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The Upstarts

How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World

By Brad Stone
10-minute read
Audio available
The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World by Brad Stone

The Upstarts (2017) is about the new generation of start-ups in tech, in particular, Airbnb and Uber, and the impact they’ve had on the world. It takes a deep look at the people behind the companies and how they got to where they are today, as well as where they might go from here.

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Business students
  • Anyone interested in the new tech economy

Brad Stone is the senior executive editor of the global technology group at Bloomberg News and a New York Times best-selling author who frequently writes about Silicon Valley. He also wrote The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

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The Upstarts

How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World

By Brad Stone
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
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The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World by Brad Stone
Synopsis

The Upstarts (2017) is about the new generation of start-ups in tech, in particular, Airbnb and Uber, and the impact they’ve had on the world. It takes a deep look at the people behind the companies and how they got to where they are today, as well as where they might go from here.

Key idea 1 of 6

The term “upstart” is used for mega start-ups like Airbnb and Uber.

Companies like Airbnb and Uber that have grown rapidly to become phenomenally successful are hardly start-ups anymore. They’ve shown they like to tussle with the big boys, and they’ve paid scant respect to the usual ways of doing business. We can call such companies upstarts.

Both Airbnb and Uber are renowned all over the world and business is booming. And that’s despite the fact that unlike many other major companies, they don’t actually have any physical assets.

Airbnb might at first glance appear to act like the world's largest hotel company. Except, of course, it doesn’t own the rooms that get rented out.

Equally, we think of Uber as the world’s largest car service. But it doesn’t even have its own fleet.

In part, the freedom granted by this lack of assets helps explain how these companies have been able to expand so far and so quickly. In the world of tech, speed and flexibility are crucial to success.

We also shouldn't underestimate just how massive these businesses are. They’re what are known as unicorns, start-up giants worth more than a billion dollars.

In 2016, Airbnb was valued at $30 billion, and Uber at $68 billion.

Airbnb’s meteoric rise was largely assisted by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, one of its first big investors. In turn, Sequoia Capital has reaped huge returns. In fact, the amounts it earns from similar investments in Google and WhatsApp are chickenfeed in comparison.

But of course, to become this successful requires a lot of effort and sometimes a rather ruthless approach to business.

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