Last week, ahead of WWDC, there was a ripple of news when Axios discovered that Bozoma Saint John — one of the more noticeable execs at the company for being a woman of color, who led an Apple Music demo at the previous year’s WWDC to some acclaim — was leaving Apple. Now TechCrunch has learned where she’s landing: she’s going to Uber.
We received the news via a tip, and have confirmed the appointment through multiple sources at Uber. The company, we understand, views the appointment as important in helping “turn the tide on recent issues.”
As for what role she will be taking, that’s something we’re still trying to figure out. We understand that Uber will be making more details public later. Saint John’s track record is in marketing — most recently at Apple but also with a long stint at Pepsi, among other places. [Update: she’s Uber’s new Chief Brand Officer, the company announced later.]
The appointment is a key move for Uber that could help shore up confidence in the company both internally and externally as it fights to justify its $70 billion valuation by investors.
Uber has been under fire for months for its management practices and company culture. Some critics and competitors have looked to drive business away from the company with a #deleteuber campaign (which has been working to some extent).
In terms of executive news, most of it in the last six months has been about departures rather than hires. Those who have left Uber in recent times have included the VP of maps and business platform Brian McClendon, president Jeff Jones, AI lead Gary Marcus, communications SVP Rachel Whetstone, VP of global vehicle programs Sherif Marakby, VP of product Ed Baker, SVP of engineering Amit Singhal and self-driving car head Anthony Levandowski.
Saint John, who had been head of global and consumer marketing for iTunes and Apple Music, was a surprise hit at last year’s WWDC conference. Her charismatic appearance on stage not only gave the dad-joke peppered event a little more oomph, but it also underscored a bigger conversation we’ve been having in the tech industry about diversity, strong role models and which companies have been taking a leadership position in that area.
Uber’s record on diversity is not brilliant — but as we have pointed out it’s not the worst, either — and hiring Saint John speaks to how this continues to evolve.
Regardless of whether she takes a marketing role or something else, Saint John coming on board is part of Uber’s efforts to reposition itself as a different kind of company than it has been in the past.
That repositioning has been ongoing. Just yesterday the company announced a new hire, Frances Frei, an academic from Harvard Business School, taking a new role as SVP of leadership and strategy. There is also a report coming soon with the results of an investigation led by former Attorney General Eric Holder into the company’s management culture — which was spurred by allegations of sexism and other criticisms of company culture.
Amidst the bad news, Uber continues to see growth. In the first quarter of this year, revenues were up 18 percent over the previous quarter to $3.4 billion while losses were $708 million, down from over $900 million the quarter before. Between Q3 and Q4 of last year, Uber grew by 74 percent. (Note: seasonal fluctuations — Q4 is the holiday season — are part of the reason for this drastic shift, and Uber has not released year-on-year figures.)