Why This Philly Tech CEO Just Deleted Uber

Seer Interactive CEO Wil Reynolds wants to send a message about values and human rights.

Wil Reynolds. Image via Twitter.

Wil Reynolds. Image via Twitter.

On Saturday evening, amid protests at airports from PHL to LAX, Wil Reynolds, CEO of the Philly-headquartered digital marketing agency Seer Interactive, deactivated his Uber account and deleted the app from his phone entirely.

Why? Because in the face of crisis — President Donald Trump ordered a divisive ban on refugees and migrants — the ride-hailing company failed to show that it values its workers, Reynolds told me.

On Saturday evening after the New York Taxi Alliance announced a strike in solidarity with protesters at JFK Airport, Uber announced that it would suspend surge pricing. Onlookers read Uber’s alert as an attempt to undermine the protest and advertise a discount. In a frenzy, #deleteUber took off immediately.

And though Uber has released a statement in opposition to the ban, the company’s clumsy maneuvering over the weekend led people to believe that it wouldn’t take a stand.

Reynolds says he took no issue with the company’s surge announcement, but was concerned about its feeble and delayed response to the executive order, a ban that affects so many of the people who work on contract with the company.

“So many of their drivers come from the seven countries where the administration isn’t allowing people in,” Reynolds told me on a call Sunday evening as he walked to an airport protest in San Diego. “As a CEO I would stand up for the people using my platform. It’s time to show solidarity with these workers and not turn your back on them.”

Reynolds, who previously relied on Uber for official company business, says Lyft’s decision to donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years clearly signals that the company is committed to supporting and upholding the country’s values. Uber’s response to compensate affected drivers pro bono over the next three months only came after the pressure.

“I think Uber spoke up because the delete-Uber movement really started to take off. It feels like this is just another time when they looked at the data and realized that this was getting so big that they had to say something,” Reynolds said. And the statement didn’t go far enough for Reynolds, since Uber will only support drivers trying to return to the country and not the greater issue at hand.

We’re at a critical point where every business has to determine what their beliefs and values are, Reynolds said.

“The millennial generation watches these CEOs, and if you’re going to sit there and bury your head in the sand because you’re trying to play both sides of it, that tells your future employees exactly where you lie in situations like these.”

Since Trump’s ban took effect on Friday evening, tech companies like Google, Netflix, Microsoft, and Apple have spoken out against the executive order, some appealing to human rights and others lamenting the toll it’ll take on business operations. Consumer-facing companies like Starbucks and General Electric have come forward, too, but not many.

Reynolds says he ultimately wants people to feel valued and safe in this country. And when those principles are being infringed upon, he sees it as his duty to speak out against it and use his platform.

“A lot of people are thinking ‘What’s the best way for me to not piss anybody off so that I don’t lose my clients or any money?,’ but that’s very different from starting off by leading with what your beliefs and values are,” he said.

As a leader, you have to wake up in the morning and look at people in your company who might not be of your background. Said Reynolds: “You have to ask yourself, what are you doing to make those people feel like you’ve got their back?”

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