Uber CEO on Gender Discrimination Investigation: ‘I Take Sole Responsibility’

Dara Khosrowshahi spent his first months as Uber’s new CEO apologizing — a lot. He apologized to London for Uber’s “mistakes” involving its aggressive expansion there; he apologized to the public after revealing that Uber hadn’t disclosed a 2016 hack; and more broadly, he apologized for his predecessor’s missteps.

Now, Khosrowshahi is nearly one year into one of the most high-profile turnaround efforts in tech. Some things have changed, but the lingering cultural problems remain.

Today, it was revealed that Uber is facing a federal investigation over alleged gender discrimination. During an all-hands employee meeting this morning, he had planned to complain about such leaks, but he ultimately decided against it.

“Sometimes it takes a punch in the face to see things clearly,” he said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colo., on Monday. “This was one of the moments for me. This was a rough week, but it was incredibly motivating.”

Below is a roundup of the comments he made at Fortune’s conference:

On fixing Uber’s culture:

Shortly after taking charge at Uber, Khosrowshahi asked employees to submit ideas for a new set of corporate values. The crowdsourcing effort resulted in the company’s eight “cultural norms,” including one that states: “We do the right thing. Period.”

But changing culture is easier said than done. Uber is being investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission following a complaint about gender discrimination. That followed last week’s exit of Uber’s HR chief, Liane Hornsey, who resigned after claims that she ignored allegations of racial discrimination. Adding to the fire, on Friday, it was reported that Uber’s chief operating officer, Barney Harford, had made allegedly insensitive comments about women and minorities.

Khosrowshahi responded to the steady drip of bad news on Monday by saying: “We take very seriously anything having to do with anyone, but especially with our senior officers. We’re not going to run a process through the press, we’re going to run a process the right way.”

When asked if Harford’s job is safe, Khosrowshahi was non-committal, saying “it’s too soon” to tell.

On the planned IPO:

Khosrowshahi has been vocal about plans to take Uber public in 2019, saying that the company is in a “good position” in terms of its profitability, excluding certain expenses, and margins. However, Uber hasn’t had a chief financial officer since 2015—a glaring hole for a company planning an IPO—and a loss of nearly $4.5 billion last year.

At Brainstorm Tech on Monday, Khosrowshahi said he doesn’t think Uber needs to be profitable before going public, but that there should be a very clear path to profitability.

“I don’t want to be dependent private, public, or any markets to fund the business expansion in front of us, so I look at cash before profits,” he said, referring to being cash-flow positive, a popular measure that indicates a company’s liquid assets are increasing, allowing it to settle debts and pay expenses. “But over a period of time, it is absolutely important for the business to be profitable.”

On self-driving cars:

Last week, Uber laid off nearly 100 of its self-driving car safety operators in Pittsburgh following a fatal crash in Tempe, Az., in March. The company is re-evaluating its autonomous car strategy, and it reportedly has plans to create 55 new positions called “mission specialists,” which will require more technical expertise than the eliminated positions, for autonomous vehicle testing.

At the conference on Monday, Khosrowshahi spoke about the importance of building autonomous vehicle technology in-house while also partnering with third-party companies. “I believe in the early days of development of self-driving technology, it’s important for us to guarantee access to that tech,” he said. “We will be completely open, however, to working with other self-driving tech partners.”

On e-bikes and scooters:

Uber recently acquired dockless e-bike service Jump Bikes (formerly known as Social Bicycles) for a reported $200 million. The purchase lets Uber expand into an urban mobility company, a catch-all phrase for many kinds of transportation.

Khosrowshahi re-emphasized that commitment on Monday, saying that travel within cities will change radically in the next five to 10 years. “It’s a huge opportunity,” he said about e-bikes and scooters.

On Uber’s global expansion:

It’s no secret that Uber has exited from some international markets. It sold its Russian, China and Southeast Asia businesses to local rivals while doubling down on its core markets. Earlier this year, Uber’s largest shareholder, Softbank, said the company should focus on regaining market share in the U.S. and growing in key European markets rather than putting resources into emerging markets.

Khosrowshahi has denied that Uber may exit Southeast Asia and India. And at Brainstorm Tech, he added more context about that strategy.

“We wanted to be in the geographies that we thought we could win in,” he said, adding that India, the Middle East, and Africa are key markets for Uber. “I don’t think, at this point, we’re spread too thin. We can not only win those markets, but we can also make bets on technologies like scooters and e-bikes.”

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WWE Reinstates Hulk Hogan, And What That Could Mean For 'WWE 2K19'

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 29: Hulk Hogan and Triple H attend the Los Angeles Premiere of Andre The Giant from HBO Documentaries on March 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO)

</div> </div> <p>On Sunday, just hours before the start of the WWE Extreme Rules pay-per-view, <a href="https://www.wwe.com/article/hulk-hogan-reinstated-into-wwe-hall-of-fame" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.wwe.com/article/hulk-hogan-reinstated-into-wwe-hall-of-fame" rel="nofollow">the WWE announced its decision</a> to lift Hogan’s suspension stemming from <a href="https://www.cinemablend.com/television/Hulk-Hogan-Fired-From-WWE-Over-Racist-Comments-Read-Them-Here-73687.html" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.cinemablend.com/television/Hulk-Hogan-Fired-From-WWE-Over-Racist-Comments-Read-Them-Here-73687.html" rel="nofollow">racial slurs</a> used in a now <a href="https://www.cinemablend.com/pop/Gawker-Or-Hulk-Hogan-Who-Should-Win-Legal-Fight-48925.html" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.cinemablend.com/pop/Gawker-Or-Hulk-Hogan-Who-Should-Win-Legal-Fight-48925.html" rel="nofollow">infamous sex tape</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p><span>After a three-year suspension, Hulk Hogan has been reinstated into the WWE Hall of Fame. This second chance follows Hogan’s numerous public apologies and volunteering to work with young people, where he is helping them learn from his mistake. These efforts led to a recent induction into the Boys &amp; Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame.&nbsp;</span></p> </blockquote> <p> </p> <p>Hogan showed appreciation and gratitude for the second chance via Twitter.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Just met with the <a href="https://twitter.com/WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">@WWE</a> Superstars and on all levels the volume of love and support was overwhelming. I’ve been praying for this day and I finally feel like I made it back home. Only Love 4 the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWEUNIVERSE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/hashtag/WWEUNIVERSE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">#WWEUNIVERSE</a> brother HH</p> <p>— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) <a href="https://twitter.com/HulkHogan/status/1018589061852917766?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" target="_blank" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://twitter.com/HulkHogan/status/1018589061852917766?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw" rel="nofollow">July 15, 2018</a></p> </blockquote> <p>Hogan hasn’t appeared in a WWE video game since <em>WWE 2K15</em>, which was released in 2014 and the mobile game, <em>WWE Immortals</em>, released in 2015. As one of the most popular legends in the industry’s history, many fans of the game have felt some level of a void without Hogan’s presence on the <em>WWE 2K</em> roster.</p>

<p>The <em>WWE 2K</em> creation&nbsp;community has created him since the suspension and Hulkamaniacs have had to make due with these high-quality recreations. Perhaps that won’t be necessary in the near future. We’ll see if Hogan makes it into <em>WWE 2K19</em> and forthcoming game from the series.</p>” readability=”35.3120787973″>

After a three-year suspension, pro wrestling legend Hulk Hogan has been reinstated to the Hall of Fame. That would likely mean it’s possible for Hogan to again be included in WWE programming and even in future WWE video games–including the upcoming WWE 2K19.

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 29: Hulk Hogan and Triple H attend the Los Angeles Premiere of Andre The Giant from HBO Documentaries on March 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO)

On Sunday, just hours before the start of the WWE Extreme Rules pay-per-view, the WWE announced its decision to lift Hogan’s suspension stemming from racial slurs used in a now infamous sex tape.

After a three-year suspension, Hulk Hogan has been reinstated into the WWE Hall of Fame. This second chance follows Hogan’s numerous public apologies and volunteering to work with young people, where he is helping them learn from his mistake. These efforts led to a recent induction into the Boys & Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame. 

Hogan showed appreciation and gratitude for the second chance via Twitter.

Hogan hasn’t appeared in a WWE video game since WWE 2K15, which was released in 2014 and the mobile game, WWE Immortals, released in 2015. As one of the most popular legends in the industry’s history, many fans of the game have felt some level of a void without Hogan’s presence on the WWE 2K roster.

The WWE 2K creation community has created him since the suspension and Hulkamaniacs have had to make due with these high-quality recreations. Perhaps that won’t be necessary in the near future. We’ll see if Hogan makes it into WWE 2K19 and forthcoming game from the series.

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Can Blockchain Eliminate The Myth Of The Starving Artist?

How can artists get paid for the value they bring to society? It is an age-old, vexing question, one that artist and entrepreneur Beatriz Helena Ramos hopes to reinvigorate through Dada, the visual conversation platform she launched in 2014 with fellow artist-technologists Yehudit Mam and Abraham Milano. Dada is a cross between a marketplace, an art project, and a technology startup—a uniquely hybrid status that may well be the key to redefining success for artists in the digital age.

Beatriz Helena RamosCredit: Victor Jeffreys III

Dada was conceived as a social network where people can speak to each other in drawings rather than words. More than merely a drawing platform, it is Dada’s conversational quality that fosters moments of real magic among users: “You fall a little bit in love with everybody that responds to you,” said Ramos. “You feel like they’re listening to you. Not just to what you’re putting into a drawing conceptually—but what you’re not even aware that you’re putting out there, or the subconscious.”

With more than 150,000 users worldwide, Dada has done the seemingly impossible in the digital age: scaling intimacy. At this point, a typical trajectory for a tech-enabled social network looking to monetize might be to go the way of Facebook and introduce income-generating features like ads to the platform. The risk, of course, is such a move might degrade Dada’s impossibly beautiful sense of community—”our ace card,” is what Ramos calls it.

The cost of maintaining a technology platform at scale means an arty project like Dada is unheard-of on the internet. In its early years, Dada’s full time staff of four to five have mostly had to forego salaries to keep the platform alive. While looking for a sustaining way to generate income, Ramos became inspired by increasing excitement in the tech world over decentralized applications—a new type of software that is not deployed by any single individual or company, and makes use of consensus mechanisms like blockchain to store information. Ramos believes the key to empowering artists is for them to retain intellectual property rights to their works, something blockchain is uniquely capable of enabling.

Dada visual conversation with users Bea (USA), Cromomaniaco (Chile), Otro (Chile), Lorena Pinasco (Netherlands) and Serste (Italy)Credit: Dada

On a hunch, Ramos and her team decided to set off on the lesser-known path of turning Dada into a blockchain-enabled marketplace in which the drawings generated on the platform could be bought and sold using cryptocurrency. By that time, the team had earned a place in the 2017 cohort at Matter, an accelerator for early stage media companies (disclosure: I was a mentor at Matter the previous year), which provided a fertile ground for quickly implementing these ideas. “What we saw in Bea was one of the most creative, scrappy, accomplished, crazy visionary founders that we have ever worked with,” said Corey Ford, Matter’s Managing Director.

The concept of partial ownership of an artwork has little weight in the art world because it has been historically unfeasible to track the sale and resale of a work of art and there is no mechanism to ensure a percentage of that profit is funneled back to the artist in an efficient and transparent way. A recent study by NYU Steinhardt assistant professor Amy Whitaker shows the dramatic result if an artist like Jasper Johns had been able to retain a 10% ownership stake in his own art works. As the price for his work increased with his increasing reputation as an artist, each resale of his works would have resulted in significant additional income for Johns in his lifetime.

When associated with a cryptocurrency, the partial ownership model to artistic creation is extremely easy to implement using blockchain, because digital works can be “signed” and tracked so every sale and resale results in an automatic partial payment to the originating artist. By October 2017, Dada had added a new type of user to the platform—the collector—and released “Creeps and Weirdos,” a collection of limited edition digital drawings generated exclusively on the platform which were signed and available for purchase in the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Last May, Dada received an investment from ConsenSys Ventures, the investment arm of ConsenSys, a global consultancy that specializes in building decentralized applications on the Ethereum blockchain, to build out a fully integrated marketplace.

Visual conversation in Dada, with users Massel (Peru), Boris Toledo Doorm (Chile), Serste (Italy), Alex Henry (USA), and Bea (USA)Credit: Dada

Equal parts artist and entrepreneur, Ramos has been successful by most measures. She has has worked with large companies like Disney, MTV, and The New York Times, has directed over 100 commercials for some of the biggest brands in the world, and eventually built out her own animation studio with offices in Brooklyn and Venezuela. The balance has often been an uneasy one: “I’m what I call an unconscious capitalist, because I have companies and employees and clients and all of that—but I’m actually an anarchist, a social anarchist, in my soul.”

If Dada’s marketplace model succeeds, a small percentage of each purchase transaction would funnel back to the platform, ensuring it can sustain itself indefinitely, and vindicating Ramos’ iconoclastic vision of artist empowerment above any corporate, political, or advertising interests. It also promises to create revenue for Dada’s artists while maintaining the beauty and authenticity of its user interactions. The most important thing, Ramos is careful to emphasize of this new phase, is to figure out how to inject money into the Dada creative ecosystem without destroying the magic.

An uneasy mix of money and magic

With the investment from ConsenSys, the Dada team are now looking to design and implement a custom cryptocurrency—a DADA coin—that would form the underlying unit of value for Dada’s marketplace. Artists can earn DADA coins for their creative activities on Dada, and might then be able to trade DADA coins for real money. “To me the opportunity here is can you create a whole new economy, a completely new business model that hasn’t been done before—and that’s what we’re going for,” says Ramos.

Dada visual conversation with users Boris Z Simunich (Peru), ALE MT (Colombia) and Cromomaniaco (Chile)Credit: Dada NYC

In designing the DADA coin, Ramos sees the challenge as: “Can we issue a cryptocurrency where the economic system is based on our values, where the values are collaboration and collective ownership?” She points out that overly simplistic ways of modeling such a system—for example, directly tying the value of a work of art to its market price—undermines some of the more ephemeral incentives of artistic creation, like community and conversation.

Value and values

How might an ideal economy for artists actually work? “Art is similar to innovation,” says Ramos, “where you have to do a lot of experimentation.” The trick is to foster an environment where artists can create and experiment freely, independent of financial or political pressure, and yet somehow derive income in a passive way from the value that experimentation brings to society.

What happens if one drawing on Dada sells for 10 cents, while the drawing it was in response to sells for $1 million? This type of relative inequality happens all the time in traditional artistic ecosystems, where artists might frequent various creative communities for inspiration and cross-pollination, yet each artist generates income individually. On Dada, each drawing is displayed, literally, next to the drawing that inspired it, making the value of artistic inspiration explicit in an intriguing new way. The question remains: can this type of value actually be quantified and rewarded?

Dada Visual conversation with users Marta (Chile), Bea (USA), Otro (Chile) and Cromomaniaco (Chile)Credit: Dada

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