A gripping journalistic drama that reveals the details of Uber’s meteoric rise and precipitous fall.
As a Gerald Loeb Award–winning technology reporter for the New York Times, first-time author Isaac has a front-row seat to Silicon Valley’s hotshot companies and founders. In the early 2010s, that meant covering the “unicorn of unicorns” (startups valued at $1 billion or more), Uber, and its founder, Travis Kalanick. As the author clearly shows, the startup worked quickly, subversively winding its way into major cities (even internationally) and breaking dozens of local regulations en route. However, at the same time, the company’s value skyrocketed as it continued to accept massive amounts of funding from several major Silicon Valley funders. Through hundreds of interviews, Isaac pulls back the curtain on the appallingly destructive and misogynistic “bro” culture that was lurking in the shadows. Kalanick was indeed a Wizard of Oz–like character—a magical tech founder who could do no wrong—but he was ultimately revealed as a troubled and deeply flawed leader. It’s nearly impossible not to compare this book to last year’s superb Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou, which told the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the now-defunct biotech startup Theranos. The difference here is that Uber was a wildly successful and entirely real company. Like Holmes, Kalanick was slowly found out, leading to Uber’s disastrous 2017, which Isaac calls one of the single most destructive years for a corporation in American history. The book is not only an indictment of Uber itself, but of Silicon Valley’s founder-worship of the early and mid-2010s, during which those with that holy title were often “treated as Platonic philosopher kings.” It will force readers to reconsider their use of Uber and other ride-sharing companies.
A page-turning, noteworthy book that adds to the growing library exposing Silicon Valley’s not-so-glamorous underbelly.