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Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,898 ratings  ·  196 reviews

A New York Times technology correspondent presents the dramatic story of Uber, the Silicon Valley startup at the center of one of the great venture capital power struggles of our time.

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,

Kindle Edition, 408 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  ·  review of another edition
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 wa
Eric Mannes
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mona Nomura
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a read!

Because of the interconnected (almost incestual) nature of Silicon Valley, this tale of Uber takes you on an insider journey into the startup world, touching upon other products aside from Uber and unveiling some of the key people that shaped our current tech world.

Perfectly cadenced, engaging, meticulously researched, and written in laymen’s terms I couldn’t put this book down and finished in one sitting.

Highly recommended.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, nonfiction
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 compan
Thijs Niks
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mike Isaac masterfully narrates the struggle for power over Uber and its main characters.
Shashank Bhargava
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.
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vuk Trifkovic
Oct 14, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Robert Foley
Very good book, def way too much bro club going on in the valley and it's crazy how everyone just accepts.
Rachel He
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So firstly, this guy's editor is totally terrible. Isaac keeps re-explaining characters he has already introduced. Plus, the paragraphs jump around a lot.
BUT it's still a compelling read. It's just that this is the first book I've read where I really thought someone could have benefited from a better editor.
I think what really struck me so many times in reading this is that Uber could have solved so many problems (like the China fraud problem) if maybe they had just tried to collabor
Amar Pai
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A real pageturner!

Who knows how the story will end.
Bartosz Majewski
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Listening to the audiobook I couldn't stop thinking about how similar parts of Uber's story are to late USSR (i know it's a fringe comparison, but I can't help myself)

Both h
Sep 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book describes the rise and fall of Uber focusing primarily on its co-founder Travis Kalanick. Most of the book is further elaboration of the articles that swamped the news cycle for months about Uber’s toxic culture, Kalanick potentially being a sociopath, treatment of drivers etc.

The part of the story I didn’t know was the role of Arianna Huffington. Through her role on the board, she and Kalanick grew close. She flew to be at his side after his parents’ tragic accident and was his close
Bryan Rahija
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
Barak Gila
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book invites comparisons to Bad Blood, another book about a Silicon Valley company that was unafraid to run afoul of the law in its pursuit of growth, and its determined, visionary, and ruthless founder, but there's a significant difference. Theranos was actually a fraudulent operation, and its CEO broke civil and criminal law to lie to various stakeholders to keep it going, and had no product or customers. By contrast, Uber's product was so successful and beloved by customers, at least ini ...more
Daniel Madrigal
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the heck out of this book.

Fascinating to absorb the details of a story that I thought I knew. I knew that the leadership was arrogant and entitled... but I didn't know how bad it got. The libertarian fantasy world Travis and his crew created could only be sustained in an Ayn Rand novel.

At some point he would have to follow the laws that everyone else has to follow... and it turns out when he wasn't so great at being a leader under those circumstances. His greatest feat tur
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I followed a lot of this story in day to day news articles and still felt like I learned quite a few new things from the book. The story of Uber was so tied to Travis Kalanick for many years, and the company really took on the personality of the CEO. It is a story going on across Silicon Valley right now. Companies grew so fast that many things like HR, corporate governance, internal audit and legal compliance were put on the back burner. Despite all of this Kalanick still had considerable inter ...more
Kaveh A
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deserves better than a 4 but not quite a 5. Very entertaining read from start to finish. Thoroughly researched. Offers a peak inside Uber's culture and TK's head. The TK vs the Board controversies are especially interesting. Would have liked the author to zoom out more often to place the book's stories into a larger tech sector, business strategy, or societal context. Instead, felt a bit too often like a play by play without the color commentary. But regardless, I'd recommend this book to just a ...more
Iyad Al Aqel
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was a little hesitant to read the book at the beginning since i knew a lot about Uber culture crisis but to my surprise i learned a lot. Not only the book narrated what happened eloquently, but also attributed Uber org problems to one root-cause, an unhealthy obsession with growth AT ANY COST. In particular, i loved the chapters about Chinese market, Uber fraud problem and the self-driving cars battle. Recommended read for anyone who's slightly interested in knowing more about Uber from the ea ...more
Brady Salz
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and disappointing look at what "tech culture" really is. Easily up there with 'Soul of a New Machine' for tech non fiction, but a little too light on the tech for me.

Mike Isaac does a wonderful job interleaving so many twisted threads - it truly reads like a thriller instead of a corporate biography.
Simon MacDonald
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
#DeleteUber is all I have to say.
Lisa Hunt
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this one! I worked in venture capital for years for a really small fund, so it was interesting to read about the big funds and how they operated. Sounds like it was a crazy place to work, with a founder that was out of control. I'm glad I use Lyft!
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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).
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned the exact heights of everyone involved in the financing and building of Uber.
Nick Penzenstadler
Very well reported from the inside out. Travis Kalanick is a crazy. And he’s now in the 3-comma club like Russ Hanneman. Fun look behind the curtain.
Paul Ditty
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was enthralled, awestruck and more than a little grossed out by this book. A great tale of Kalanick chock full of Silicon Valley corporate intrigue and backstabbing.
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This was really good! A lot of it I'd already read as it happened during Uber's Hell Year of 2017 - as the news broke in Recode and Susan Fowler's explosive blog post and by the Rat King himself in the NYT. So in that sense it read like a greatest hits of insane moments (not a bad thing to re-read by any means). And even then there were some bits I didn't know about, and Isaac has done the good hard reporting work.

The jacket cover compares it to 'The Everything Store' and 'Bad Blood'
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“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.” 0 likes
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