American businessman Travis Kalanick is best known as the Co-Founder and former Chief Executive Officer of Uber, the ride-hailing firm that exploded into one of Silicon Valley's most successful companies. Born in 1976, Kalanick learned to code in middle school, later dropping out of college to start his first tech company at the age of 22. Since then, Kalanick has established himself as a serial entrepreneur with the golden touch. Today, Uber serves more than 101 million users each month and is valued at more than $85 billion. In 2017, Kalanick stepped down as Uber's CEO, and he left its board two years later. Currently, he serves as CEO of City Storage Systems, a real estate development company. Since 2018, Kalanick has also served on an advisory board for NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s plan to build a futuristic "mega city" in the desert.
A Los Angeles native, Kalanick attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied computer engineering and business economics. He was also a Theta Xi fraternity member. Unlike many of his UCLA classmates, Kalanick lived at home during college, substituting parties and football games for the opportunity to earn money as a college student. He started his first venture as a freshman at UCLA, launching an on-campus SAT tutoring business for high school students. Each Saturday morning, he would put on a white shirt and a tie and teach a class called “1500 and Over.” "The first person I tutored went up by 400 points," he bragged. This was taking place in the late 1990s, at a time when the worlds of tech and business were colliding with spectacular results. Answering the call to fame and fortune, as many of his Silicon Valley peers did, Kalanick dropped out of UCLA his senior year, in 1998, to join six classmates developing one of the web's first search engines, Scour.net.
Today, Kalanick's name is spoken with reverential tones amongst the budding UCLA entrepreneurs hoping to follow in his footsteps. As a much sought-after speaker, Kalanick agreed to return to his old stomping grounds in 2015. This visit included an interview by the UCLA Newsroom, which asked about the university's influence on the executive's approach to business. "UCLA taught me how to think like an engineer, how to break problems into pieces and put it all back together," he said. "Everything I do in business goes back to that core problem-solving rigor that I got exposed to in the engineering curriculum."
Following this interview, Kalanick participated in a Q&A at UCLA's Royce Hall for an audience of at least 1,200 aspiring business leaders. Kalanick, who was interviewed on stage by another UCLA alum, Susan Feldman, co-founder of the retail site One Kings Lane, talked about the importance of prioritizing the problems to be solved and being “fierce about details.” He then collected the Entrepreneurial Achievement Award from the UCLA Venture Capital Fund, adding to his growing list of awards and recognitions.