Travis Kalanick, CEO of the hotly covered tech juggernaut Uber — whose relations with the media have been rocky — was in New York City Friday meeting with reporters, the latest episode in an apparent charm offensive.
Members of the New York press that either cover Uber or tech, including this BuzzFeed reporter, The New York Times' Mike Isaac, Business Insider's Alyson Shontell, Capital New York's Dana Rubenstein, and Newsweek's Polly Mosendz, joined Kalanick at the Gramercy Park Hotel for a spread of fruits, muffins and other snacks. The event, the substance of which was off-the-record by agreement, appears to be part of a new approach by the confrontational company, which recently brought on former Obama aide David Plouffe to help shape its image.
San Francisco Magazine's Ellen Cushing recently wrote of her interview with Kalanick in San Francisco:
Kalanick's mild manner during our interview was but one example of a concerted media effort to evoke what TechCrunch has described as a "kinder, gentler Uber." Quietly but clearly, the CEO has launched something of an apology tour—tamping down the aggro "asshole named Taxi" rhetoric just a little, appearing contrite at conferences and industry events. (The story that you're reading is in fact part of the company's charm offensive: At the photo shoot for our cover, Kalanick repeatedly expressed concern about looking like an "asshole.")"
Kalanick appeared to have a full media day in New York. Ian Osborne, a well-connected British political and media figure and Davos mainstay, will be hosting a dinner for the Uber chief at the media power spot the Waverly Inn, according to an invitation from the columnist Michael Wolff to BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief, Ben Smith.