real. The intimate relationship that viewers see is very similar to the one they live in. “I think Arianna was very important to him,” Isaac says. “She was on his side at a time when he was losing friends and making enemies.” After He lost his mother unexpectedly in 2017, Huffington became “an emotionally supportive figure during the most stirring periods of his entire life,” Isaac says.

Huffington was appointed to the task after Susan Fowler in 2017 accused the company for sexual discrimination. independent investigation into Uber’s workplace cultureThis was a risky move, considering Kalanick’s closeness to her. Amid the investigation, she also became the face of Kalanick’s redemption tour, telling CNBC in June 2017 that through self-care he would become a better leader. “So first, Travis started recognizing how differently he made decisions when he had You get enough sleep,” she said. “And then he started meditating.”

Kalanick, who was then CEO of Huffington Post, would not be able to follow her guidance. Huffington was founded two years later. resigned from Uber’s boardDespite being seemingly unharmed. “What I really admire about her is she always seems to be able to see around corners and know what’s coming,” Isaac says. “That’s why she’s made it so far, she’s basically Teflon.”

Travis Kalanick shouting at Uber driver ended his career, or was it viral?

In episode 5, viewers meet Fawzi KamelTravis verbally harassed a Uber driver after he took him home from the club. Fawzi, who is undecided whether to make public the dash cam footage of the altercation between Travis and him after he took him home from a club, was verbally harassed by Travis. He doesn’t want to punish Kalanick for having a bad day and doesn’t want to lose his job. He decides not to release it after learning of Travis’ plans. Make an investment in self-driving automobiles.

Kamel was the real Kamel. He had worked for Uber since 2011. In February 2017, he took Kalanick home and confronted Kalanick over his lowered fares, which made it difficult for him to earn a decent living wage. Kalanick reacted defensively instead of showing compassion for his worker. ​​“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own sh-t,” he says in the clip. “They blame everything in their life on somebody else.”

Kamel stated that Kamel had told the story at the time NBC News He released footage to demonstrate how much Kalanick loved his workers. “Uber kept dropping prices every season to gain more ridership to satisfy their growth, and it didn’t matter to Uber if the driver is not even making minimum wage,” he said in February 2017. “And the worst part is, they call us partners, [but] they make the rules, set the price and they even choose the cars you can use.”

Isaac writes in his book that Kalanick became viral because of the video. an “epic meltdown”That made him question his character. “You aren’t a terrible person,” a member of Kalanick’s PR team allegedly told him. “But you do do terrible things.” Kalanick offered Kamel an apology Fowler later met in person with him to express his regret. But the video, which came one week after Fowler’s viral blog post, became just another example of the CEO’s questionable leadership style. “I think the video really showed a lack of regard for the people who make his service,” Isaac says. “It became difficult for him to survive if the public thought he didn’t care about his drivers. It was definitely one of the last nails in the coffin.”

Kalanick may no longer be at Uber, but he’s planning a comeback with a new startup called CloudKitchens, which He rents space out to restaurants that offer delivery only services. It will, he claims. Uber and other big companies are bigger than Uber.”


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