Playing Wii Tennis with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick

Photo by thinkpublic

A few years ago, Uber was barely started. Travis is at my house up in the mountains over the holidays, hanging out with me and my family. And he’s palling around with my dad. And my dad says, ‘Hey, let’s play a game of Wii Tennis (Nintendo Wii). And my dad had a Wii at home; considered himself a pretty good tennis player; he’s mildly athletic, used to play in little local tennis tournaments. So Travis is, like, ‘Alright.’ Travis is barely awake yet. And they sit there and start playing this Wii tennis game, and my dad is getting just abused. He’s losing handily to Travis. And Travis is barely moving, he’s barely raising his arm, and my dad is taking tennis swings. And so he’s just exhausted by this.

Travis, in full Princess Bride-style, says, ‘I’m sorry, I gotta confess: I play with my opposite hand.’ And so he switches the controller to his other hand. They start the match again and my dad doesn’t score a single point. He’s just absolutely swinging away and he gets no points in, and half of Travis’s serves are just aces. And my dad is just completely dejected. And so this grin comes over Travis’s face, and he’s, like, ‘Hey, Mr. Sacca, I’ve got something to confess.’ And he starts thumbing over on the controller to the settings page on the Wii to where they have the global high score list and he says, ‘I’m actually tied for second in the global rankings in Wii Tennis.’ He was the second best player in the world in Wii Tennis.

I don’t what the day was when Travis decided he wanted to become one of the best Wii Tennis players in the world while founding what’s gone on to become the biggest transportation company in history, etcetera etectera, but it was in that moment that I saw his true obsession with obtaining a goal. Once he sets something out as a goal for himself, he’ll absolutely accomplish it–at probably any cost.”

—Venture investor Chris Sacca, describing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s drive, in a conversation with Gimlet Media founder Alex Blumberg on an episode of Gimlet’s podcast series StartUp.

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