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The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Brad Stone is senior executive editor of global technology at Bloomberg News and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. He has covered Silicon Valley for more than fifteen years.
Dean Temple is a voice talent and audiobook narrator.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
Stone brings a big dose of truth serum to the marvels and machinations of the sharing economy and its founders...The Upstarts is rich with inside details.-- "Forbes"
Offers a balanced view of these companies' spectacular rise: On one side, the disruption ushered in a new era of freedom regarding the services people use; on the other, the start-ups' growth represents 'the overweening hubris of the techno-elite.'-- "New York Times"
Succeeds is in providing the reader with the visceral experience of the start-up enterprise.-- "Washington Post"
The most detailed investigation yet into the early years of these Silicon Valley prodigies...an entertaining and well-crafted account.-- "Financial Times (London)"
Timely, clear-eyed, and crisply written, The Upstarts is a must for readers seeking insight into how ideas and eventually businesses can succeed or fail in a technology-rich landscape.-- "Amazon.com" --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- Publication Date : January 31, 2017
- File Size : 34849 KB
- Publisher : Little, Brown and Company (January 31, 2017)
- ASIN : B01HZFB3X0
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 401 pages
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #117,111 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Is this the sharing economy?
“Airbnb and Uber didn’t spawn ‘the sharing economy,'” Stone writes, “. . . so much as usher in a new trust economy, helping regular folks to negotiate transportation and accommodations in the age of ubiquitous internet access.” Even before going public, the two companies together were valued at close to $100 billion. There is no evidence that their principals have shared any appreciable portion of that wealth. Nor does it seem consistent with a gentle label such as “the sharing economy” for Uber to resist every effort to classify its drivers as employees and provide them with benefits.
Stone contends that “Together, these companies have come to embody a new business code that has forced local governments to question their faithfulness to the regulatory regimes of the past.” In the course of doing so, both companies have engaged in bare-knuckle fights with local governments around the world. For the most part, they’ve won. But not always. Stone tells the fascinating story, blow by blow.
The five men behind the two companies’ rise
Stone’s book is tightly focused on Uber and Airbnb, with digressions about the many companies that have tried to compete with them, with only meager success for the most part. In fact, in a sense, the book is about the two companies’ cofounders, and especially the two young men who have emerged as CEOs. Travis Kalanick runs Uber. Brian Chesky is at the helm at Airbnb. However, the two companies’ success may well be due as much to the contributions of their cofounders: Garrett Camp in the case of Uber, and Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk in the case of Airbnb. All are featured in Stone’s account. They’re all billionaires now, many times over.
The trouble with Uber and Airbnb
Stone makes clear that many of the problems that have surfaced in the news media about Uber have been caused by its CEO. “Chronically combative” (and sometimes abusive), Travis Kalanick continues to generate negative publicity, seemingly on almost a daily basis. Here’s one recent example that emerged in The Guardian—an article about Kalanick’s abusive treatment of one of his company’s drivers. And here’s an even more recent report about the company’s use of software to evade police in at least five American cities and six other countries. These are not isolated instances of controversy surrounding the company: trouble seems to follow Uber with disturbing regularity.
Many of these reports reflect Kalanick’s combative personality, but there are other problems as well. For instance, Anna Weiner wrote in the Feb. 28, 2017 New Yorker about recent reports of sexual harassment at the company: “Uber is, in some ways, a model villain. The company has long inspired Schadenfreude. It has been accused of mishandling customer reports of sexual harassment by drivers.”
A shared reputation for aggression
As a result of the frequent, high-profile accounts of Uber’s misbehavior, Airbnb tends to be regarded more highly. But Stone argues that CEO Brian Chesky is frequently as aggressive as Kalanick. Neither has shied away from blatantly breaking local laws or confronting local officials. “Reflecting on the years 2011 through 2013,” Stone notes, “a person might find it difficult to conclude that one company was the more ethical operator . . . Both CEOs seized the tremendous opportunities before them with steely determination, pausing just long enough to turn around the repair some of the carnage they left in their wake.” Stone adds, “in the end, there emerged an unavoidable fact: Chesky was every bit the warrior Travis Kalanick was. He believed so much in the promise of his company that he was going to fight for every inch of territory.” Both companies racked up so many victories against local officials because their services had come to be regarded as essential by so many residents—and the high-priced lobbyists they both hired managed to mobilize so much support that local officials were forced to back down.
A final assessment
After cataloguing a litany of offenses by both companies, Stone relents in the end. “Both Travis Kalanick and Brian Chesky had made big promises: to eliminate traffic, improve the livability of our cities, and give people more time and more authentic experiences. If these promises are kept, the results might well be worth the mishaps and mistakes that occurred during their journeys; perhaps they’ll even be worth the enormous price paid by the disrupted.” Not to mention that $100 billion the two companies’ founders and investors have amassed.
About the author
Brad Stone is a senior executive at Bloomberg News in San Francisco. The Upstarts is his third nonfiction book. The second was the bestseller The Everything Store about founder Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon.com.
But what’s the post-publication news about Uber? In no particular order: the self-driving unit of Google (Waymore) has sued Uber for $2.6 billion, claiming Uber stole trade secrets; London has decided not to renew the company’s operating license; Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick resigned from his CEO’s job; Uber’s announced losses $708 million in the first quarter and $645 million in the second; Uber admitted long-term use of a faulty methodology to calculate driver commissions, which shortchanged these so-called contractors by millions of dollars; a former Uber engineer created a sensation when her thoughtful blog post described how the company tolerates sexism and harassment; Benchmark, a major venture capital firm and one of Uber’s largest and earliest investors, sued Kalanick, claiming he obtained control of several seats on the board of directors by withholding information on company operations; and the Justice Department is investigating Uber’s use of Greybar, a software program that helped its drivers evade local regulators, to determine if the mere operation of Greybar broke any criminal laws.
So what are the implications of these news developments for THE UPSTARTS? Well, for Airbnb, the news is simply a continuation of the story that Brad Stone tells. That story, in brief, is: the company started in 2007 when CEO Brian Chesky, a broke furniture designer, decided to make a few bucks on the side by offering his apartment as a crash pad for young conventioneers who couldn’t afford hotel rooms; Airbnb is now an enormous worldwide success and has more rooms to rent than Marriott and Hilton combined; the company sees tours as its next great service and business; and the company and its customers, through its online rating and vetting systems, cannot eliminate the risks posed by creeps.
And how about Uber? Well, all but the misanthropes among us (and maybe some Bernie Sanders’s voters) like to read success stories. And Stone’s story about Uber is a new-wave Silicon-Valley archetype that shows how an aggressive and combative CEO (who is not really a tech geek) and his company transformed a hidebound industry. But in Stone’s telling, everything sordid about Uber is subsumed in this success story. This makes Stone’s work seem dated, since Uber in 2017 is an outrageous tale of recurring scandal, deeply flawed culture, and significant business setbacks. IMHO, THE UPSTARTS needs another chapter, which Stone might entitle 2017: The **** hits the fan.
Better for those who want to learn about Airbnb.
Top reviews from other countries
Ultimately, the book has left me more informed about the debate involving Uber and Airbnb, but no more enlightened as to how I feel about it.