Early Uber investors call on company to change ‘destructive culture’

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By Heather Somerville | SAN FRANCISCO

SAN FRANCISCO Early investors in Uber
Technologies Inc wrote to the ride-hailing company on
Thursday to criticize it for failing to end a toxic culture of
harassment.

Mitch and Freada Kapor publicly rebuked the company after
former Uber employee Susan Fowler described in a blog how she
was sexually harassed by a manager and that human resources and
upper management refused to punish the offender and even
threatened her with a bad performance review.

“Uber’s outsize success in terms of growth of market share,
revenues and valuation are impressive, but can never excuse a
culture plagued by disrespect, exclusionary cliques, lack of
diversity, and tolerance for bullying and harassment of every
form,” the Kapors wrote in an online letter. (bit.ly/2mhV9uC)

The Kapors are the only investors to have publicly commented
on the recent allegations against Uber. The couple runs the
Oakland-based Kapor Center, which works to promote diversity and
inclusion in technology.

“Uber has had countless opportunities to do the right
thing ,” they wrote. “We feel we have hit a dead end.”

Several other Uber investors and board members did not
immediately respond to requests for comment. Menlo Ventures,
which led Uber’s Series B financing in 2011, declined to
comment.

Uber did not directly address the Kapors’ letter but
repeated its commitment to investigate Fowler’s claims. Uber has
hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the
investigation alongside attorney Tammy Albarran.

“We will be thorough, impartial and objective, and we are
conducting this review with the highest degree of integrity and
professionalism,” Holder and Albarran said in a statement on
Thursday in response to the Kapors’ letter.

The Kapors, though, called out conflicts of interest that
may hinder the investigation. Holder has been working for Uber
since June to dissuade lawmakers from requiring fingerprint
background checks for drivers. He will be joined by Uber board
member Arianna Huffington and the company’s HR chief.

“We are disappointed to see that Uber has selected a team of
insiders to investigate its destructive culture and make
recommendations for change,” they wrote.

The Kapors’ letter raised eyebrows in Silicon Valley where
investors usually defend their startups.

“I applaud the honesty of the Kapors for commenting on these
highly sensitive issues and highlighting the importance of
culture in the workplace,” said Susan Lucas-Conwell, former CEO
of Great Place to Work and adviser to technology companies on
diversity and inclusion. “I can’t think of when I’ve see such a
statement from an investor of a company such as Uber.”



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