Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Saudi sovereign-wealth fund backs Travis Kalanick’s new startup (wsj.com)
88 points by giacaglia 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments

My immediate reaction is "WeWork for chefs".

After looking over their website it looks like a real estate company providing kitchen space, WeWork for chefs.

I posted this link several weeks ago, so perhaps the "not-com" bubble" is not bursting? https://www.theatlantic.com/article/600232/

I do think this idea is actually pretty good. However I don't see a way this will gather the necessary hockey stick growth for typical startup gains that garners this much investment.

But, I've been wrong plenty of times before...

This sort of thing has been around for a while: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/28/deliveroo-d...

As a first approximation, running from any startup that is backed by the Saudi sovereign-wealth fund (and Softbank Vision fund which is mostly just another name for the Saudi money) is likely a good investment strategy.

Basically, any company that has great prospects is going to be able to get money from other funds with a lot less baggage. In addition, founders who take that money likely have ethical issues and will happily screw the investors (see WeWork CEO).

Doordash is in that business, with Doordash Kitchens. On a smaller scale; though. They have a small food factory in Redwood City, CA, cranking out hamburgers and variations on chicken with rice. Doordash "dashers" drive up and pick up the food.

It must not be running so great. Considering that Door Dash sees a need to steal tips[1] from their workers.

[1] https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/8/20/20825937/doordash-tippi...

Can't explain how happy I was to see that I could order rooster and rice down the peninsula. I've been really missing it since I stopped working in the city. Seems like a great avenue for restaurants to expand through when they may not have enough confidence in customer base to expand with a real storefront.

Leveraging synergies - let's put chopped up people right back into the food chain!

And Kalanick is just the person to make that happen.

The size of these investments is just crazy. When I worked at a startup from 1999 on we were fighting for a few million here and there and money came in small steps. Now it seems a lot of them immediately get hundreds of millions. Seems there really is just way too much money floating around looking for investment opportunities.

Money probably isn't hard to find if you co-founded a company thats currently worth $46b on a bad day (which it is for Uber rn).

The magic of money supply ie Quantitative Easing.

It seems so. I really need to make that dumb app I've had in mind! The idea isn't original but hey it seems people will throw money at it anyway.

As a bonus it won't abuse the underemployed nor will it fuck travellers, homeowners and destroy cities by messing with their housing market.

Repeat founders have huge advantages when it comes to raising funds, regardless of how "dumb" their idea seems to sideline observers.

I believe this is partially beacause investor's don't have very strong priors about what works and are happy to delegate that decision to someone with a track record. Incidentally, this model also explains why VCs tend to herd around the same investments - it's notorious how, once you get one VC interested, they all suddenly become interested.

CK was recruiting in the bay area a few months ago. Did anyone go to their recruiting pitch nights in SF or PA? Apparently Travis was going to be speaking.

Huge indicator that he still hasn’t learned the value of being ethical in business.

Well he made billions from UBER and is now getting $400 million in funding for his new business, so maybe it's you that hasn't learned the value of being unethical in business.

This. The man knows how the game is played.

His goal is to make money, not make the world a better place. This goes for every company, some just stay in sheeps clothing longer than others depending on how much power they have.

>This goes for every company

Fuck that. That's not the world I live in. It may go for many companies, even most. But to really believe this is (nearly) universal, you must be in a bubble I want no part of.

He sold $1.6B in Uber stock to Softbank (which had Saudi funding) at the peak of the Uber valuation - so came out way ahead of even employees in terms of cashing out.

He's getting $400M direct from Saudi's.

Saudi's are still supported heavily by the US government - new arm sales going for their war on Yemen etc.

The people who have had their lives ruined are folks reporting on Saudi's (killed and chopped up) and folks who are taking positions that don't align with Saudi's (ie, twitter posters where Twitter made it very easy for employees to sell that data to Saudi's).

At some point politically someone is going to connect some dots around the saudi's. The US went after Saddam (had a multi-ethnic country) and dumped on the Kurds (also better about protecting minority rights) in favor of islamic militants in Syria.

The value in being ethical is currently at risk. Voters are the ones who need to learn some lessons.

"At some point" - This is some remarkable idealism. What is your estimated deadline for that "some point"?

its not something you learn, friend

Its something YOU CHOOSE as a way of life

It's generally helpful when people see it as a choice. I suspect Mr. Kalanick does not.

It is going to be a disaster, you can’t go from running a multi billion company to being lean and nimble - he should just find a nice golf club and work on his putting

He did a lot of things poorly, but running a small and nimble company wasn't one of them, tbh. His house of cards only really started to fall when Uber grew like crazy.

His house of cards fell when his mom died. While he was still devastated from the loss, board members approached him for leadership change and he just signed it off like that. Board members were extremely surprised because they though it would start of negotiation at some high unachievable goal and then drive to something low. Instead he just threw it all away. He had all the legal rights and means not to do that.

Personally, I think he is a good person and amazing enterprenuer. Yes, I've seen that can driver video and legions of article how Uber is losing money. I think people don't understand the herculean task of disrupting this entire space of 100 year old business backed by government sponsored monopolies and their extremely rich benefiting donors. This guy comes out of nowhere with nothing and puts up a fight in 700 cities across the world and wins. I believe if he was allowed to continue leading he would have disrupted entire logistics space and Uber would be bigger than Amazon. Unfortunately VCs and their media darlings don't want to wait for another decade and wants to milk the cow until it dies off.

I worked at Uber 2014-2019 and things started to feel unstable long before his ouster and long before all the chaos preceding it. His mother's tragic passing and his subsequent resignation were when the cards finished falling, but they started long before that.

he wasn't scaling as fast as the business since 2015 or so and refused to trust responsible lieutenants to run the company more reasonably. He would walk the engineering floor getting his nose in things and making changes which caused outages and regressions on New Year's Eve (our biggest day for the next six months) and no one including the CTO had the guts or ability to put him in his place. IMO he should have got rid of Jeff Holden and been head of product himself, which I think is the role he wanted to be in and the role he would be most impactful in. Holden certainly wasn't interested in the Uber product of 2015 as much as he cared about the Uber product of 2035. Playing CEO again with CK seems like a waste of money if they expect another Uber. I don't really care since it's the Saudi royal family's money being wasted though.

I don't know or care enough about him to comment on his personal ethics or whether he was the only person in his position who could have had his level of impact as you are probably implying. All I saw was him and the rest of the leadership team doing whatever they could to meet growth metrics while the day to day in engineering was awful and unsustainable and using the same things you say, as excuses to not do better.

I also don't think the business would be in any better position today if he was CEO than what Dara has done. Uber was never a 120bn$ company. It could be/have been but I don't think that Dara is any more responsible for the downfall than Travis or the board or the media darlings. The battleground cities Uber is fighting to maintain service (NY license cap, LADOT MDS standard) in are fighting back from Travis's bully behavior in those 700 cities, not Dara's. This is the natural next stage of fighting these regulations and monoplies and IMO Travis would struggle at least as much as Dara in this new battleground.

On the positive side, I think starting a ridiculous business in the US is one of the best ways to waste money.

While a few whales will end up taking and stashing the money away in overseas accounts, lots of it will go for bills to legitimate business and probably mostly to employee salaries.

So at least we get that money distributed among the populace a little bit.

Not to nitpick but it's almost a half a billion dollars.

If you have to rent a kitchen/building to open a restaurant, chances are you will go out of business or at best break even.

Restaurant/Food business is brutal.

Also, is this really any different than the Food Hall concept?

Depends on the price. From what I gather they buy crap properties and renovate them.

But honestly I would go the other way - I would target the prosumer segment - create some nice spaces with a dinner table that serious hobbyists can rent by the let's say 3 hours slot, since they don't have real estate (and power) in their homes.

50 square meters that are filled with everything from wok to latest modernist toys.

Interesting that the website for CloudKitchens (his new gig) has a lot of stylistic similarities with Uber -- especially the Uber from a few years back.

> especially the Uber from a few years back

Would you say you liked it better then compared to now?

I don’t have a horse in this race. I just found the resemblance pretty striking.

That's super interesting. Life and art mix pretty well. This comes out right after an episode of SV making fun of entrepreneurs taking money from a dictatorship

I think they wrote that episode when softbank with saudi money was dominating the VC industry and telling people to take their money or else (they will fund their competitors).

The entire 'or else' scope in the episode was a shout out to softbank. Same with russ hanneman being a shoutout to mark cuban.

Okay. That's so serendipitous and hilarious.

Did people already forget the reason Travis "left" Uber?

How long until the ex WeWork CEO gets funding for his next startup?

The early investors in Uber are very thankful that they had faith in Travis Kalanick.

Quote from BI "It's the first known investment by the kingdom since the murder of the American journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year."

Not something I'd want myself or my company to be associated with. As usual, I suppose it shows what's really important to these people. $$$

Whose reputation will it hurt more? The Saudi's or Kalanick's?

The Saudi's rep is already poison. This news hurts Kalanick's. He may be awful, but he hasn't had any journalists tortured and beheaded.

No he just harasses rape survivors and calls them liars.


Said executive(not Travis) didn't publicly call her a liar. He proposed a theory in private and so that they could do some fact checking. That's called not being played for a fool

Pulling a medical file as part of the fact check was a gross violation of privacy however.

That was an executive who Kalanick fired because of what they did.

They were fired three years after "what they did," and they included Kalanick in the original communications so it seems more that they were fired upon being publicly caught.

Neither. In the end money wins.

They're pot and kettle. I don't think it matters much in the long run who the soot lands on.

Well lots of people take money that can be traced back to China and Russia. It’s not like they don’t carry out HR violations. People just like to signal, bug in the end it’s always about money. Look at the Koch brothers, their main principle is how do we make more money, not what are good causes.

I am not sure why those two events are relevant. It is like saying WeWork IPO was the first one to fail after Trump's Ukraine comments were revealed.

Saudi Arabia just like United States engages in lot of state sponsored violence against all sort of innocent people. HN itself has hundreds of stories where USA harassed and threatned in some cases killed journalists and other innocent individuals. They would have killed Snowden if they could.

None of that should matter to those who take federal funding for whatever other reasons.

The way I see it, it it better for Saudi Money to go into scammy tech startups than another widow maker jet from Lockheed Martin.

Travis was deeply flawed as the CEO of Uber. It was clearly beyond any scale he had ever operated at. But he was also a force of nature and willed a new industry into existence.

Since Travis left, Uber has stopped innovating. Dara was a safe bet but perhaps too safe. Uber is about as exciting as Expedia now.

I am not surprised that Travis is having another huge success. Hopefully, he has learned a lot from his experience at Uber.

I think it's far too early to call CK a success.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact