A reminder of the very long to-do list of Uber's new boss Dara Khosrowshahi

Lynsey Barber
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Dara Khosrowshahi has a lot to tackle at Uber (Source: Getty)

It's official: Dara Khosrowshahi has taken on the most demanding and scrutinised job in tech right now, becoming chief executive of Uber.

2017 has seen the startup go from hero to zero with almost non-stop troubles emerging and leaving a rather long to-do list for him to get started on.

Get hiring

The string of departures at Uber this year has been stark and a leadership chart of the startup has more holes than Swiss cheese.

Current vacancies which need filing include: finance chief, chief operating officer, head of engineering, operations chief, head of driverless car tech, chief business officer and president.

More than 20 staff were also swept out as a result of its investigation into sexual harassment, most likely leaving positions empty.

Boost morale

Shoring up the morale of the 15,000 put upon staff is a tough task but high priority. No one likes change and shaking up a long-standing toxic work environment will be no mean feat. Hiring those leaders and other staffers will be a good start.

Reports suggest that some employees have been trying to sell their shares in the company but have been finding it difficult. Khosrowshahi could loosen up its policy on secondary share trading as an olive branch. This could also have the added bonus of making it more attractive to new recruits.

The startup has already hired a management professor, Harvard academic Frances Frei, to address some of these issues. In an interview over the weekend, she said:

"I think that the service is incredible, and I think it’s genuinely at an inflection point — and I think that I can make a difference. So that’s the lure. I like to help individuals and organisations achieve their potential, and I think I can be helpful here."

Ditch the "bro" culture

Part of this morale issue includes addressing the endemic issue of sexism which was brought to light by a whistleblower and investigated in the Holder report.

It's by no means the only Silicon Valley startup to be accused of having a "bro" culture, but the new boss will be charged with changing this perception internally and publicly.

For his part, Khosrowshahi recognised the issues. He told Bloomberg in his first interview since being appointed: “It’s definitely a problem inside the technology industry - not just gender discrimination. Diversity is an issue within technology, within Expedia. You look at the problem and solve it one step at a time. You solve it by first recognising it and then working it. It requires real candor and real honesty.”

Placate Kalanick

​Khosrowshahi has called his relationship with ousted founder Travis Kalanick a budding one.

Even prior to his departure, Kalanick was seen as a man baby in need of babysitting, hence initial plans to hire an operating chief to keep him in line. Things have changed somewhat, but ​Khosrowshahi will have to walk a fine line, balancing indulging the founder and cultivating his most productive and useful insights, as well as keeping himself on side with his supporters internally, but also keeping his power and influence limited but not restrictively.

With Kalanick's position on the board and talk of his desire to get back the top job, it has more than a little potential to fall into Game of Thrones territory... which brings us on to....

Unite the factions

Higher up, right at the top in fact, he needs to bring people together. Uniting the Uber board currently looks about as easy as uniting the middle east in peace talks - Kalanick and Benchmark, an investor with a seat on the board too, are currently embroiled in a legal battle.

Though board members reportedly went for Khosrowshahi because the different factions actually agreed on the appointment, divisions run deep.

Get on with business

Of course, as well as clearing up historical messes he's inherited, there's the business of, well, actually running the business. Let's not forget this is a global billion dollar business that might like to start making a profit at some point and even IPO.

He will also have to tackle crucial issues, almost daily occurring, such as Uber's legal battle with Google's driverless car arm Waymo, run-ins with regulators (it settled a privacy complaint with the FTC in the US just a few weks ago and was fined yesterday in the Philippines) and its legacy of questionable actions under previous management. The latest spanner in the works is a potential probe by the US justice department regarding foreign bribery laws.

Khosrowshahi will have to get the right balance between crisis fire-fighting and laying a solid foundation for a successful tech business.

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