In the loop: Uber’s CEO taps out while Klarna becomes a bank

This week saw Klarna promise to shake up the world of banking, Travis Kalanick quit his job and UK SMEs feeling bullish despite Brexit

In the loop: Uber's CEO taps out while Klarna becomes a bank

Klarna founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski is taking on traditional banks

Travis Kalanick quits as Uber’s CEO

One year ago the headlines excitedly shouted about Uber’s meteoric ascent and how the ride-hailing unicorn was changing the world of transport. But the stories have changed dramatically following a series of scandals including legal battles, criticism of the startup’s male-dominated culture and a mass-exodus of directors. And this week the tech giant’s wild ride continued with the resignation of its founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.

His exit came just days after he’d announced a leave of absence to mourn the death of his mother and to reflect about the future of the company. However, this evidently wasn’t enough for five major investors – spearheaded by Benchmark Capital, the VC firm – that reportedly demanded Kalanick’s resignation. Bowing to their will, the former CEO announced that he’d quit his job, although he would remain on the company’s board of directors. Commenting on the resignation, the founder said: “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors’ request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

While Kalanick is intimately linked with the culture of the company, it’s anyone’s guess how his absence will change Uber.

UK SMEs optimistic about their future despite Brexit

From market uncertainties to worries about their talent pipeline, startups have repeatedly voiced their concerns about the UK’s divorce from the EU. Nonetheless, despite these fears it seems as if British SMEs are still feeling quite bullish about the future.

Having surveyed 250 small business leaders, the DAS UK Group, the insurance company, revealed that 55% expected to grow their business over the next two to three years. The research also unearthed the fact that only 9% thought they’d be forced to downsize over the same period.

With the negotiations surrounding Britain’s conscious uncoupling from Europe kicking off this week, here’s hoping that this optimism is well-placed.

Autonomous vehicles to be tested on UK public roads

Given that several Silicon Valley tech behemoths are working on self-driving car projects, it seems it’s only a matter of time before autonomous vehicles become common place. And it may be a bit sooner than you think with a project to put driverless cars on public roads having received the green light.

The trials are part of UK Autodrive, the consortium of businesses, local authorities and academic institutions aiming to bring self-driving cars onto the roads of the UK. Car companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata Motors are backing the project by providing it with technology and expertise. The government is also supporting the scheme as a part of its push to establish the UK as one of the leading lights of the sector.

Having successfully completed a series of tests in Nuneaton, the scheme will start to introduce the cars in segregated areas in Milton Keys and Coventry later on in 2017 before letting them take to the open road in 2018.

Given a similar initiative is already underway in Greenwich and in February Volvo began searching for drivers for its own London-based project, it certainly seems that the driverless car industry is gearing up for something huge. 

Klarna has been given a banking licence

It may have been a story almost two years in the making but the news that Klarna has been given a banking licence still sent shockwaves throughout the financial sector this week. Having first applied for the licence 20 months ago, the Swedish fintech startup will now be able to offer traditional services like issuing payment cards and salary accounts.

And given that Klarna already has over 60 million customers, it may be time for traditional banks to be worried. “They’re a bigger threat than most fintech companies,” said Claire Ingram, researcher at Stockholm School of Economics, speaking with Svenska Dagbladet, the Swedish daily newspaper “[Millennials already] believe more in digital companies like Google and Facebook than in traditional financial institutions. So they could be trusting Klarna more than the big banks.”

Klarna has already revolutionised payments across borders and we look forward to seeing how the banking license will help the unicorn shake up the banking sector.

Eric Johansson
Eric Johansson

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