Anyone fascinated by the rise of Uber – and the broader sharing economy – will enjoy The Upstarts, a new book by Brad Stone. The author examines two ground-breaking companies, Uber and AirBnB, their meteoric rise, and possible scenarios for their untimely demise.
Who would have imagined a decade ago that it would seem normal and sensible to pay a stranger for a ride or to sleep in their spare room for a few nights? The sharing economy has capitalized on the quite recent ability to share information and social cues (such as reviews) to build entirely new forms of business. Stone tells these stories in a gripping way that breathes life into a “business” book and reveals some of the drama behind the scenes.
These new endeavors, perhaps necessarily, are led by visionary entrepreneurs with incredible drive and self-confidence. They push ahead, breaking down barriers or finding ways around them, when others would have paled at the challenges. Upstarts such as Travis Kalanick of Uber and Brian Chesky of Airbnb are changing the way companies do business while taking brazen – perhaps feckless – approaches to legal and ethical issues along the way.
Stone’s new book takes us on a thrilling journey as we follow the paths taken by these two landmark organizations and the people behind them. It’s a wild ride that documents the origins, growth, pivots and setbacks along the way. The author is particularly good at revealing the errors and failures that have helped to shape the companies as much as their successes. He brings life to the various characters; not only the founders but those they must interact with, including regulators, competitors and investors. The dramatically different personalities of the two heads of these companies makes for a brilliant contrast in book that, on the surface, seems to follow two similar stories.
You will meet the new Masters of the Universe, rooted in the technology incubator of Silicon Valley but reaching out with the unlimited passion for growth and success as the robber barons of yesteryear. Like those robber barons, these business leaders have fans that cheer them on as they admire their successes. But also, there is a growing backlash against their methods and their accumulation of wealth, built on the backs of others who provide the actual services these companies depend on. The traditional competitors (i.e. taxi companies and hotels) have been perhaps taken by surprise, but they have been injured and are fighting back.
THE UPSTARTS by Brad Stone. Copyright © 2017 by Brad Stone.