The Fictionalized Viral Uber Driver
On Dead Cat: Three TV shows tell the stories of WeWork, Theranos & Uber
On the Dead Cat podcast, Tom Dotan, Katie Benner, and I talk about Apple’s WeCrashed, Hulu’s The Dropout, and SHOWTIME’s Super Pumped — the TV shows about Adam Neumann, Elizabeth Holmes, and Travis Kalanick respectively. (Spoilers: If you believe that real events that have already transpired can be spoiled.)
This morning, I emailed Fawzi Kamel, the Uber driver whose confrontation with then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick went viral when I published it at Bloomberg.
The video captures Kalanick — at the peak of the scrutiny around his leadership — telling Kamel, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”
I wanted to catch up with Kamel to see if he had seen himself on TV.
He’s a character in the SHOWTIME television series Super Pumped, played by actor Mousa Hussein Kraish.
Kamel called me back: He hadn’t watched the show.
The fictional version of Kamel gets rid of his car, consults with a lawyer and his wife, and then posts the video online.
The real world Fawzi Kamel was far bolder.
Kamel was still driving for Uber when he sent me an email with the subject line “About uber.” He wrote me from his iPhone on Feb. 22, 2017:
I started driving for uber in 2011
So I know the company from the beginning and I can introduce you to drivers who started in 2010 under Ryan grave . We all know the dirty uber thief .
Last Sunday , I picked up Travis and I told him that non of the drivers trust him anymore . Cause he cheated the drivers who promoted his idea at the beginning and made him who he is today
He got mad and slammed my car door
The point I'm trying to make is the answer of uber CEO after I told him that I Bankrupt because of him . Didn't seem as an answer of a CEO
Anyway , I have all this in video , be my guest to see it
I just want it to go viral , cause the CEO is an asshole arrogant peace a shit
I replied 13 minutes later with only four words: “Send me the video!”
After some emails back and forth, Kamel sent me the video under the condition that I couldn’t publish it without his permission. (Unlike on TV, he hadn’t consulted a lawyer and wasn’t married.)
I watched it and knew that the video would captivate a world obsessed with Uber’s brash CEO.
I spent the next couple of days trying to convince Kamel to let me publish the video at Bloomberg, where I was covering the Uber beat.
Kamel was a hard man to reach — in large part because he was still driving for Uber to earn a living.
Eventually, Kamel gave me the greenlight — even though Bloomberg couldn’t pay him for the video.
It went viral almost immediately.
Kamel told me over the phone this morning that I was the only reporter who had replied to his message about the video.
I learned this morning that the dashcam video that he’d recorded wasn’t actually stored on his camera. So he’d had to go pay a company $60 for access to the video after a friend of his convinced him that it was worth the trouble.
Ultimately, Kalanick and Kamel sat down, and Kalanick paid him $200,000 as a make-good. The money helped Kamel pay off some of his debts.
Kamel is clear about one thing: He’s not driving for Uber anymore. “I will never drive again,” he says.
I offered to share my SHOWTIME password with him, but he didn’t seem interested.
Instead, I sent Kamel a cell phone video of the Super Pumped episode, so Kamel could at least watch a recording of another man acting out a recording of himself.
These days, Kamel says he’s spending his time buying and selling stocks on Robinhood. He doesn’t hold that company in particularly high regard.
Kamel has actually softened his tone on Kalanick.
“Travis is actually someone — if you confront him — he’s a very good guy to talk to,” Kamel says.
“Firing Travis was a big mistake because if they didn’t fire him, Uber could be way more today,” Kamel says. “That’s all I know.”