Book Reports

Book Report: Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber

The Big Idea: The definitive profile of Uber as it rose to prominence, complete with outrageous anecdotes on its infamous bro culture and founder, Travis Kalanick.

Favorite Sentence:

“sometimes it’s more important to show you care than to prove you’re right.”

Recommendation: 9/10: I burned through this book in a weekend. Behind the scenes look at one of the ubiquitous tech companies of the 2010s.

My notes:

He was introducing what he called his “philosophy of work,” the result of what he said was hundreds of hours of deliberation and discussion. The entire presentation was born directly from Kalanick’s obsession with Amazon, the online retailer led by Jeff Bezos, a founder every young entrepreneur

Kalanick carefully studied the methods of Bezos and his company, down to the fourteen core leadership principles posted to Amazon’s website:

Written in white chalk were fourteen bullet points, each a short saying or thought, sprung directly from the brain of the CEO. The audience read the list as Kalanick rattled them off aloud: Always Be Hustlin’

Finally, after six years of tireless hustling, Kalanick negotiated his best deal yet: he sold Red Swoosh to Akamai for nearly $20 million. After taxes, Travis personally netted roughly $2 million.

Gurley’s biggest talent was his willingness to be a contrarian. In the heady days of the late nineties, when tech analysts like Gurley were often seen as glorified internet stock boosters, Gurley cut a path for himself by bucking against trends.

It doesn’t seem like a hard job. All you do is give away other people’s money. But it is. A VC’s calendar is packed with daily meetings—with founders, with their financial backers, with industry analysts, with journalists. VCs spend time talking to the CEOs of large, established companies about market trends and recruiting practices. They talk to investment bankers about private companies and public markets. They have to fend off hordes of eager founders seeking their favor. Even while relaxing at the bar in the Rosewood—the luxury hotel that has long acted as the social hub of tech money in Palo Alto—they’re likely to be interrupted by an awkward elevator pitch.

The lifecycle of a VC fund is typically ten years, by the end of which these LPs expect returns of at least 20 to 30 percent on their initial investments.

Venture capital is risky. Roughly one-third of VC investments will fail. But a heightened “risk profile” comes with the territory. If institutional investors prefer

Something else happened: Founders realized they liked being in control. They wanted freedom from meddling by outsiders like shareholders, investors, or the general public. Over time, founders discovered ways to protect their power. They used their visionary status to convince investors to cede control to the founders themselves.

Most people who know Travis Kalanick remark on one thing: in every game he plays, every race he enters, in anything where he’s asked to compete against others, he seeks nothing less than utter domination.

At the time Levandowski worked there, Google encouraged employees to embrace the company’s “20 percent time” initiative. That meant 80 percent of your work at Google was meant to focus on your job, but you could spend 20 percent of your time working on other interests.

In these evening sessions, Kalanick and a hand-picked crew would concoct new ways to spend the mountains of venture capital he had raised to battle competitors. Kalanick loved giving projects code names. He dubbed his late-night strategy meetings the “North American Championship Series,” or NACS, a nod to Uber’s competition with Lyft.

Trucks drive 5.6 percent of all vehicle miles in the United States, according to Department of Transportation data, and are responsible for some 10 percent of highway fatalities. Automating it would be worth billions. It helped that self-driving trucks didn’t directly challenge Google. At least, that was what Levandowski told his colleagues. They would call it Ottomotto—Otto, for short.

A “Workation” was an annual Uber tradition: instead of spending two weeks in December relaxing, employees would volunteer to spend two weeks working on any kind of project they wanted.

His thinking on keeping his seat on the council didn’t last long. In the span of a week, more than 500,000 people deleted their Uber accounts entirely, not counting the incalculable others who simply deleted the app from their phones.

She was a master of reinvention. In her earlier years she explored mysticism, later on came meditation. After years as a Republican, she did an about-face and fashioned herself a progressive, embracing eco-friendly policies and supporting John Kerry’s presidential run. Her progressive streak, coupled with John Kerry’s loss to George W. Bush in 2004, eventually led to Huffington’s first stab at a true online media destination, what the New Yorker called “a kind of liberal foil to the Drudge Report.” With venture funding and an old tech executive partner, in 2005 she launched the Huffington Post. The site pioneered an early form of “citizen journalism”—in reality, freelancers farmed the web

“sometimes it’s more important to show you care than to prove you’re right.”

Khosrowshahi repeated at nearly every press appearance and television interview during his extended 2018 apology tour: “We do the right thing. Period.”

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