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In Uber Saga, No Calls for ‘Adult Supervision’

Travis Kalanick is having a bad week. Critics including late night comedian Seth Meyers and Sen. Al Franken have called him “thuggish,” “arrogant” and “tone deaf” for his handling of the revelation that Uber executive Emil Michael, at a private-ish dinner, proposed spying on journalists.

But it is worth looking at some names the 38-year-old CEO generally hasn’t been called: “young” or “inexperienced” or any of other monikers that have so often trailed young tech CEOs, in moments of crisis. (The exception was one or two reporters who appeared to pursue the age angle as a way to keep the story alive several days after it broke.)

I think the characterizations of Kalanick during this crisis are worth calling out because they signal a big change from the past. Who can forget when the Google board pressured co-founder Larry Page to put Eric Schmidt in charge or when pundits called for Mark Zuckerberg’s head every time Facebook slipped up a product release? The term “adult supervision” was the click bait of the mid-2000s.

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At 38, Kalanick is hardly the youngest CEO in tech, but he’s certainly one of the youngest people to ever run a company valued at $17 billion and counting.