on Oct 13, 15

“I was about to lose my shit” - Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO visits UCLA

Yesterday, the Flux team had the great pleasure of attending a talk by Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, at Royce Hall. Kalanick spoke about his time as UCLA, as well as Uber and previous companies he had been involved in. The primary focus of the talk was entrepreneurship, starting with Kalanick’s first company, an SAT-tutoring service, which he started in his freshman year at UCLA, and up to his most successful venture, Uber.


After a lighthearted question about the typical Friday night during his studies at UCLA, to which Kalanick responded that his Friday nights were boring due to the fact that his tutoring company would start work on Saturdays at 8am, Kalanick reminisced about his favorite place on campus. He explained that he really enjoyed the quad, especially in the evening after a long day, to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the view.


The conversation then shifted to Kalanick’s post-university experiences, from entrepreneurship to mentoring. He emphasized the importance of knowing when to quit: if you’re about to “literally lose your shit” working on something that just isn’t successful, it’s time to move on. This was advice based on his own experience at his last company before Uber; he had to sell it because it was consistently performing around zero for a very long time. He also emphasized the importance of being fierce about details, an idea that he stands by at Uber, requiring any individual responsible for making a decision to have all the details surrounding it.


Another interesting question asked was about who should or shouldn’t start a business. Kalanick’s quick explanation was that if you have to ask yourself if you should start a business, you probably shouldn’t. He encouraged students to take the time to find themselves, because if you’re going to spending most of your time working on this one thing, you should feel really passionate about it. From his own experience, he said that he naturally gravitated toward starting things, even during his college years. He had a “natural fascination with the impossible and seeing if it could be made possible.”


Travis closed the talk with a hint of what is in store for Uber in 2016: a big push for Uber Eats and Uber Rush, their food and package delivery services; as well as an expansion into Africa.

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