The Upstarts is a pretty good business book. But Super Pumped is an incredible book that stands as a lasting story with complex characters.
Super Pumped Notes
This quote exemplifies what worked and didn't work for Travis and what makes the rest of the world hate tech. He was hubristic and arrogant but he channeled that negative energy into building a huge, value creating company.
Uber started with a weird leadership configuration with the creator not taking a leadership role, the eventual leader resisting responsibility, and a CEO hired via a Tweet.
Uber augments the founder-visionary myth. Travis didn’t have the original idea and wasn’t particularly excited about Uber at the start. But he became the founder-visionary.
Underdog mentality is powerful.
Everyone wants to be Amazon. Travis crafted some of his 14 principles off Amazon. Dara replaced him and tried to re-orient the company to be the “Amazon of mobility”.
AirBnB also had a weird beginning where the founders were non-technical and seemed adrift.
The iPhone set everything into motion. This is the story of the market of the App Store as much as anything else. The timing of the idea matters.
A lot of the big ideas were swirling. Travis hosted JamPad’s and thought about hosting couchsurfers — similar to both WeWork and AirBnB. Other companies were working on taxi-summoning.
Fighting regulators seemed to almost never hurt. When regulators wanted to ban Uber, they managed to get public will behind them. Today SF showed this by giving permits to operate scooters to the first 4 operators that launched without permits. Even when Uber broke Apple’s rules, they were not punished.
Growth cures most wounds and so you should pull any lever to grow. Uber gave out iPhones to drivers, subsidized rides in every new market, and raised tons of money to ensure it could keep the fuel on the fire.
Uber’s scalability was due to the playbook as much as the software. The playbook allowed new Uber markets to spring up and act like independent companies within guidelines.
In ridesharing, the first to product didn’t win. It was the first to execute and to scale. The idea gave you a head start but didn’t seal victory. SideCar came before Uber and Lyft. And Lyft launched peer to peer ridesharing and carpooling before Uber.
Assholes are often rewarded — Travis Kalanick, Josh Mohrer, Anthony Lewandowski.
Success doesn’t spill over. While Travis was scaling Uber like crazy, his relationship with his girlfriend fell apart to the extent that she later ended up helping Uber critics.
Ruthlessly prioritizing can make you soulless. Uber never spun up an HR department and cared about growth over all else. So bad behavior, even if not explicitly encouraged, was easily tolerated.
Uber managed to win fights that they lost. In China and Southeast Asia, Uber got beat by Didi and Grab but on Uber’s retreat they took large stakes in both Didi and Grab.
Travis had core focus on what mattered for Uber. Losing money didn’t matter. Fraud didn’t matter. Pissing off government didn’t matter. Crime in foreign countries didn’t matter. A good rider experience was all that mattered. It cured all other ills.