An unusually gripping business book

Cover of The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the  New Silicon Valley Are Changing the WorldThe Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World
by Brad Stone
Published by Bantam, £20
(Buy at Amazon)

Depending on your view, Uber and Airbnb are either a liberating force, breaking down business cartels, or the thin end of a wedge, undermining laws that protect workers and consumers. But like them or loathe them, both are multi-billion-dollar companies that have changed entire industries. In The Upstarts, Brad Stone, examines how they emerged.

The result is “a fun, briskly told narrative” that includes “one less well-known part of the story: the firms that lost the race”, says Alex Tabarrok in The Wall Street Journal. Several rivals offered similar services, but none became billion-dollar successes. Detailing these failures helps “highlight what it was that made Uber and Airbnb so different”, says Leslie Hook in the Financial Times.

Another strength is the “vivid picture of [Travis] Kalanick”, the driving force behind Uber, “particularly the years that he spent as a struggling and failing entrepreneur”. Indeed, says Emma Duncan in The Times. It’s the colourful characters as much as the “high stakes” that “make this an unusually gripping business book”.