By Nazanine Nouri
Uber, the ride-sharing company, is providing more than 1 million rides an hour to customers around the globe, according to its CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has led the company to profitability after 14 consecutive years of losses.
Uber posted a net profit of $394 million in the third quarter of this year, compared to a loss of $2.6 billion in the third quarter of 2022. In a statement, Khosrowshahi attributed the gains to “robust demand, new growth initiatives, and continued cost discipline,” and said 6 million drivers and couriers had generated a record $15.1 billion in the third quarter.
Khosrowshahi joined Uber as CEO in 2017, as investors forced the previous CEO and co-founder to resign following a series of privacy scandals and complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment against the company.
“Taking on one of the worst cleanup jobs in the history of American capitalism, at one of the most loathed companies, Mr. Khosrowshahi was like a dad who had to mop up after the frat party, put all the Solo cups away and get the vomit off the marble floor,” wrote Maureen Dowd in a July 2021 column in the New York Times, which dubbed Khosrowshahi “the Dad of Silicon Valley.”
Interviewed for the “On with Kara Swisher” podcast on Oct. 30, Khosrowshahi was asked by the host, Kara Swisher, to explain the $32 billion in cumulative losses that Uber had suffered, most of them on his watch, and the easy money and investor good will that he had benefited from.
“I think that the environment has changed,” Khosrowshahi replied. “The environment that we lived in five years ago, 10 years ago, or 12 years ago when Uber was founded was an easy money environment: interest rates were low, so investors were willing to put up money for promise, so to speak.”
He admitted that $32 billion “went into the company,” but added: “The company’s market cap is $90 billion. We are profitable now, and we pivoted from growth at all costs, where we were probably two or three years ago, to a balance of profitability and growth. We’re doing over 1 million trips every single hour.”
Khosrowshahi said that what changed was a shift in what investors were looking for. “Ultimately, investors are our owners,” he said. “As CEO, you get to guide the company going forward, but I work for our investors, and in a world where interest rates have been increasing, the cost of capital has been increasing, investors are saying show me the money.”
“We stopped hiring and adding to headcount early last year, and we really started focusing on profitability, and it’s showing on the bottom line and I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “And by the way, this environment should be a pretty good environment for us because not that many competitors in our industry are making money. So I actually think this is a decent environment for Uber to thrive.”
Khosrowshahi was born into a prominent Iranian family in 1969 and emigrated to the United States at the age of 9, just before the 1978-79 Revolution. He grew up in Tarrytown, New York, with his mother and two brothers. His father had to go back to Iran when Dara was 13 to take care of the children’s ailing grandfather, and was detained for six years before being able to return.
Khosrowshahi got a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Brown University in 1991, and started his career as an investment banker with the boutique investment firm Allen & Co., where he worked for seven years. One of the firm’s clients was Barry Diller. Khosrowshahi decided that he wanted to work for Diller.
He joined Diller’s USA Networks, Inc. before moving on to IAC Travel, another Diller company, which acquired Expedia from Microsoft in 2001.
In his 12 years at Expedia, Khosrowshahi oversaw its expansion to more than 60 countries as well as its acquisition of Orbitz, Travelocity, Trivago, Venere.com, Hotels.com, and HomeAway, among others. During that time, the company’s revenue quadrupled from $2.1 billion in 2005 to $8.7 billion in 2016.
In 2017, Expedia was named one of the best places to work in technology by Fortune Magazine. According to Fortune, employees described Khosrowshahi as “by far the best leader” they had worked for, as well as someone accessible and present.
Khosrowshahi is married and has four children, two from a previous marriage.
His wife, Sydney Shapiro, is a former actress who had a role in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village in 2004. The couple married in Las Vegas on December 12, 2012 (meaning on 12/12/12) and had twin boys in 2013.
Khosrowshahi joked in the 2021 New York Times article that he and his wife had found a solution for peace in the Middle East. She had his name tattooed in Farsi on her wrist, and he had her name tattooed in Hebrew on the back of his neck.