While Uber founder Travis Kalanick was preparing to leave Uber’s board of directors in 2019, he was already working on his next venture: a startup called CloudKitchens that leases space to restaurants for delivery-only services. He predicted at the time that the startup would be “bigger than Uber”. The Wall Street Journal reported Last October, CloudKitchens had purchased more than 40 properties in some 20 cities for more than $ 130 million.
But one new report from Insider suggests that many of the tactics that became infamous at Uber – the ever-hustlin mentality and aggressive internal culture – are employed at CloudKitchens.
Within CloudKitchens, people describe an alpha male organization run by a ‘temple of brothers’, in which Kalanick and two friends reign supreme and where a ‘Fight Club’ style non-disclosure code affects all aspects of the work. Visual cues, such as ‘No Quinoa’ T-shirts worn by Kalanick loyalists, reinforce a harsh culture that frowns on spoiled techies.
Kalanick’s time at the helm of the starting stage was riddled with controversy. Former engineer Susan Fowler wrote a now infamous blog post claiming that Uber had serious sexism problems; the companies Project Greyball was intended to deceive authorities, allowing Uber to continue operating in places where it was banned; and Kalanick was recorded yelling at an Uber driver while still being the company’s CEO. He resigned in 2017 under pressure from the company’s board of directors and shareholders.
According to CloudKitchens, there seems to be a lot of Uber-like chaos at CloudKitchens Insider, and it has led to a lot of sales:
Since the beginning of the year, more than 300 corporate employees have left the company, some of whom say they are quitting due to meager bonuses and a controversial new leveling system. And as the pandemic lockdowns abate and competitors enter the food delivery market, the deposed Uber founder’s comeback plan will be put to the test – with his critics and fans closely watching.
It seems that the strategies that drove Uber to (ever) be one of the most valuable startups in the world are in effect at Kalanick’s new venture. Whether CloudKitchens will fall out of favor (and rebound) as Uber is still very much in the air. Read through this excellent deep dive Insider that delves into the dark corners of the hot start-up company.