Just before Christmas, it was announced that Travis Kalanick, the founder and former CEO of Uber, will be leaving that company’s board of directors at the end of this month. Additionally, Kalanick has reportedly sold all of his Uber stock for roughly $2.7 billion.
In the press announcement, Kalanick said “it seems like the right moment for me to focus on my current business and philanthropic pursuits.” One of those business pursuits is CloudKitchens, his secretive startup that does exactly as its name implies; it creates physical kitchen infrastructure locations for delivery-only restaurants. These restaurants can be delivery extensions of existing brands, or virtual restaurants that exist only within a delivery app. CloudKitchens is even creating their own virtual restaurants.
Kalanick’s new calling, however, created a conflict of interest for him and Uber given that Uber Eats has its own potential cloud kitchen and virtual restaurant ambitions. So Kalanick’s departure from Uber’s board isn’t a huge surprise.
As for why Kalanick sold off all his shares in the company he helped build into the juggernaut it is today, who knows exactly what message he is trying to send. Has he lost faith in Uber, which continues to hemorrhage money? Did Kalanick pull a Steve Jobs in selling off shares from the company that ousted him?
What we are more interested in here at The Spoon is what Kalanick is going to do next with CloudKitchens now that he has a bunch of cash and time to focus on it. The cloud/ghost/dark kitchen landscape is one that we watch closely (check out our market map on the topic). CloudKitchens already reportedly raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, so money wasn’t necessarily an issue for the startup. Especially considering that rivals like Kitchen United and Virtual Kitchen Co. have only raised $50 million and $15 million respectively.
Kalanick has proven his ability to ruthlessly build an empire before. Freed from any ties to Uber, we’ll now be watching to see how quickly Kalanick expands CloudKitchens. Will he relax the CIA-like levels of secrecy around the company? Will he expand rapidly across the country? Will he launch any new innovations? How will he spur his rivals into action?
One thing is for certain; we’ll be writing a lot about Kalanick and cloud kitchens in the coming year.