Uber CEO on Brown, Culture Change, Diversity and Flying Cars

Recently, Class of 1991 graduate Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of the ride-hailing company Uber, sat down with Brown President Christina Paxson to discuss manufacturing innovation.

As an undergraduate at Brown, Dara Khosrowshahi ’91 concentrated in bioelectric engineering. But the class on College Hill that ultimately influenced the Uber CEO the most? European Intellectual History. He shared,

The Open Curriculum for me was awesome… I don’t know why I chose that course, and that’s the beautiful thing. It really opened up to me the power of storytelling. And I’ve taken that into working and leadership in companies.

Stories are such incredibly powerful mediums to inspire, to unite, to guide.

In introducing Khosrowshahi, Paxson said that Uber and Brown have “more in common than meets the eye.” Both, she noted, cultivate entrepreneurial thinking, see diversity and inclusion as drivers of innovation, and are creating economic growth in cities.

In the innovation economy, universities like Brown are producing clusters of faculty, researchers and students around very high impact areas of discovery like data science, robotics and brain science… Companies like Uber are becoming magnets for spin-off ideas and startups and research and development and capital — and really paving the way for clustering of innovation.

They also discussed how Uber’s focus on culture change has resulted in more momentum around diversity and inclusion — key drivers, according to Khosrowshahi, of innovation and success for a company that operates in 600 cities around the world.

Next up for Uber? Air taxis. And not just for millionaires. Khosrowshahi said that technology exists that will make flying cars accessible to the mass market in just a few years.

If you want to try out a ride, let me know, because I’m not going first, he said to Paxson.

I’ll go first, she replied. I’ll do it.

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