The CEO and co-founder of Uber Technologies, Inc. told hundreds of students Monday starting a multi-billion dollar company was surprisingly lonely.
“After a certain period of time, people who are close to you start to doubt (you’ll be successful),” said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at an award ceremony in Royce Hall. “You only talk to people to ask for favors, so it becomes a lonely existence.”
Kalanick, who dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to launch a startup with former classmates, was awarded the Entrepreneurial Achievement Award on Monday. Michael Silton, executive chair of the UCLA Venture Capital Fund, honored Kalanick for his persistence and unconventional thinking.
“Kalanick is successful because he dreams big and is unafraid to break barriers,” Silton said.
Susan Feldman, a UCLA Anderson School of Management alumna who co-founded a home furnishing business, moderated a Q&A session with Kalanick after he accepted his award. Students submitted questions in the weeks leading up to the event.
Kalanick started his first business venture, an on-campus SAT tutoring business for high school students, as a first year at UCLA.
“I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was when I was in college,” he said. “I just naturally gravitated toward starting things, and I had a fascination with trying the impossible.”
Kalanick launched Uber in 2009. The company, valued at more than $50 billion, has since expanded to more than 350 cities worldwide.
He said he came up with most of his business ideas by proposing solutions to technology and finance problems.
When he began a file-sharing company, his most recent business venture before Uber, Kalanick worked unpaid for four years before finding success and selling the company for $19 million. He then questioned whether he had the energy to pursue yet another idea.
“I thought maybe I got lucky,” Kalanick said. “Maybe it wouldn’t happen again.”
Kalanick said the best lessons he learned came from the challenges he faced in previous companies. He added having to take on multiple positions, from head of sales to CEO, required him to master several skills.
“It forces you to be incredibly fierce about details because it’s just you,” he said. “That’s helpful with a company that’s as complex as Uber is.”
Kalanick said entrepreneurship is about finding one’s passion and pursuing it completely.
“If you’re going to spend half of your waking hours doing something, you should believe in it entirely,” he said. “If you’re not learning something every day, you need to push harder.”
Kalanick said the company will expand within Africa and pursue food and package delivery through UberEATS and UberRUSH in 2016.
Compiled by Sierra Desousa, Bruin contributor.