Over the last week we've seen Jeff Bezos' Amazon take a bold step into retail, or something, by purchasing Whole Foods and its hundreds of stores for cash. At the same time, months of controversy involving next generation unicorn Uber and founder Travis Kalanick seem to have finally come to something of a conclusion (for now) with the news that Kalanick will resign as CEO.
Even before Kalanick's surprise resignation, which came just days after news broke that the founder would be taking a leave of absence, the events of the past week had me thinking back to a conversation I had last year with former Apple CEO John Sculley.
"(Unlike in the more traditional corporate world), in the high tech world we have 'God-kings' - founders who are CEOs and who are transforming entire industries," Sculley explained to me over the phone. "Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page... you want to give the founders the latitude to take bigger risks."
Sculley went on to praise Bezos specifically for Amazon's string of successes in industries ranging from cloud computing to shoes.
"Jeff has taken these big major high risk moves and he's made them work."
Now, clearly, Bezos and Amazon are embarking on another high risk gamble with Whole Foods that could yield high returns. A definitive God-king type of move.
Kalanick, on the other hand, seems to be a cautionary tale of an aspiring God-king who sought to move mountains but failed to keep his own house in order along the way. While we've heard plenty about the company's great ambitions to transform our lives with self-driving rideshares and flying cars, we've heard just about as much about Uber's toxic culture and sometimes flagrant disregard for the law.
It looks like now Kalanick might be going away for a while. If he is truly deserving of the title of God-king he'll find a way to rise from the ashes of his self-ignited spontaneous combustion and reinvent himself and his legacy. Coming back from failure is actually the main mark of a God-king. Bezos, Musk, Jobs and all the others all faced setbacks and came back stronger than ever before.
There's reason to doubt that Kalanick has it in him to join the ranks of those listed above. In the end, it won't surprise me if his personal legacy winds up being more on par with Tom from MySpace (remember him?).
But then again, it's never wise to doubt the persistence of a God-king, or even one in the making. We shall see.