The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World

Ten years ago, the idea of getting into a stranger’s car, or walking into a stranger’s home, would have seemed bizarre and dangerous, but today it’s as common as ordering a book online. Uber and Airbnb are household names: redefining neighbourhoods, challenging the way governments regulate business and changing the way we travel.In the spirit of iconic Silicon Valley reneg...

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Title:The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World
Author:Brad Stone
Rating:
ISBN:0593076354
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:384 pages

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World Reviews

  • Laura Valentine
    Feb 11, 2017

    At times the author seems a little too in awe of the companies he covers, rather than an outsider looking clinically at them (especially when covering the legal issues).

  • Chris Lawson
    Jan 26, 2017

    Journeys Marked By Nonstop Controversy.

    In THE UPSTARTS, author Brad Stone explores how Uber and Airbnb (and a few other "also-rans") drastically increased their business (and market value). This book caught my attention because both of the two big firms in this book are located pretty closed to me. I was vaguely familiar with the history of each company, but didn't really know much detail. Well, I know a LOT more now.

    What's really amazing is how quickly Uber and Airbnb blasted-off: "How did they

    Journeys Marked By Nonstop Controversy.

    In THE UPSTARTS, author Brad Stone explores how Uber and Airbnb (and a few other "also-rans") drastically increased their business (and market value). This book caught my attention because both of the two big firms in this book are located pretty closed to me. I was vaguely familiar with the history of each company, but didn't really know much detail. Well, I know a LOT more now.

    What's really amazing is how quickly Uber and Airbnb blasted-off: "How did they maneuver past entrenched, politically savvy incumbents to succeed where others had failed and build large companies in a staggeringly short amount of time?"

    The author notes something really interesting about both Uber and Airbnb. They each have huge market value, but don't really have many assets: "Airbnb can be considered the biggest hotel company on the planet, yet it possesses no actual hotel rooms. Uber is among the world’s largest car services, yet it doesn’t employ any professional drivers or own any vehicles."

    Much of the book details the long, bitter fights with regulatory commissions. I did not find these sections terribly interesting, but of course, regulatory battles figure prominently in the history of each firm. (FYI: In my area, San Francisco, the city enacted regulations hugely restricting how often owners can rent out rooms.)

    Especially with Uber, the internal fighting and strategizing plays a big part of the book. The contention with Uber founder Kalanick reminds me a lot of Steve Jobs. The bizarre work atmosphere at Uber in the early years reminds me of Jobs cracking the whip on his elite team at Apple.

    One really zany story regards one of Uber's original managers, Matthew Kochman. He became so fed up with Kalanick that he left behind 50,000 shares of stock. He has ample reason to regret this: "in just a few years, those shares would be worth more than a hundred million dollars."

    As recently as 2010, Uber was puny--just a handful of employees and a score of drivers. Now, some estimates put Uber at $70 billion market capitalization. I had not realized the huge ramp-up in Uber business. In 2014, Uber had UberX in 26 cities. By 2017, Uber was in 500 major cities worldwide.

    Both Uber and Airbnb made early missteps and paid the price in negative publicity. Uber had trouble getting enough drivers to meet wildly changing demand. (This led to the "surge pricing" idea.) I found the story of Uber's "surge pricing" fascinating. For instance, at one point, surge pricing caused massive spikes in the cost of a ride: "After midnight, prices spiked seven times the normal rate in New York and San Francisco. Passengers were paying more than a hundred dollars for relatively short rides."

    Airbnb suffered horrific publicity of a different sort, when a blogger detailed how her home was wrecked by an Airbnb renter. This news spread quickly: "The tech-news sites piled on— Airbnb was bringing strangers together in homes without ensuring a safe experience." Obviously, this was a massive PR issue: "If this host’s home had been vulnerable to such methodical destruction, what could be in store for other people?" (The home-wrecker was later arrested in San Francisco on charges of possession of stolen property.)

    All in all, I found THE UPSTARTS to be an interesting read on the history of two big players. The internal strategizing was fascinating; I thought the bitter fights over regulations was tiresome at times, but I understand the story would not be complete without these chapters. To be honest, I never thought Uber would "win" that regulatory battle, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher.

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  • Aditya Hadi
    Feb 25, 2017

    Tahukah kamu kalau mungkin saat ini tidak akan ada aplikasi Uber bila sang founder tidak menonton film James Bond Casino Royale? Dan mungkin saat ini tidak ada lagi yang mengenal Airbnb jika para foundernya tidak bertindak gila dengan menjual sereal di masa kampanye Presiden Obama?

    Apakah kamu tahu kalau bila tidak ada sebuah hujan salju yang cukup deras sekitar tahun 2012, mungkin tidak akan ada cerita tentang aplikasi pemesanan kendaraan terkenal asal Cina, Didi Chuxing?

    Semua itu bisa kamu temu

    Tahukah kamu kalau mungkin saat ini tidak akan ada aplikasi Uber bila sang founder tidak menonton film James Bond Casino Royale? Dan mungkin saat ini tidak ada lagi yang mengenal Airbnb jika para foundernya tidak bertindak gila dengan menjual sereal di masa kampanye Presiden Obama?

    Apakah kamu tahu kalau bila tidak ada sebuah hujan salju yang cukup deras sekitar tahun 2012, mungkin tidak akan ada cerita tentang aplikasi pemesanan kendaraan terkenal asal Cina, Didi Chuxing?

    Semua itu bisa kamu temukan di dalam buku ini, lengkap dengan bagaimana para founder startup tersebut berjuang menghadapi hadangan regulasi pemerintah, bisnis konvensional terkait, hingga pesaing yang juga berusaha menyerang mereka.

    Seperti biasa, sang penulis Brad Stone menggunakan gaya bercerita yang sangat menarik. Ia hampir selalu mengawali cerita dengan latar belakang para tokoh-tokohnya, yang kemudian dilanjutkan dengan alasan di balik pengambilan tindakan yang dilakukan para tokoh tersebut.

    Saya sendiri mengenal Brad Stone ketika dia menulis The Everything Store, biografi dari Amazon. Dan sejak saat itu, secara tak langsung tulisan-tulisannya seperti membawa pengaruh kepada tulisan saya.

    Kombinasi cara bercerita yang baik, dengan kisah para startup yang mengubah dunia, tentu menghasilkan sesuatu yang layak kita baca.

  • Hallgrimur Oddsson
    Feb 23, 2017

    Fín bók. Frásögnin er nokkuð hlutlaus (þó ég sé alveg tilbúinn að láta sannfæra mig um annað) og þetta er mjög ítarleg og lifandi yfirferð yfir sögu Uber og Airbnb og deilurnar sem fyrirtækin (eða öllu heldur tæknin) hafa átt í og komið af stað. Það sem mér finnst Brad Stone, höfundur bókarinnar, gera sérstaklega vel er að setja sögu fyrirtækjanna í samhengi við ytra umhverfi sitt á hverjum tíma. Fyrirtækin tvö eiga jú breyttum ytri skilyrðum, þ.e. bættri tækni, allt að þakka, og gerir þeim klei

    Fín bók. Frásögnin er nokkuð hlutlaus (þó ég sé alveg tilbúinn að láta sannfæra mig um annað) og þetta er mjög ítarleg og lifandi yfirferð yfir sögu Uber og Airbnb og deilurnar sem fyrirtækin (eða öllu heldur tæknin) hafa átt í og komið af stað. Það sem mér finnst Brad Stone, höfundur bókarinnar, gera sérstaklega vel er að setja sögu fyrirtækjanna í samhengi við ytra umhverfi sitt á hverjum tíma. Fyrirtækin tvö eiga jú breyttum ytri skilyrðum, þ.e. bættri tækni, allt að þakka, og gerir þeim kleift að bjóða þá þjónustu sem þau gera. Snjallsímar, Apple Store & 4G eru lykilatriði sem hafa þróast gríðarlega á þeim skamma tíma sem liðinn er frá stofnun Uber & Airbnb, og staða þeirra á hverjum tíma er sett í samhengi við þessa þróun.

    Í bókinni er farið nokkuð ítarlega yfir þær deilur sem fyrirtækin hafa átt í gagnvart stjórnvöldum, notendum og einnig innanhúss. Stone var augljóslega með aðgang að fjölda fólks beggja megin borðsins. Eins og nýlegar fréttir sýna (í febrúar 2017), þá halda umdeild mál áfram að poppa upp og munu eflaust gera áfram. Þótt bókin geti varla talist tæmandi um einstök mál, þá útskýrir hún vel stefnu og stemningu fyrirtækjanna, sem er sérstaklega áhugaverð í tilfelli Uber sem tekur jafnan nokkuð harða og óvægna stefnu í þeim málum sem upp koma.

    Ég hef lesið bókina The Everything Store eftir sama höfund, sem fjallar um Amazon, og ég get líka mælt með henni.

  • Ethan Chan
    Feb 10, 2017

    An account by Brad Stone on the sharing economy giants Uber and Airbnb. It does paint a more balanced picture of the actions of Uber in contrast to the over sensationalized negative media coverage on them. Brad usually gives both accounts of the story and let's the reader decide. Brad also gives a blow by blow account of the important moments that defined each companies history in a fair way. One big voice that was missing was the people who have been displaced or affected by this shift in the e

    An account by Brad Stone on the sharing economy giants Uber and Airbnb. It does paint a more balanced picture of the actions of Uber in contrast to the over sensationalized negative media coverage on them. Brad usually gives both accounts of the story and let's the reader decide. Brad also gives a blow by blow account of the important moments that defined each companies history in a fair way. One big voice that was missing was the people who have been displaced or affected by this shift in the economy.

  • Kevin Schulthies
    Feb 16, 2017

    Great walkthrough from environmental scenarios, to the thinking of the teams of people (and many times just one person's insights to a problem) that turned a simple issue or idea into mega billion dollar companies. It was so fascinating to follow it through. Even crazier is to think of the breakneck speed these companies were forming and making a difference. Many times they hit so many challenges, from environmental, to relational (people of the old world fight hard to keep things the way they w

    Great walkthrough from environmental scenarios, to the thinking of the teams of people (and many times just one person's insights to a problem) that turned a simple issue or idea into mega billion dollar companies. It was so fascinating to follow it through. Even crazier is to think of the breakneck speed these companies were forming and making a difference. Many times they hit so many challenges, from environmental, to relational (people of the old world fight hard to keep things the way they were) and it was awesome to see how they pushed through that. The "Persistence is omnipotent" quote really applies (as does all success really) The flipping back and forth between a few of the companies, helped the reader not get too board in so many of the details, but also conveyed the sense of these things were happening in real time, multiple companies, around the world things are shifting at super fast pace. Much like the movie "The Social Network" things move fast, things have a ton of details, and other times the magic was in some super simple moments, or ideas. Great read or listen to if someone wants to get inspired to be involved in the new economies, to make a dent in the universe, or take heart that you too could be radically different in just a few short years if you push through on an idea.

  • Andrew
    Feb 14, 2017

    *3.5 stars*

    I was a little worried about parallel narrative tracks about two different companies, but it works. Two fast-paced startup stories told from their founders' perspectives. I think the Uber story is more interesting, but both of them demonstrate just how quickly companies go from zero to sixty and beyond these days.

  • Rob Woodbridge
    Feb 09, 2017

    I love this type of book typically but the way Stone wove this story was amazing. One of, if not the, best "how did these companies emerge seemingly over night to become household names and change the world" books out there. If you want to know what it takes to build a company of great importance - from the type of human it takes to lead and the effort it takes to succeed- read it. Loved it.

  • Sid
    Feb 22, 2017

    Imagine a world in which self driving cars potentially eliminates big city grid lock. Now imagine a world where you arrive to a new country and our treated to the most authentic and local experience. These are just a few of the grand visions that the CEO's of Uber and Airbnb are looking to implement down the road.

    Their meteoric rise from startup to being valued in the billions, is nothing short of remarkable. Add to the litany of regulations and protesters that attempted to block them, makes th

    Imagine a world in which self driving cars potentially eliminates big city grid lock. Now imagine a world where you arrive to a new country and our treated to the most authentic and local experience. These are just a few of the grand visions that the CEO's of Uber and Airbnb are looking to implement down the road.

    Their meteoric rise from startup to being valued in the billions, is nothing short of remarkable. Add to the litany of regulations and protesters that attempted to block them, makes their success story all the more impressive.

    Brad Stone has written a detailed account of two of the defining companies of the Silicon Valley. Their story will leave you inspired and looking forward to a brave and empowered new world, where you, the customer comes first!

  • Athan Tolis
    Feb 16, 2017

    I read this at warp speed. Like, I read it in the tube, I read it in a taxi (bad idea,) I read it while code was compiling. I had to know what happens next.

    Did it address any of the big issues about the sharing economy?

    Let’s put it this way: the author is very clearly aware of all the questions that come up. The narrative is always set in the context of the impact the sharing economy is having on all of us: those who work in it, those who share in it (and often would not have access to some rath

    I read this at warp speed. Like, I read it in the tube, I read it in a taxi (bad idea,) I read it while code was compiling. I had to know what happens next.

    Did it address any of the big issues about the sharing economy?

    Let’s put it this way: the author is very clearly aware of all the questions that come up. The narrative is always set in the context of the impact the sharing economy is having on all of us: those who work in it, those who share in it (and often would not have access to some rather basic services without it), those who invest in it, those who are fighting it, those who win from it and those who stand to lose.

    But “The Upstarts” is not an economics book or a sociology text.

    If you’re buying it to find out what’s about to happen to the hotel industry in North America (my take: 5% of the world’s population / 42% of the world’s hotel rooms before AirBnB came out of nowhere, you do the math), you’ve come to the wrong place. If you ordered the book to look for an analysis of how much unpaid tax is being transferred from heretofore protected cab drivers to the city hall and if the rest of us are left better off or worse off, again, you’ve come to the wrong place. Funky observations about how in London AirBnb is threatened with a ceiling on days while in New York it’s having to deal with a floor are conspicuous through their absence.

    The book does not particularly dwell on the long-term either. The rather rude fact that all money ever made from taxis has historically come from exercising market power? Look elsewhere. Uber and AirBnb’s prospects of dominating markets with only limited network effects? Pass.

    There’s good news here, though:

    If you bought “The Upstarts” to get to know Travis Kalanick and Brian Chesky, if you’d like to ride with them from their ramen noodle eating days to the David Guetta-DJ’d super parties, you have come to the right place. You could not possibly be in better hands than Brad Stone’s.

    If this book (which, let’s admit it, is a business book) had been written as a novel, it would still be pretty awesome. You get fed new faces only when they help develop the story and they’re woven into the narrative at a pace that will not leave you guessing. There is significant character development here too, as you witness young idealists transform into steely capitalists and, if you’re paying attention, there’s a bonus waiting for you in the shape of an mini-course in entrepreneurship!

    The author is not afraid to tell you why these guys are doing the winning, but he does not want to you take his word. He does the necessary work to get the view out of somebody else’s mouth. The director of Y Combinator, for example, leaves you in no doubt that the founders of AirBnb succeeded for one reason only: they were “cockroaches” who refused to die. So they kept it alive long enough on their own, until their “world is my oyster, I’m busy on a million better things” Harvard-grad, former teenage spamming industry millionaire friend deigned to turn his magic to their project. Significantly, the author is NOT making it up as he goes, he knows it all and he knows it first-hand. He’s on first-name basis with everybody in the industry that counts and he has not been shy about getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth, doing his own “cockroach” thing and stalking the young CEOs to the other side of the globe if that is what it will take to get an audience.

    I’m sure a lot of the detail is how “the good guys” see it (for example, do we really believe it was Travis who broke up with his girlfriend?) but the point is Brad Stone is only ever quoting first-hand here. He really is the man to write this story and he tells it in a style that would leave Quentin Tarantino breathless, jumping from Uber to AirBnb, via Zimride and Didi and all the regulators and competitors too. “Jumping” as in jumping and “jumping” as in tracking them all down to talk to them and giving them their chance to tell their story. It’s tremendous stuff. It never sags, it never lets up and it brings it all the way up to a couple hours before publication.

    Anything I didn’t like? Actually, yes: how about editing out every single instance of “this turned out to be the best investment he / she / it had ever made!” Not only does it get tiring, but most of these guys have not yet taken profit, have they? The story is compelling enough on its own, besides.