学习啦【英语文摘】 编辑：韦彦 发布时间：2016-08-27
SAN FRANCISCO — Uber CEO Travis Kalanick honored his controversial ride-sharing service at an event on Wednesday with surprisingly humble words to celebrate its five year anniversary.
During the media event, the 38-year-old entrepreneur recalled how his business — now worth $50 billion — was born out of a conversation sparked in Paris with co-founder Garrett Camp, and how, in the early days, they barely had enough money "to keep the lights on." Kalanick acknowledged his mother in the audience and waxed poetic about a not-so-distant future: a world where transportation, goods and services are 5 minutes away, deliverable at the "touch of a button."
"I can come off as a fierce advocate for Uber," he said. "I also realize that some have used a different 'A' word to describe me. I’ll be the first to admit that I'm not perfect and neither is this company."
When I first met Kalanick in January 2012, Uber wasn't so polished, so much as frat-like. The service was just in eight cities then — a far cry from the 300 cities it is in now. Its haphazard offices occupied the top floor of a small building in San Francisco's shopping district — not the sleek, sprawling 200,000 square foot headquarters it inhabits today. And Kalanick wasn’t yet the buttoned-up leader recalling Uber's birth as a sweet Parisian brainstorm.
“In the beginning, it was a lifestyle company," Kalanick told me then, tossing a mini-NERF football around in a red Radio Shack shirt, faded jeans and sneakers. The gray-haired entrepreneur liked to punctuate his sentences with a wide grin and brief pause, letting his words sink in.
"You push a button and a black car comes up," he added. "I mean, who’s the baller? It was a baller move to get a black car to arrive in eight minutes.”
Kalanick could be so determined, a former girlfriend of his told me he spent one International CES sleeping in a rented van and taking hobo baths — washing himself in a public sink — at a Mandarin Oriental hotel nearby.
"Don't let the gray hair fool you: he's like this tireless kid, always coming back for more," she said.
Others who worked with him at previous companies had mixed things to say. But there was a clear takeaway: he was a smart, numbers crunching geek who could also be an uncompromising businessman.
In 2001, he co-founded Red Swoosh — a file-sharing system for corporate clients — which he referred to as a “revenge business.” He wanted Hollywood litigants who sued his previous startup, a multimedia search engine called Scour, to pay for a similar technology. Why?
"I like pissing people off," Kalanick said back in 2012. "I like shaking things up in an old industry and making something new and different."
Mission accomplished. Since its launch, Uber has transformed transportation, upending decades of crusty taxi regulation and transforming the way people get around. In cities like San Francisco now, locals don't take cabs, anymore — they eitherUber or Lyft.
Credit Kalanick's anti-establishment attitude for the company's rapid growth, too. Uber launched in new markets and dealt with the consequences later. Kalanick welcomed controversy, egging on regulators in Washington D.C. and elsewhere like a man with six months to live.
But when you're a company reportedly valued at $50 billion, rebelliousness stops being cute, and the public becomes far less forgiving.
Bad publicity soon caught up with Uber. The service got flack over cutthroat tactics with rival Lyft. Last November, an Uber executive caused a ruckus when he off-handedly suggested Uber conduct opposition research to dig up dirt on its critics.
There were also reports that drivers sexually harassed or assaulted female passengers and allegations of discrimination against blind and wheelchair-using riders. And partnerships, like the one announced in March with U.N. Women, fell apart, ostensibly over such allegations.
So it's no surprise then Uber is working hard on cleaning up its image with initiatives like an updated Uber app that caters to deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers, Uber Military, which enlists service members, veterans and military spouses as drivers, and now Wednesday's media event. For drivers, these initiatives are a win, even if the timing is convenient for Uber.
What's somewhat harder to accept is a humbler Kalanick and softer, nicer Uber so soon after months of negative publicity. Genuine atonement usually takes much longer.
"Hello Reddit - I'm Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft founder. Ask me anything."
And so they did.
Fresh from helping to choose the next CEO to run the company he co-founded nearly four decades ago, Gates descended from the mountaintop to mix it up with the new media masses with his second Reddit appearance in the last year.
Even before the festivities officially got underway, Gates posted a video where he answered a question ahead of time by someone left on the Reddit board asking whether he would pick up a $100 bill if he saw the money lying on the ground.
"Well, all my thoughts about money were formed at a time when $100 really was a substantialamount of money...if it's lying there and maybe it belongs to somebody and you ought to find it for them and return it to them," he said. "It'd be nice. They'd probably be fairly distraughtabout having dropped it. But i would pick it up and give it to the foundation because there, $100 actually buys quite a bit."