Is Uber CEO 'Darth Vader'?

Inside Uber's billions
Inside Uber's billions

Uber's Travis Kalanick may be known for his aggressive business tactics, but the CEO is quick to defend his reputation.

"Some have called you a Darth Vader in the startup world," TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington commented at the company's annual conference. "Do you feel like you're Darth Vader, or maybe worse?"

In response, Kalanick cited his previous venture, a network software company.

"I don't think a lot of people know my background, where I came from," he said. "The first four years, I didn't make a salary. One of those years, I was at my parent's house."

Kalanick said the experience building out his previous startup has contributed to the scrappiness Uber is known for. The company, once a small venture, has become a $17 billion business over the last year, turning the transportation industry inside out.

"When you're scrapping that hard, it requires you to be abnormally perfectionist, abnormally fierce," Kalanick said.

Related: Uber's dirty tricks quantified

It's an attitude the company has adopted to battle the entrenched transportation industry. Kalanick said his company was in an ongoing political campaign against the taxi cartel It's also one of the main reasons the company hired David Plouffe, President Obama's former campaign manager.

But Uber isn't the only company fighting the transportation wars. Competitors like Lyft have also made headway, growing aggressively and recruiting many of the same drivers Uber targets.

Ultimately, Kalanick says if Uber fails, it won't be due to preexisting barriers or competitors like Lyft.

When asked about the biggest threat to the startup turned multi-billion dollar company, Kalanick replied, "I think it'll be the stress. This is a different kind of stress four years in."

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