How to start a billion dollar business (almost) overnight
- In 2017, Brad Stone published The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and New Silicon Valley Killer Companies Are Changing the World
- It tells the stories of companies rewriting the traditional rules of business and our everyday life.
Brad Stone’s name may sound familiar. In 2013, he released the bestseller The store of everything and followed it with Amazon unrelated which tells the next chapter in Amazon’s growth. In The upstarts, Stone applies a similar structure to the stories of Travis Kalanick and Brian Chesky and their respective companies, Uber (United States: UBER) and Airbnb (United States: ABNB). As with many business books, the book offers a bit too much depth (the amount that only the author’s polite mothers and aunts will really go through). Still, the gist is fascinating and leaves you wondering where the startup’s next hit will come from.
Uber and Airbnb were born during the biggest tectonic shift in the history of computing since the invention of the web browser. While companies haven’t generated this tech wave themselves, Stone explores how they’ve harnessed and benefited from it more than any other business. Their San Francisco headquarters are only a mile apart, which is either a coincidence or a providence given that they are among the fastest growing startups in the world. history in terms of sales, overall market value and number of employees. Companies came up with old ideas with new twists. The two foster a remarkable degree of openness among people who have never met before, which is lovely. What’s even nicer is that companies have very few physical assets. They don’t own actual hotels or vehicles (except for a small experimental fleet of self-driving cars), which makes for very attractive balance sheets.
However, far from enjoying a smooth journey, companies have faced almost non-stop controversy. Uber has repeatedly circumvented laws requiring professional drivers to undergo rigorous training sessions, background checks and government-issued driver licenses. This sparked outrage from existing taxi drivers, who closed the motorway in Berlin, blocked Orly airport in Paris, beat Uber drivers in Milan and threatened Mumbai employees. Airbnb has also encountered its fair share of lawsuits. In late 2016, she sued New York and San Francisco for legislation that threatened the business: a fine of $ 1,000 every time Airbnb or its hosts posted an ad that violated the city’s short-term rental laws. .
What makes the survival of these companies even more remarkable is that many like them didn’t. Taxi Magic met its downfall by assigning taxis based on the driver who had waited the longest as opposed to the one who was closest to the customer. Cabulous also missed the mark, as the company did not take control of its fares and always relied on the individual meters of taxi drivers. Coachsurfing was also doomed on the grounds that it was too idyllic, as their rather bland slogan suggests: “connect people and facilitate inspiring experiences”. Indeed, the company did not have a real head office, which means that the rental spaces operated without any coordination. Plus, like so many newcomers, their website quickly got tired.
Uber and Airbnb were head and shoulders above their competition as they responded productively to their changing environments and continue to do so. Stone interviewed Kalanick and Chesky prior to publishing the book and their continued energy highlighted the mindset needed to thrive in the rapidly changing tech industry. Kalanik has spoken of testing driverless Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh. Uber also announced a partnership with Volvo to develop driverless technology and acquired Otto, a San Francisco-based startup run by former Google engineers who are developing driverless trucks. Meanwhile, Chesky talked about “Magical Trips” – an idea inspired by his idol Walt Disney. Airbnb’s revamped website now features experiences as well as accommodations, from truffle hunting in Florence to literary landmarks in Havana. Chesky compared the importance of this movement to Amazon (US: AMZN) shifted from selling only books to other products in the late 1990s.
The two founders made great promises: to eliminate traffic, improve the livability of our cities, and give people more time and more authentic experiences. Stone fears that such lofty goals will engender a stop-and-go attitude, which risks validating the worst claims of their critics. They are “new architects of the twenty-first century, just as powerful as the political leaders and now completely entangled in an establishment which they have sometimes bitterly fought.”