Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, will help take Uber to the next level with her “optimistic leadership,” chief executive officer Travis Kalanick said in a blog posting announcing the move. She joins a board that includes venture capital investor Bill Gurley and David Plouffe, the political strategist known as U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign manager in the 2008 election season.
“From the start of our friendship it was obvious that she believes deeply in our mission: transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone,” Kalanick said. She will bring some “ethos and pathos to our Uber logos,” he said. He also wanted to have a fellow chess master on the board, he said in an interview on CNBC.
Uber is working to fulfill a promise to shareholders and employees that it will be profitable in North America by the second quarter of 2016, a milestone it has already reached in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, the company is accelerating its expansion to global markets as it seeks to justify its valuation. It has also been facing increasing competition from Lyft in the U.S. and from other ride-sharing services elsewhere in the world.
While Uber has a moral obligation to find liquidity for its investors and employees, the five-year-old company is still too young to go public, Kalanick said on CNBC. Uber faces resistance from traditional taxi systems worldwide, in an industry where competition is outlawed, he said.
Uber recently agreed to pay as much as US$100 million to settle a class-action lawsuit from drivers who claimed they should be classified as employees, not independent contractors. As part of the deal, interpreted by some as a big win for the company, Uber will no longer ban them for failing to accept new fares — what the company calls deactivation. That’s a new way to hold Uber accountable, Kalanick said.