The Upstarts with Brad Stone

The Upstarts with Brad Stone
Brad Stone, author of “The Upstarts” discussed the story of Uber, Airbnb & the sharing economy & his thoughts on their expansion to China.

Brad Stone, senior executive editor of Bloomberg LP and author of his new book, “The Upstarts”, joined us for a discussion on the back story of Uber and Airbnb and their evolution in the sharing economy. Brad shared his impressions of Cheng Wei, founder of Didi Chuxing in China and offered his perspectives on Airbnb’s chances of success in their recent launch to China. Last but not least, he discussed what the key things to watch out for both Airbnb & Uber.

Here are the interesting show notes and links to the discussion (with time-stamps included):

  • Brad Stone (@BradStone, LinkedIn, Bloomberg profile), Senior Executive Editor of Bloomberg LP, and author of two books “The Everything Store” and recently “The Upstarts” [0:43]
    • How did you start your career? [1:17]
    • What are the topics you are currently covering on technology in Bloomberg? [2:08]
    • In your career, what are the interesting career lessons which you can share? [3:24]
    • What inspired you to write “The Everything Store” (and I liked your story on how you wrote a six page proposal to Jeff Bezos) and subsequently “The Upstarts”? [4:11]
  • The Upstarts [7:01]
    • The focus of the book define the companies which have initiated the sharing economy with Uber and Airbnb being the two most successful stories. Can you discuss why you were interested in writing their back stories from the early days to them scaling into behemoths today? [7:21] 
    • Both companies share different founder origin stories. Can you share how they were each founded and yet evolved differently? [9:45]
    • From reading the story, Airbnb took some time to find the product market fit until they figured it out when they are in YCombinator, while Uber has found it very early, what are the interesting lessons that startup founders can learn from these companies? [13:00]
    • One defining feature of both companies is the culture of the companies. With Airbnb, when you go to their office anywhere (and I interviewed head of Airbnb, Southeast Asia a while ago two years back), the hospitality culture pervades across the company, while Uber has an anti-establishment and willing to break rules that came from Travis Kalanick, do you think that their cultures are part of why they have been successful vs Conchsurfing or Hailo? [16:28]
    • With Uber’s recent troubles from the toxic workplace culture, the legal lawsuit from Alphabet Waymo on Otto, and the tactics they adopt from greyballing (as described by NY Times) to hell program (to Lyft), what are your thoughts on whether they can come back from these crises and be a better company? [19:50]
    • You have covered Didi from China and met Cheng Wei and Jean Liu from the company, what are your impressions of them and how do you characterise the exit that was negotiated between both companies? [22:03]
    • Given that Uber has the grit, tactics and even questionable ethics at times similar to Chinese companies operating in China and actually exit well with US$2B losses and gaining back US$7B value with the Didi acquisition, do you think Airbnb can succeed in China given that they just launched there? [24:51]
    • Before the sale of Uber China to Didi, there is an anti-alliance of Lyft, Didi, Grab from Southeast Asia & Ola from India, what are your thoughts on moving forward for these companies? Will there be consolidation in the ridesharing space? [27:46]
    • What are the key lessons that you want your readers to understand from the book and what will be the key things to watch this year in 2017 for Airbnb and Uber? [30:04]

Podcast Information:

The show is hosted by Bernard Leong (@bleongcw) and are sponsored by Ideal Workspace (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) with their new Altizen Desk on Indiegogo (Twitter, Facebook, Medium). Also check out Ideal Workspace’s new standing desk, Altizen and sign up for their mailing list. Sound credits for the intro music: Taro Iwashiro, “The Beginning” from Red Cliff Soundtrack.