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Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  9,949 ratings  ·  776 reviews
In June 2017, Travis Kalanick, the hard-charging CEO of Uber, was ousted in a boardroom coup that capped a brutal year for the transportation giant. Uber had catapulted to the top of the tech world, yet for many came to symbolize everything wrong with Silicon Valley.

Award-winning New York Times technology correspondent Mike Isaac’s Super Pumped presents the dramatic rise a
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Sparse Greener
Sep 08, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is one most poorly written books I’ve read in years. I picked it up because I’ve always disliked Uber and thought this would be an Uber-focused version of “Bad Blood” (one of my favorite books I’ve read this year). It was not even in the same league. By the end I actually liked Travis more, and truly loathed the author for making me sit through 350 pages of painful drivel.

The writing is horribly self-congratulatory (“there was a New York Times reporter involved. That reporter was me” is evo
Mar 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The fascinating source material is not done full justice by sloppy writing and editing - Three Stars
You treat us like mushrooms: feed us shit and keep us in the dark - an investor about Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick

The real,
The first time I used an Uber was when a friend and me were stranded by a disruption of public transport on the way to Stansted airport. Our driver passed us twice because he didn't know how we looked, and we feared he just picked up an other ride due to the spike in demand and
Eric Lin
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
If this book were an Uber ride, it would be an Uber Pool wending its way through the Marina on Saturday night - sloppy bros and woo girls cycling in and out.

Perhaps they slump against the window, leaning heavy. The window rolls down, Mom's spaghetti. They stagger out from the backseat, swaying back and forth behind the car as they wait to jaywalk across the street to return home. They will sleep on their dirty floor tonight, alone.

The driver has been drinking too. You can smell it on his breath.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Mostly accurate, but lacks character development.

I worked at Uber in SF beginning in 2015, and at a high level the events in the book that I experienced (Vegas off-site, China market) were fairly accurate portrayals of what actually happened.

The biggest disappointment with the book was not whether or not events actually happened or not, but that it never really dug into the psyche of any of the main characters, likely because the author has never successfully managed to interview any of them o
Sep 07, 2019 added it
So much of this book was fascinating. Starting with Part 3, I was highlighting every other paragraph. Lots of it was new to me, including the scope of fraud in the Chinese market that Uber dealt with (e.g., “giant makeshift circuit boards filled with hundreds of slots to insert SIM cards” to make it easy to create and cycle through new accounts). While other events were familiar from earlier reporting, they made much more sense within Isaac’s narrative. For instance, I’d read that Apple execs ha ...more
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a transportation reporter this was a page-turner, it read almost like a novelization of real events. It was fascinating to go behind the scenes of key moments in Uber, ride-hailing, and tech/Silicon Valley history.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interestingly written. It feels like it’s almost mocking the bro-culture of the company: the writing itself seems a bit childish and the fratty undertones are not very subtle. Overall, the story itself is fascinating, if not alarming. Maybe will write another update after I hear the author speak in a couple of days.
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, business
TL;DR: Travis Kalanick is a douche, tech is out of control, take Lyft instead of Uber.

Super Pumped is methodically researched and compelling. It confirms what we've always suspected: that Travis Kalanick and his cronies are insufferable douchebags. This is a conclusion yielded by the facts of the story, not by the author's writing, which is a surprisingly balanced account. After everything Kalanick does in the name of "winning," it's satisfying to see him pushed out of his own company. At the sa
Vuk Trifkovic
Oct 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
Pretty poor book. It's such an NYT thing. The author is, as it is typical for tech press, totally in thrall of the companies they cover. It is not so much that he's "pro" Kalanick, it's more than total mediocrity of Kalanick actually really resonate with Isaac. He bends over backward to paint an aggressive everyman (well, almost) into a super-being just because he calculated ETA in a car once. In the end, he even openly fawns over Kalnick *IN COURT*.

More to the point, the book brings very little
Bryan Rahija
Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it
A poor man’s Bad Blood. Isaac seems to borrow a lot from John Carreyrou’s corporate thriller on Theranos, starting with an endorsement from Carreyrou on the back cover, and also including a chapter about two thirds the way through, where Isaac inserts himself into the story a la Carreyrou, as he recounts meeting a source in the first person.

Both books show the dangerous results of the recent firesale on venture capital: companies run by megalomaniacs who blatantly disregard the rules. Isaac dia
Shridhar Sp
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I don't even know why I picked this book. It is just a collection of randomly pieced news articles about all the misgivings of Uber. Please note, only misgivings. Also, other key takeaway, all executives at Uber are over 6 feet tall with hustle in them. What a waste of time! ...more
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
So I have now read this entire hardback book about Uber, and still don’t understand what its great innovation was. What did everybody think was so new about it? In the old days you had to call a cab using your phone. Now, with Uber, you can call a cab with… your phone. Except that instead of a licensed and vetted professional driver backed by state insurance, you get some dude with a car. And lest you think “some dude with a car” is the true innovation, let me remind you of the hundreds of gypsy ...more
Mindaugas Mozūras
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The law isn’t what is written. It’s what is enforced.

I vividly remember the LOGIN conference in May 2016. That was before the nightmare year Uber survived in 2017. Uber was still seen as cool, even if it had blemishes to its name.

During LOGIN, my co-worker came up to me, and passionately described the workshop conducted by Uber engineers. He detailed Uber's values and how we could use some of them at our company. The longer I listened, the more passionately I felt that we definitely should not u
Mahesh Naidu
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you live in the Bay Area or have anything to do with Tech companies this one is a MUST READ. The book sheds light on some of the deepest darkest secrets as well as success stories originating from the silicon Valley. Mike does a great job at keeping the audience in mind in every little detail shared through the book which keeps you wanting for more. LOVED IT!
Peter Knox
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This may stand as the breakout ‘business’ book of the year in that a knowledgeable insider who has been covering the company for years successfully gives the full context surrounding the specific circumstances that allowed for Uber to exist, explode, and implode.

Decades from now I predict students may turn to this book to try to understand 2010-2019 startup culture, ride sharing, and the gig economy.

As curious a study as Travis is, this book goes beyond his biographical study into what actuall
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction

Bartosz Majewski
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
Great reporting in one of my favourite genre: biographies of companies. And this is a fascinating story starring an Uber-Aggressive founder, Best VCs in the world, Taxi corporations connected to mafia, China and of course softbank.
If you liked Bad Blood you are probably going to like this one as well.

However, it does not include non journalistic perspective. Which makes the picture really really incomplete.

But this is not a problem of anyone that got equity early. Everyone got massively rich, e
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a fascinating story poorly told. Isaac is so excited to tell salacious stories that he completely skips over the building of the company. The timeline jumps all over the place which muddles the narrative to an extreme level. It would have been great if this book were written by a journalist instead of by someone with a weird axe to grind (at least it sure feels that way).
Jan 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
In Super Pumped, Mike Isaac, a tech reporter working with the New York Times traces the ups and downs of Silicon Valleys’ once darling unicorn Uber. At the outset it appeared that this could be a 5 star book, however it was not to be.
While Mike Isaac does a good wrap up of the Uber story right from its founding till its IPO, his work doesn’t match the investigative journalism standards of Brad Stone’s or John Carreyrou’s accounts of Amazon and Theranos respectively. The writing feels formulaic i
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
wow so riveting and fascinating and well told.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent memoir of Travis Kalanic, co-founder of Uber, the most successful startup of 21st century so far.

This book allows you to live the life of the super-scaling startup, with all its advantages and drawbacks. Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll is part of it, of course, when a CEO of 10 poeple becomes the CEO of 15,000 corporation in less than 5 years.

Bad management practices, PR tragedies and a lot of internal drama arise when billions are at stake.

Very very good read and an excellent book to liste
Thijs Niks
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mike Isaac masterfully narrates the struggle for power over Uber and its main characters.
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Super pumped Review:

This book was a wild ride to say the least. The antagonist of the book and of Uber is a CEO named Travis Kalanick. Driven, ambitious, and deeply committed to his cause, all qualities that are embraced by the world but they are especially welcomed with open arms in the the tech industry. While early in his career these traits were an asset they ultimately led to his downfall as the CEO of Uber.

Interestingly enough in the beginning of the book I saw Uber as the savior as it bat
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the best written book (bizarre errors throughout and strange transitions), but taking in all of Uber’s transgressions at once - even if you followed the articles over time - really hits you over the head with how crazy Silicon Valley has become and the danger of unprincipled leadership. It validates the choice to take Lyft some of us made a few years ago, tho who knows what’s going on in that shop? The ending 20% on the drama between the VCs and Travis was like a guilty pleasure read.

All th
Shashank Bhargava
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting read, well reported, not super well written. Lot of information repeated and lots of useless appositives that make you feel like you're going crazy. ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this one. Of course a bunch of it is stuff that I already knew, but my story with Uber was already completed by the time most of the juicy stuff in this book occurred. It's actually quite the bit of epic corporate drama at the end and I do have to admit I was quite curious about the details. I got some of what I wanted and some was still left as a mystery.

However, I do really like that this book didn't seem to have too much of an agenda. It praised the company for what it had done while
Jan 17, 2021 rated it liked it
If this book were an Uber ride it would be an Uber pool where you're the first in and the last out. I feel like the author (apparently a super important NYT reporter) didn't proofread the book? There were paragraphs that were copy-pasted, refactored, and repeated in different chapters. Also he admits to his mistakes in the articles he wrote for the times but kind of laughs them off as if they were NBD which I felt like was the wrong approach. I just hated his attitude.

I learned a few interestin
Kanika Jain
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This was such a roller coaster! I have not read a story like this, of an organization we all know so well. Or do we? Uber is such an integral part of our lives, hailing a cab means uber, but one can never imagine whats gone behind the doors. It is an eye opener to read the events that led to the rise and pretty much a fall of Uber. The book sets the tone of being a thrilling account right from the first chapter. The launch in Portland, the failed and humongous attempt to make inroads in Chi ...more
Jon Levinson
Oct 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Isaac does a fine job of recounting the rise of Uber, and paints a well-rounded portrait of Travis Kalanick. However, stylistically he resorts to cheap cliff-hangers and ham-handed foreshadowing far too frequently, and he struggles to draw compelling conclusions about Uber and Kakanick's broader significance. He attempts to paint the episodes describe herein as a cautionary tale of Silicon Valley hubris, but Uber's continued success undercuts that portrayal in a way he never truly acknowledges. ...more
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Clean writing. Interesting narrative. Recommend.
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When you work at Goodreads, it's pretty tough to keep that Want to Read shelf under control. (And let's be honest, most of us don't even...
163 likes · 44 comments
“I waved him over, looking as harmless as I could. My reporter trick is to play dumb and friendly; dumb and friendly is always more approachable than eager and prodding.” 3 likes
“Kalanick treated user privacy as an afterthought. At one point, Kalanick changed Uber’s settings so the app could track people even after they had ended their ride.” 0 likes
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