First China, now Russia. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in the past week, like China’s tech crackdown before it, has reminded U.S. tech companies just how little they understood these authoritarian regimes. And when things turn ugly, the cost of operating in those countries—both financially and reputationally—can be enormous. (For another angle on that, see our weekend report on tech founders rethinking their ties to Russian investors.) Take Uber, which today said it would try to speed its exit from Russia “in light of recent events.”
It’s easy to forget that Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick for a time tried to compete directly in the ride-hailing markets in both Russia and China. Eventually, as Uber struggled to stem its massive losses, it gave up and sold to local rivals in both countries (it did the same thing in Southeast Asia where Uber sold to Grab). Uber ended up with stakes in Didi Global in China and in Yandex.Taxi in Russia. What brilliant investments they’ve turned out to be!