Book Summary: The Upstarts by Brad Stone

The Upstarts by Brad Stone Book Cover

The Upstarts is a book written by Brad Stone that explores the rise of two of the most successful and influential companies in the world today – Uber and Airbnb. The book delves into the history of these companies, their founders, and the unique business models that have allowed them to disrupt traditional industries and change the way we live our lives. In this comprehensive summary, we will take a closer look at each chapter of the book and explore the key ideas and themes that emerge.

Chapter 1: The Birth of Uber

The first chapter of The Upstarts introduces readers to the founders of Uber, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, and the idea that would eventually become the company’s signature product – the ride-sharing app. The chapter explores the frustrations of Kalanick and Camp with traditional taxi services and their desire to create a better, more efficient way to get around. The idea for Uber was born out of their experiences trying to hail a cab in San Francisco and the realization that there must be a better way.

Chapter 2: The Airbnb Story

The second chapter of the book shifts focus to Airbnb and its founders, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk. The chapter traces the origins of the company back to the three friends’ struggles to pay their rent in San Francisco and their eventual idea to rent out air mattresses in their living room to attendees of a design conference. The concept of Airbnb was born from this experience and the friends quickly realized they had stumbled upon a business model that could disrupt the traditional hotel industry.

Chapter 3: The Disruptors

In this chapter, Stone delves into the unique business models of both Uber and Airbnb and how they have been able to disrupt traditional industries. Both companies have used technology to create new ways of doing things and have leveraged the power of the sharing economy to create new markets. Uber’s ride-sharing app has allowed it to quickly grow and expand, while Airbnb’s peer-to-peer model has allowed it to offer unique and affordable accommodations to travelers.

Chapter 4: The Battle for San Francisco

The fourth chapter of The Upstarts explores the early days of Uber and Airbnb and the challenges they faced in their home base of San Francisco. Both companies faced resistance from regulators and traditional industry players who saw them as threats to their businesses. The chapter explores the tactics used by both companies to overcome these challenges and the eventual backlash that would lead to the downfall of Airbnb’s original business model.

Chapter 5: The Uber Meltdown

The fifth chapter of the book focuses on the rise of Uber and the company’s rapid expansion around the world. The chapter explores the aggressive growth strategies used by Kalanick and the company’s willingness to break rules and push boundaries in order to achieve its goals. However, this aggressive approach would eventually catch up with the company and lead to a series of scandals that would threaten its very existence.

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Chapter 6: The Turning Point

The sixth chapter of The Upstarts chronicles the eventual downfall of Uber’s original business model and the company’s eventual pivot to a new strategy focused on profitability and sustainability. The chapter explores the changes made by Kalanick and the company’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, and how they have helped to turn the company around and make it a more sustainable business.

Chapter 7: The Future of Airbnb

The seventh chapter of the book shifts focus back to Airbnb and the company’s ongoing battle with regulators and traditional industry players. The chapter explores the company’s efforts to become a more responsible and sustainable business and how it has worked to address the concerns of its critics. The chapter also looks at the future of the company and how it plans to continue its growth and expansion in the years to come.


The Upstarts is a fascinating look at two of the most successful and influential companies of our time. Brad Stone’s book provides readers with a detailed look at the history of Uber and Airbnb, their founders, and the unique business models that have allowed them to disrupt traditional industries and change the way we live our lives. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, innovation, and the future of business.

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