Uber CEO’s ouster a ‘kick in the butt’ for Silicon Valley, professor says

  • Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's resignation spotlights problems with Silicon Valley's culture, professor Vivek Wadhwa said.
  • If the $70 billion company were publicly traded, "the stock would have crashed" when Kalanick resigned, Wadhwa said.

The departure of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was a referendum on the infamous culture of Silicon Valley's tech startups, said Vivek Wadhwa, professor of engineering at Carnegie Mellon.

"This was a kick in the butt to Silicon Valley," Wadhwa said on CNBC's "Power Lunch" Wednesday. "The fact is, this showed that the VC's are the problem, the investors are the problem, the boards are the problem. It exposed the worst of Silicon Valley, and the world isn't tolerating it anymore."

Wadhwa has criticized Kalanick in recent weeks, arguing that the 40-year-old "had to go" for a series of controversial statements and actions as head of the mega-popular ride-sharing app.

Despite losing $708 million in the first quarter of 2017, Uber is valued at $70 billion.

Travis Kalanick.
David Orrell | CNBC
Travis Kalanick.

If Uber were a publicly traded company, "the stock would have crashed" when Kalanick resigned, Wadhwa said.

Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, described Silicon Valley as a continuation of the history of human innovation, and considered Kalanick a leader on that "frontier."

"This has happened for the past thousand years, whether it's the wild west of America or the frontiers around the world," Isaacson said on "Power Lunch."

"What you have is people who are on frontiers who combine idealism and a sort of craziness, you know, a wackiness to them. And that's what pioneers do," Isaacson said. "What you have to do to make a sustainable culture is say 'who comes after the pioneer?'"

— CNBC's Anita Balakrishnan contributed to this report.

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