Summary of The Upstarts

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  • Background
  • Engaging


Silicon Valley journalist Brad Stone charts the story of two history-making start-ups, Airbnb and Uber. He traces their path starting with Airbnb’s first guests and the moment at the LeWeb conference in Paris when Uber’s founders decided to start an on-demand, iPhone-based ride service to take on the taxi industry. Stone continues through these companies’ first efforts to attract serious investors. His entertaining narrative’s two most compelling aspects are his description of how these small San Francisco start-ups expanded to become major international businesses, and how they dealt with resistance from local industries and regulators whose models they disrupted. Stone recounts their problems, failures and triumphs. While the wealth of the founders and their investors seems to impress Stone a bit too easily, getAbstract recommends his lively book to entrepreneurs, start-up investors and anyone interested in how digital technologies have transformed cities worldwide.

About the Author

Brad Stone, senior executive editor at Bloomberg News, has covered Silicon Valley for more than 15 years. He also wrote The Everything Store, about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.



Upstarts Start

In January 2009, close to two million people came to Washington, DC, to see the first presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. As it turned out, those crowds included San Francisco entrepreneurs Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk, founders of Airbnb, as well as Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, founders of Uber.

Many people in that crowd believed the world was changing, and it was. Mark Zuckerberg had created Facebook a few years earlier and it was exploding worldwide. Steve Jobs had just introduced the iPhone, and would soon announce the introduction of software, or apps, for mobile phones. A significant portion of the population was already running daily life online through small devices that could fit in a pocket.

The First Airbnb Rental

In 2007, former Rhode Island School of Design students Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia had founded AirBed & Breakfast, which evolved into Airbnb. Now they were simply looking for a way to pay the rent and buy time as they brainstormed other projects. Their first guest rented a room in Chesky and Gebbia’s apartment in San Francisco’s trendy South of Market...

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