The rise and plateau of the global ride-sharing industry’s biggest player.
Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kalanick remains the emboldened maverick leader of the company, and Fortune executive editor Lashinsky (Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works, 2012) paints him as a persistent, “pugnacious” leader unafraid of “clashing with adversaries.” The author sketches his subject’s life, from a middle-class Southern California upbringing to UCLA dropout to his struggles with two collapsed startup businesses, Scour and the moderately successful Red Swoosh. The idea for Uber was first hatched in 2008 through a collaboration between Kalanick and friend Garrett Camp, with both men envisioning “a way to turn one’s phone into a taxi dispatcher.” From the company’s first controversy, when San Francisco regulatory agents issued a cease-and-desist letter—the former “UberCab” amended its name to Uber and dismissed the city’s demands—to its current operating capacity in more than 570 cities worldwide, Lashinsky proficiently lays out the details of the privately held company with a checkered past haunting its precarious future. Thankfully, the author isn’t shy about exposing Uber’s “dirty-pool behavior” and cites sordid tales of harassed customers and abused drivers, cities suing over Uber’s legality, their heavily derided “surge pricing” tactic, Kalanick’s misogynistic, “alpha-male” reputation, and the company’s arrogant, above-the-law public perception. Equally revealing is a section about the deceptively easy process whereby Lashinsky himself became an Uber driver (“no test, no interview, no nothing”) only to swiftly discover that “the pay stinks, and the work is difficult.” The author also chronicles his interviews with current and former drivers who offer no-nonsense opinions on the advantages and disappointments of their experience with Uber as well as updates on the self-driving car innovation and the company’s defeat in the Chinese marketplace by rival Didi.
A straightforward journalistic examination of a fast-tracked, controversial company and its headstrong leader.