NEW ORLEANS — Chris Sacca, an early Uber investor and former “Shark Tank” judge, said he has ended a years-long grudge with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and is advising the embattled executive on how to handle the series of controversies currently plaguing the company.
Speaking at the Collision conference in New Orleans on Tuesday, Sacca said his rekindled relationship with Kalanick leads him to believe Kalanick is “materially changing” for the good.
“I think Travis is in a very vulnerable and introspective state right now,” Sacca said. “For the first time he’s acknowledging the places he could use help and starting to take responsibility for his broader role.”
Sacca was an early investor in Uber and a Kalanick confidante, but the relationship soured. Kalanick became upset that Sacca was trying to buy out other investors’ equity in Uber in order to increase his own stake, according to a 2015 Forbes profile.
Sacca acknowledged at the time that he barely spoke to Kalanick, the brash Uber founder who has a reputation for a win-at-all-costs mentality that some critics say has led to some of Uber’s recent internal problems.
While Uber has grown to become the most valuable private tech company, its reputation has been tarnished by a slew of controversies, ranging from sexism within its ranks to allegations from rival Google that it stole key self-driving technology. Several senior executives have also left Uber.
The culture is fixable
“I think that the company is redeemable and that the culture is fixable,” Sacca said at the conference on Tuesday. “And Travis is waking up to why.”
However, Sacca declined to say what specific advice he has given Kalanick beyond the fact that he suggested a few names for the new COO role Uber is trying to fill. (Sacca said Uber’s new COO should be a woman.)
It’s not the first time Sacca has spoken out about Uber’s troubles this year. In March, Sacca spoke at SXSW and said he wasn’t surprised by what former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote in her blog post highlighting issues of alleged sexism at the company. He also said he still wasn’t on speaking terms with Kalanick at the time, due to something “wholly unrelated” to the company’s recent sexual harassment scandals, so the two appear to have made up since then.
Uber is expected to release a report later this month from an independent investigation of its workplace practices led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder.
An Uber spokesperson did not have a comment on Sacca’s remarks.
Biz Carson contributed to this report.