Travis Kalanick, the chief executive officer at Uber Technologies Inc., has a go-to metaphor that he deploys to duck a common question: When will Uber go public?
Kalanick’s stock answer: Uber is like a teenager being asked to go to prom. It’s just too soon. “We’re like eighth graders; we’re in junior high, and someone is telling us that we need to go to the prom, and it’s just a little early,” Kalanick said at a Wall Street Journal conference a year ago. “Let us get into high school before we start talking about these sorts of things.”
It’s almost time to start talking. Kalanick said on Wednesday that his ride-hailing company is an “early high schooler” or a ninth grader, again being invited to the prom. It’s still a little too soon, he insisted during an interview at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.
The prom metaphor is close to running out of cushion. Yet, Kalanick remains mum on the company’s plans for an initial public offering, while its mega-unicorn startup peer Snap Inc. has chosen banks for an IPO that could happen as soon as March. Uber declined to comment.
As a paper billionaire, Kalanick would certainly benefit from an IPO. The Uber co-founder said at the conference that he hasn’t sold a single share of his stock, even as the company’s valuation has reached about $69 billion. He said he’s still living in the house that he bought for about $1 million before he took over as CEO. (In Silicon Valley, $1 million is something of a bargain price.)
While he dodged the big IPO question, Kalanick did talk a bit about the company’s closely watched self-driving car program. He said Uber is becoming more of a “robotics company.” He acknowledged that fully autonomous vehicles could still be years or even a decade away. Kalanick said it wasn’t clear when self-driving cars would become safer than human drivers. Presumably, prom time will come before then.