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Super Pumped

The Battle for Uber
Narrated by: Holter Graham, Mike Isaac
Length: 12 hrs and 52 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times technology correspondent presents the dramatic rise and fall of Uber, set against the rapid upheaval in Silicon Valley during the mobile era. 

In June 2017, Travis Kalanick, the hard-charging CEO of Uber, was ousted in a boardroom coup that capped a brutal year for the transportation giant. Uber had catapulted to the top of the tech world yet for many came to symbolize everything wrong with Silicon Valley. In the tradition of Brad Stone’s Everything Store and John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood, award-winning investigative reporter Mike Isaac’s Super Pumped delivers a gripping account of Uber’s rapid rise, its pitched battles with taxi unions and drivers, the company’s toxic internal culture and the bare-knuckle tactics it devised to overcome obstacles in its quest for dominance. 

Based on hundreds of interviews with current and former Uber employees, along with previously unpublished documents, Super Pumped is a pause-resisting story of ambition and deception, obscene wealth and bad behavior that explores how blistering technological and financial innovation culminated in one of the most catastrophic 12-month periods in American corporate history.

©2019 Mike Isaac (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

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  • Benji
  • 09-09-2019

A forced narrative and a bad version of Bad Blood

Unlike John Carreyrou's "Bad Blood" which was investigated extensively to try to found out the truth about Theranos, Super Pumped felt like a narrative that was formed prior to writing and then investigated to try to have the story fit the narrative.

The book felt like one big opinion piece against Uber -- it had an overwhelmingly negative tone against tech companies, members at Uber and VC firms. There wasn't a cohesive story -- at times I felt like I was reading a book about Uber and then there'd be tangents about Google and how bad VC firms were. I was interested in learning about the story behind Uber but all I got was an amalgamation of negative news stories that were already widely known against the company.

If you hate the company Uber, then this book is likely the perfect book to read as it will feed your negative viewpoint of the company. But if you are indifferent and are interested in reading an unbiased view to learn about the company and it's history, this likely isn't a great book for you.

The book had a lot of potential but ultimately I was let down.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • David Noble
  • 05-09-2019

A bit hysterical

The book seems breathlessly negative and the narrator sounds like the voiceover from a bad discovery channel documentary - reading the whole thing in a false excitement announcer voice. Story has a lot of potential so I'm disappointed.

12 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Mitt
  • 08-10-2019

Interesting story, writing meh

The author seemed a little too super pumped to write the Uber take down book. Issac gave Kalanik a run for his money in the ego department. Hard to take him seriously at several points because he came off jealous and out for blood.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • TC
  • 08-09-2019

Fantastic Investigative Reporting

I've been following Mike Isaac on Twitter for a couple years, and he has become one of the most entertaining figures in my Twitter timeline, both for his humor and his reporting. I preordered this book based on my enthusiasm for his Tweets and NY Times stories, and was not disappointed. If you enjoyed Carreyrou's Bad Blood, then Isaac's investigation into another (in)famous Silicon Valley company will also be a treat for you. I never had a desire to watch a movie about Travis Kalanick, but after finishing Super Pumped I think a film adaptation would be fantastic. Some of the most dramatic moments in the history of Uber would make for great movie scenes, especially with Isaac's masterful storytelling.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • William G. Stuart
  • 12-10-2019

The "Bad Blood" of App-based Transportation

I'd never heard of this book until I saw it on an airport store. I pulled out my phone and bought and downloaded it for immediate listening. I'm not sure why. I'm a regular uber user, but somehow I missed all the controversy over the past six years or so of the company's existence - regulatory and political battles, sex, inappropriate behavior, and unconventional business practices.

This book was fascinating - every bit as suspenseful, thorough, and impactul as "Bad Blood." The author details the personalities, the business challenges, the battles with regulators and other company opponents, the tactics upon entering a new domestic or foreign market, the relationship between CEO and investors, and the internal infighting that eventually led to permanent change in the way that the company operates.

I either have to stop here or write pages and pages. This is a terrific book. The author appears to leave no stone unturned. He's interviewed everyone, seen documents not intended for public distribution, and put the pieces together in a very readable (listenable?) book. I had trouble not listening continuously once I started the book. But then life interfered, and it took me about three days to finish it. But as I worked, interacted with friends and family, etc. I felt like the chocaholic planning his next candy binge - I couldn't concentrate on the present because I wanted to finish this book.

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  • Oladapo Otunla
  • 11-10-2019

Awesome

It was a well written book and the reading also kept me very engaged. Every chapter made me look forward to the next Chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I plan to read it again and again.

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  • Alexander Akagi
  • 09-10-2019

I’m an sf tech founder and thought it was great!

It started off a bit slow because I already knew most of the stuff from the first ~9 chapters, but then holy shit it gets good.

Didn’t realize Uber took things that far!

Would definitely recommend to other founders.

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  • Jamesw
  • 07-10-2019

A good overview of the rise of Uber and startups 2011-2018


Pros:
Definitely read if you want to get an inside view of how startups were built and the relationship between founders and VCs between 2010-2018.

If you liked Bad Blood, Chaos Monkeys, Hatching Twitter, Billion Dollar Whale or Kingpin - then you will like this book.

(Maybe some spoilers below)

Cons:
I wish the author included more "on the record" quotes from people that knew Travis personally. We only get to see the public side of Travis.

The author seemed to side with Bill Gurley and the rest of the VCs too much. The VCs enabled UBER to be what it had become the supported funding/spending spree. Gurley only cared about "saving" UBER when their investment looked like it could be in jeopardy. They aren't as "noble" as the author portrayed them to be.

The Narrator has puts on a nasally delivery that makes him sound like a rich old man (Thurston Howell the 3rd). It doesn't sound real.

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  • dario
  • 25-09-2019

excelente historia

Muy interesante conocer cómo lograron cambiar una industria tan protegida cómo es el transporte público, aunque no esté de acuerdo en las formas.

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  • Jack Neil
  • 22-09-2019

Must listen

A must listen for anyone in a startup, thinking about starting a startup, having a family member in a startup, or having ever heard of the word startup.

Great job @MikeIsaac

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  • Eric B
  • 07-09-2019

Great book, Mike knows this story better than anyone

Really enjoyable book, I’ve been following Mike for years, and have seen a lot of what he writes about, albeit at a smaller scale, happening everywhere in the industry. Great story, writing, and well reported.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Olly Buxton
  • 09-09-2019

Sanctimonious and lightweight

Spoiler. At the time of publication, Uber hasn't collapsed.
It is still running, globally, more or less as it has done, albeit with a politer management team. There has been no apocalypse. However much Mike Isaacs might wish it were different, Uber is (as yet) no Theranos, Madoff or Enron, and Isaacs devotes little attention to the question of whether it might be, which to me is the question he should be asking.

It is hardly news that Travis Kalanick is an aggressive, unscrupulous and unpleasant individual, and that he cultivated an unpleasant macho culture that uber is still struggling to throw off - isaacs' long since published journalism for the NYT has attested to that - but that is the main allegation of this book. It is thin, prurient, sanctimonious gruel.

If you didn't know that, you'll get it in spades here - but it is no accident or fluke that uber/lyft has revolutionised a notoriously protectionist, inefficient and reform-proof industry. It is a good idea, and it works. Whether it is a 65bn business is another matter.

The irony is that uber's financial fortunes have markedly declined *since* Kalanick was defenestrated - as a hurried epilogue notes, without pausing to consider why this might be so - and you are left wondering whether Isaacs has spent his energy being so righteously indignant at people saying horrid things in team meetings that he hasn't noticed the real question: is Uber a good business? Does its business model even work? What kind of collective hysteria gave it a 65 billion valuation in the first place? What could possibly justify that?

Isaacs is so, outraged at obnoxious interpersonal behaviour, seems to have missed the main story here.