“I’d rather have their capital cannon behind me.”
Silicon Valley CEOs mulling whether to accept at an investment offer from SoftBank’s VIsion Fund seem to always have one alternate history in the backs of their minds:
What happens if I decline and SoftBank funds my rival instead?
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, whose company just stared down that same question late last year as it negotiated a high-stakes deal with the $100 billion fund, gave voice to that intellectual exercise today as he offered an overview of his business to Goldman Sachs clients and investors.
“Rather than having their capital cannon facing me, I’d rather have their capital cannon behind me, all right?” Khosrowshahi said today at Goldman’s tech conference.
SoftBank insisted during the negotiations that they were perfectly willing to go invest in Lyft instead if the Uber deal fell through. SoftBank has at times negotiated with multiple competitors in order to locate the best deal — and retain leverage.
Uber’s CEO offered an amibitous vision for the company, saying he didn’t want it to be seen as purely a car-for-hire company — but one that would take any person on any transit system — “from point A to point B whatever the best way.”
“I want to run the bus systems for a city,” Khosrowshahi said. “I want you to be able to take an Uber and get into the subway — if the trains are running on time, you’ve got real time data — get in the subway, get out and have an Uber waiting for you for right now. Or know that there’s a bike right there for you that gets you where you’re going in the fastest matter.”
Khosrowshahi also offered more of an explanation on Wednesday on last week’s decision to settle the lawsuit filed by Alphabet over whether Uber stole self-driving technology secrets from Waymo, Alphabet’s subsidiary.
Khosrowshahi called the suit “a personal affront” to Uber scientists because it “put their really good work under a question mark.” But he said the deal was intended mostly to remove the distraction and allow the company to focus more on its core business.
The Uber CEO portrayed the company he inherited as a very strong business — “a better business than I thought” when he took the job — but one with a damaged brand that he plans to try repair.
“Getting the love back is a very, very important priority for us,” he said.
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