Friday, July 28, 2017

Is All Publicity Good Publicity? | Lefsetz Letter

No one talks about Uber anymore.

I was listening to Howard Stern interview Robert O’Neill, the guy who shot Bin Laden, and he got me, I fired up my phone and downloaded the sample chapter of his book “The Operator” to my Kindle. Previously the hype had slid off me. I’d seen “Zero Dark Thirty.” But I’m fascinated with physical feats, SEAL training, how your body gives out but your mind takes over. And one piece of advice O’Neill gave, which is so good, is if you’re gonna quit, wait a day to do so.

United’s numbers went up. That’s right, after they dragged that guy off the plane and everybody said they were gonna boycott the airline it didn’t happen. Now, of course, you can say the people had no choice, with the majors having divided up the airspace into tiny monopolies, but I’ll posit people just don’t care.

That’s the story of the year. That’s the story of the Trump election. The left wing is so wrapped up in gender politics that it’s missing the issue, which is primarily economic. Sure, women shouldn’t hit the glass ceiling, but can I put food on the table?

The last big Uber story was that they hired Bozoma Saint John away from Apple. Now other than seeing her last year in the Apple presentation, has this woman done anything of note? I’m not saying it’s a bad hire, but if she’s bonding with Arianna Huffington and they’re trying to make the company touchy-feely, I doubt that will work.

Because it’s never worked in the past.

Warner Music was getting excoriated in the press for Interscope Records. They sold the company back to its founders, who turned around and made a deal with Universal for beaucoup bucks. Jimmy Iovine has an HBO series made about him, Michael Fuchs, who ran HBO before he got control of Warner Music and made this decision, is less than a footnote, no one knows who he is anymore.

You don’t react to the publicity.

Dov Charney was fired from American Apparel and it went bankrupt. Now he’s restarted as Los Angeles Apparel, will he win?

I’d bet on him.

Founders are different people. They have vision. And rough edges. Steve Jobs gets booted by Apple and the company goes in the dumper. He comes back and it becomes the most valuable company on the planet. Coincidence? I think not. Furthermore, if Steve was still alive today would he be taking the same privacy tack as Tim Cook? I don’t think so. The money is in the data, and Apple keeps saying they’re not using the data, satisfying the public outcry but denying the fact that most people just don’t care that much and cough it all up. You love the services, you love the right recommendations, you say you don’t want to let someone know you, and then you do. It’s quite a conundrum.

And the founders of Google brought on adult supervision with Eric Schmidt, and then demoted him. He could make the trains run on time, but he had no vision.

Uber is a service. Dependent upon buzz.

Now all the buzz is at Lyft. Seemingly every day there’s a story about Lyft. Self-driving cars, the founder… Don’t you see what’s happening here? The press killed Uber. The board blinked and now it’s a second-class citizen that will probably never recover.

Sure, Kalanick was brash. Sure, there was a sexual culture.

But you had to applaud the guy who stood up to entire COUNTRIES! I’m in France and the cabbies are flipping out but I’m dialing up an Uber on a regular basis. Screw the establishment, I’m all for disruption, because every economy that tried to hold back the future failed. Which makes you wonder about the narrow-mindedness of the U.K. and U.S., thinking they can secede from the global marketplace. France was so busy protecting French culture that it became irrelevant.

One person makes a difference. A band rarely survives the loss of its lead singer.

It’s hard to define excellence, other than with results. You can’t replicate the winners of this world. They’re rough outsiders with laser-focus and oftentimes short tempers, and this irks the few while delivering pleasure to the majority.

Uber’s on a bad path. If the board were smart, and it’s not, it’d bring Travis back before it’s too late.

All that publicity, about people deleting the app, mostly it came from people not using the service anyway. One thing about Uber, IT WORKED! People will abandon your product if it’s bad. But you don’t swerve from success just because refs without portfolio start crying foul.

Remember when Beavis and Butt-Head were pariah number one?

Remember when Eminem was excoriated?

Remember when the Beatles broke and long hair was a taboo?

You can teach a young dog new tricks. Steve Jobs proved it.

You can rehabilitate Travis Kalanick.

As for company culture…

This was the same company that made ride-sharing a household word.

That’s right, you hobble the innovator.

The same people who called the election wrong are championing Kalanick’s ouster?

Their track record ain’t that good.

They’re wrong.


No comments: