You know Ashton Kutcher the actor and husband of Mila Kunis, but are you as familiar with Ashton Kutcher the tech entrepreneur and buddy to former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick?
If you haven’t already, get ready to meet the latter. In an interview on “The Howard Stern Show” Wednesday, Kutcher addressed Kalanick’s removal from the company he founded in 2009, in which the actor invested “probably a couple million dollars.” (It was at an “early” point in the company’s history, some time after hearing about the idea on “a party bus” with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.)
Despite that investment, and what he described as a friendship with Kalanick, Kutcher seemed unaware of the finer points of the former CEO’s fall from grace. When asked how he felt about the news, Kutcher responded, “I’m conflicted.”
“I’m 100 percent certain there were mistakes made and he would cop to the fact that he made mistakes and did things that he maybe shouldn’t have done,” the actor began.
“But at a certain point, I feel like we’re in a society today that is so fast to judge people, and that we have to realize people make mistakes, and you have to let people learn from their mistakes. But I don’t know the extent of the internal damage, so I can’t really comment, because I don’t really know.”
To refresh, Kalanick resigned his post this week after Uber shareholders demanded a change in leadership in the wake of a series of scandals that included a hashtag, #DeleteUber. The company’s problems have involved charges of rampant sexual harassment across all levels of its workforce, an intellectual property challenge, Kalanick’s hotheaded retort to an Uber driver’s concerns and a history of less-than-satisfying responses to charges that it has profited off calamity and political strife.
Kutcher, who founded a venture capital company called A-Grade in 2011, seemed unfamiliar with many of those issues. He defended his friend Kalanick, who recently suffered a devastating loss to his family, saying that “without a guy like him, the company wouldn’t be where it is.”
And if it were up to him, Kutcher probably wouldn’t have booted Kalanick from his top spot.
“I know there were cultural shortfalls within the company that happened along the way. I don’t know that removing him is the best answer, but I think, you know, optically, things have to happen like that sometimes,” the actor said.