At this time was a momentous day in Uber historical past. After a lot debate, rumors and strife over the previous few weeks, it appears to be like like the corporate and its shareholders have come to an settlement over a young supply that can see SoftBank personal almost 15 % of the corporate, whereas additionally injecting round $1 billion in contemporary capital. That deal is anticipated to shut within the new yr.
The SoftBank tender supply was initiated after Uber’s board agreed to a set of governance modifications again in early October, which included growing the board’s measurement from 11 to 17. These modifications had been reported to be contingent on SoftBank agreeing to spend money on the corporate, which now looks as if a performed deal.
Though there are quite a lot of issues that make Uber’s story distinctive, the dimensions of its board is one which has gotten little consideration, and will present an entire new set of dynamics to look at for as the corporate strikes towards stabilizing its future after a rash of unhealthy information tales this previous yr.
At 17, Uber’s board can be among the many largest company boards publicly or privately held. Examine that to a number of the Valley’s largest tech corporations: Apple and Fb every have eight, whereas Snapchat and Twitter every have 9. Alphabet, Oracle and Intel every have 12, Microsoft has fairly just a few at 14 and IBM is whopping at 15 members.
Maybe much more related, latest IPO candidates have had pretty small boards. Sew Repair presently has 5 members, CarGurus has six and Blue Apron has eight. Wanting extra broadly, the median for the S&P 500 is 11, placing Uber’s 17 members far above the common for even actively traded corporations, and even corporations with market caps above $50 billion.
And simply as a enjoyable comparability, Uber’s board can be bigger than the UN Safety Council, which has 15 members, 5 everlasting and 10 non-permanent. (One wonders which has the harder agenda subsequent yr.)
With all the challenges that Uber faces, the query isn’t whether or not it has sufficient supervision, however whether or not a board of that measurement has the coherence and pressure to self-discipline the corporate and be sure that the fixed drumbeat of scandals up to now few years could be rectified whereas bettering the corporate’s long-term prospects.
You may anticipate the board measurement to be a perform of the variety of buyers concerned with Uber, which has raised about $12.5 billion based on Crunchbase. Historically, buyers who lead funding rounds in corporations get a board seat, if not multiple. But, Uber’s board is surprisingly devoid of energetic buyers.
At present, there are simply three VCs on Uber’s 11-member board. That features Benchmark associate Matt Cohler (who took over for Invoice Gurley earlier this yr); Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who’s the managing director of Saudi Arabia’s Public Funding Fund; and David Trujillo at TPG Capital.
What’s fascinating is that these VCs are equally matched by Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, together with first worker and one-time CEO Ryan Graves.
Past these six, Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi obtained a seat when he joined. Arianna Huffington joined final yr, as did Wan Ling Martello, a senior exec at Nestle, who joined earlier this yr as an impartial director within the wake of Susan Fowler’s open letter about Uber’s tradition. Lastly, Kalanick appointed to the board in late September former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and former chief of Merrill Lynch John Thain in a bid to guard his management of the corporate.
Now, add six new administrators with the consummation of the SoftBank deal, which has been reported to incorporate a brand new chairman, two administrators for SoftBank and three new impartial administrators.
What you get is a Frankenboard of loopy proportions.
Given the high-dimensional chess that has been performed by Benchmark and Kalanick over the previous few months, it’s clear that neither facet is prepared to surrender seats in a bid to convey the board measurement to a extra manageable degree. The best choice is probably going for the corporate to proceed to shoot for a public debut in 2019, at which era the board can shrink as buyers and others filter their holdings and transfer on.
Extra individuals on the helm isn’t going to proper the ship of Uber. What Uber wants is a unanimous board and precision focus below its new CEO to be able to repair the numerous, many wrongs the corporate has dedicated. Seventeen is the brand new magic quantity for Uber — let’s hope the corporate can get everybody on the identical facet of the highway.
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