Valley Voice
Back to reality

Uber’s Travis Kalanick and Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, treat the public authorities of San Francisco poorly and gamble away the sympathies of their users away. They should be more careful.
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Next stop: Mars. Recently, Silicon Valley has become extremely interested in space missions. As usual, some pioneers are lucky, others not so much. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the privately held aerospace company Blue Origin, brought a spacecraft back home safely. Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket booster exploded after a hard landing on a barge. Well, men and their rockets.

The infinite quest for a galaxy far far away can be dangerous. You might lose touch with your home base. Unfortunately, that is exactly what seems to be happening to the next generation tech pioneers, including Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky and Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber. Several customers of the ride-sharing service in California now received a letter to inform them about a class-action lawsuit they are involved in.

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Filed last November, the lawsuit alleges that Uber charges its customers an “airport fee toll” that it lets drivers keep instead of giving it to the airport of San Francisco. Airbnb’s Chesky on the other hand had to admit that he rented out his couch on Airbnb without registering with the city first, as hosts are supposed to do since last February.

A regular, small Airbnb user might have missed to register. And who really understands all Uber fares and surge pricings anyways? But what about the CEOs of these companies who talk to regulators so to say regularly? I’m not sure what it is – gross negligence or an incredible inattention – but those who profit so much from public opinion and have so much trouble with public authorities shouldn’t overstep the mark. Mayday, mayday – tech-pioneers get your shit together, get back to reality, get back to earth.

Es gibt auch eine deutsche Version dieser Kolumne.

Britta Weddeling is a technology journalist with Handelsblatt, Germany's #1 business daily, based in San Francisco. She is author of a weekly English tech column called "Valley Voice" and contributes every week to a podcast at a major German radio station (Deutschlandradio,"Was mit Medien").

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