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

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4.04  ·  Rating details ·  6,687 ratings  ·  507 reviews
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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Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 2nd 2017 by Bantam Press (first published January 31st 2017)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,687 ratings  ·  507 reviews


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Start your review of The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World
Athan Tolis
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business, biography
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
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Vartika
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: hard-copy
Good piece of journalism that includes reporting some lesser known facts about the Upstarts which are less companies more a phenomenon in their own might.

However, a great book for me is one that lends itself to imagination and thought and inspires more thinking and doing. Upstarts is a good narrative of things as they were/ are and the reading experience was more a "ah ok, now I know, ok, interesting". High on gossip value.
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Rob Woodbridge
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
D
May 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was ok - I liked the Amazon one by Brad Stone ( The Everything Store) better, but that could be because I'm more familiar with Amazon (Seattleite, customer, ...employee) and also more curious. Brad Stone did a good job of detailing the tension between Uber and (particularly) Airbnb's sense of mission/doing good and the grittiness, often outright ugliness, required to expand aggressively and gain a foothold in untapped markets. Uber and Travis Kalanick specifically have been getting a l ...more
Conrad
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The upstarts contains a solid telling of the history of AirBNB and Uber. I was pretty intimately involved with the Uber part of the story and I can say that the history there is very much accurate. I was also so focused on Uber at that time that I actually had no idea what was going on at AirBNB. The stories being told together in an intertwined way was actually perfect. These are really exciting times in the worlds of technology and commerce and this book captures that. I don't know what the fu ...more
Laura Valentine
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
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).
Florin Pitea
Nov 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Well written. Thoroughly documented. Informative. Recommended.
Peter Tillman
Eh. I expected to like this, since I liked his Amazon book a lot, and I enjoyed his book talk at the LA Book Festival. But this one didn't really catch my interest, maybe because the companies are more works-in-progress, and the writing was pretty meandering. His topics never seemed to come into focus.

Anyway, the book came due after I was maybe a third of the way in, including a fair bit of skimming. I'll probably call that good. 2.5 stars for what I read. It's not as if I'm short of stuff to re
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Charlene
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, innovation
So far I have not come across a book about a startup that can beat Nick Bilton's Hatching Twitter, but this was pretty good, definitely better than Stone's book about Amazon.

In Upstarts, Stone weaved the parallel stories of airbnb and Uber from their inception to almost current day. Fast paced, very readable, informative, and addictive. Definitely recommend.
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Marks54
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Books about highly successful firms and their often legendary founders and leaders are often of mixed quality and not very interesting. Many are hagiographies that tell the amazing stories of their subjects with clarity and near omniscience, so that the reader recognizes that the success of the firm and its leaders was a necessary development owing little to luck. But readers are likely drawn to such books because they already know the firms are successful due to the blaze of media coverage and ...more
Christopher Lawson
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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3thn
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Grant
Oct 31, 2017 rated it did not like it
Found it boring and not compelling at all. Jumped back and forth between Uber and AirBnb. Didn't care about anything that was happening and didn't like any of the players involved.

I had recently finished 2 books by Nick Bilton (Hatching Twitter and American Kingpin) which were both excellent - read those instead of this one.
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Nick
Dec 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dropped
After the introductory chapter, this book starts off talking about criticism of Airbnb as "Some of them [housing activists] are looking to to score political points by vilifying a high-profile target." Oh, no, the horror, those dastardly *checks paper* activists fighting for *checks paper again* affordable housing. Not feeling like slogging through ten hours of fawning adoration for these chumps. ...more
RG
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. A little one sided but I guess you get this from one of these types of novels. Was more interested in the chapters on Uber.
Victoria
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shared economy innovators, craziness ensues.
ScienceOfSuccess
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: waiting
Did you ever have this: someone tells you a story for some reason, but the story is long and not that interesting, and there is no point in listening to it at the end? Yeah that's it. ...more
Keen Reader

It’s All About The Brand

“Every company creates its own origin myth. It’s a useful tool for expressing the company’s values to employees and the world and for simplifying and massaging history to give due credit to people who made the most important contributions back when it all started.”

This is possibly the most convincing and honest statement in this book. The revisionism and distortion that routinely go into re-inventing the story of almost any major company, is always told with one eye on Ho
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Frank Stein
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a a smart and evenhanded look at how two companies, Airbnb and Uber, changed our world in the eight short years from 2008 to 2016. Both companies emerged out of the sclerotic world of San Francisco's urban politics, and both spent most of their early lives battling diffident regulators and entrenched opponents. They are now worth tens of billions of dollars and are household names around the globe.

Garrett Camp came up with the idea of Uber after he sold an early social media site to eBay
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Matt Hutson
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Future of Business - Uber 'n' Airbnb's Digital Disruption
The future of business has always been a topic people have talked about. Right now it's as hot a topic as it has ever been before with the types of technology you can get your hands on and how fast they develop.

Many industries are changing, such as the transportation and hospitality industry among hundreds of others. In fact, there are many products and services for existing industries that haven't even been invented yet. Some people s
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Fawaz Abdul rahman
Was nice to know the story behind some popular companies, like uber, and changed some wrong thoughts I had about some companies like Lift. Never knew how these companies started.
unfortunately, a lot been changed since Trump Won, which this book won't cover, but still enjoyed how they started. some parts was boring especially political conflicts and long discussions and their names, but overall a nice book.
The copy on Tunein was incomplete unfortunately, I guess chapter 9 was missing.
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Willem Spruijt
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amazing book about the history of Airbnb & Uber. Stone is really one of the best storytellers out there and the obtained details are very accurate. Would have been 5 stars if there was a bit less emphasis on all the legal details. Especially the first chapters and the last Uber China chapter make you love this book. 👌🏻
John Biddle
Dec 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed listening to this book and I learned quite a bit. That's the combo I'm looking for. I kept wanting to know more, another trait I look for.

The stories of Both Uber and Air B&B were both told well, with detail about the companies and the major employees. I've read quite a bit about the history of the internet and about a number of important companies, but there was a hole in my knowledge about these two. The Upstarts filled it perfectly.
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Ben King
Jun 12, 2022 rated it it was amazing
really good. super good investigative journalism, combined with the right amount of storytelling and technical speech. pretty digestable too. helps that the stories are fascinating !
Ben
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good book about the rise, almost fall, and continued rise of the startups most responsible for the new sharing economy. The Uber side of the story is much more interesting, perhaps because of the heated competition with Lyft, much stronger threats and legislative pushback from cities and taxi companies / unions, and the hotheaded, sometimes self-destructive alpha bro personality of Travis Kalanick. (Side note, it's really odd that a book that just came out this year feels dated, but the only U ...more
Jaana
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's not a self help book or a book about how to build a startup. It's a captivating story of two huge startups and how they came to be. Has all the history of both. It reads like a novel and will be a good movie one day. ...more
Shoti
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
1. Couchsurfing + Craigslist + VRBO + Wimdu < Airbnb
2. Seamless Wheels + Taxi Magic + Cabulous + Hailo < Uber = Lyft = Didi (in China)

The core ideas by which Airbnb and Uber have become the symbols of 'sharing economy' are not revolutionary in nature. Several entrepreneurs tried their luck with the same or similar business concepts beforehand without a lasting success. Some got in too early on the act when GPS technology was nascent and prior to the abundance of smartphone applications. Others l
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Bouke
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Incredibly lukewarm book, most of the information could fit on two sheets of paper. Not really worth the time
Andrew
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
*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.
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Sven Kirsimäe
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: at-drive, favorites
Define upstart: derogatory, a person who has risen suddenly in rank or importance, especially one who behaves arrogantly

Long story short - this book gives an overview of how giant unicorns are born and how startups, as we all know, are mostly full of challenges, failures and might survive only when behaving like cockroaches (referring to Paul Graham's famous comment towards Airbnb: “You guys are like cockroaches. You just won’t die.”). All of this especially when norms are challenged and targete
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I am the senior executive editor for global technology coverage at Bloomberg and the author of "Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire," published in May 2021 by Simon and Schuster.

The book is a sequel to my earlier work, "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon," which won the Book of the Year Award in 2013 from The Financial Times and Goldman Sachs. I'm a
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