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The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World Hardcover – January 31, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of February 2017: Brad Stone has a gift for unwrapping the mythology around a company's origins and making its actual origins—and growth and flubs and pivot points—far more fascinating than the mythology ever could be. In The Upstarts, Stone tackles the genesis of Airbnb and Uber, two companies that have woven themselves into the daily lives of people around the globe in less than ten years. Too many books spotlight a company's wise decisions and business victories, making success seem almost inevitable. In contrast, Stone gives Uber's and Airbnb's mistakes as much room on the page as its scrappy triumphs, allowing a far more complex story to build. Interwoven among the highlights and lowlights are innovation incubators, dirty tricks, desperation among VC investors to not miss the Next Big Thing, competitors' bright ideas, and the strikingly different personalities of the two companies' young leaders. But this is a book without an ending, because Airbnb and Uber are still evolving, making their long-term effect on their industries hard to predict. 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. —Adrian Liang, The Amazon Book Review
Praise for The Upstarts
One of Amazon's Top Ten Books of February 2017
"Brad Stone's The Upstarts reads like a detective story: A page turning who-did-it on the creation of billion dollar fortunes and the ruthless murder of traditional businesses. No single book will tell you more about what life feels like inside companies like Airbnb and Uber as they grow from mere ideas into merciless machines for innovation, riches and unease. The sweat. The stress. The power highs of new instant fortunes. It's all here. You won't be able to put The Upstarts down. And when you finally do, you'll look at your own company and career in a totally fresh way."―Joshua Cooper Ramo, author of The Seventh Sense
"In The Upstarts, Brad Stone has vividly captured the cultural and economic upheaval brought about by the latest generation of Internet superpowers. His book is a magnificent expose of how companies like Uber and Airbnb came to be, the people that profited and lost out along the way and the ramifications that this technology will have on the world for decades to come. Stone remains the preeminent chronicler of the Internet Age and a master story teller."―Ashlee Vance, author of Elon Musk
"Brad Stone gives us a lively, fascinating picture of the new new thing in technology - startups like Uber and Airbnb that are disrupting old businesses across the world. He provides a much needed glimpse into the companies that fail as well as the ones that make it big. And he points to the broad policy issues raised by these new technologies, which are surely no fun for the people whose lives are being disrupted."―Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World and host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS"
"With precision, wit, and insight, Brad Stone tells the tale of two very different CEOs whose skills, innovations and willingness to pursue a totally crazy idea toppled two very different industries. No one in business today can afford to miss this compelling tale of trust, technology, and very big piles of loot."―Steven Levy, author of In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives
"Over the last few years, Silicon Valley has become the new Wall Street. Brad Stone introduces us to the new tech Masters of the Universe, a collection of characters that are just as insatiable as the robber barons of finance, and even more entertaining."―Rana Faroohar, author of Makers and Takers
"Stone (The Everything Store) turns his attention to the sharing economy in this dual portrait of two of the fastest growing startups...At both Uber, the ride-sharing app, and Airbnb, the homestay rental platform, Stone finds commonality among the CEOs, who lead their respective companies with an idealistic vision and aggressive business practices... Solid and the sheer magnitude of the book's subjects demands attention."―Publishers Weekly
"A richly researched and highly readable narrative that provides additional layers of insight by weaving in contrasting stories of competing companies that failed."―Walter Isaacson, New York Times Book Review
"A fun, briskly told narrative... 'The Upstarts' is not the end of the story but an excellent history of the beginning."―Alex Tabarrok, Wall Street Journal
"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"―George Anders, Forbes
"Technology writer Brad Stone chronicles [Uber and Airbnb's] swift rise to the corporate stratosphere, juxtaposing visionary zeal with the often deep impacts they've left in their wakes... The book is a timely reminder that pushing the digital realm into the physical can disrupt communities as well as the competition."―Nature Magazine
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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.