Silicon Valley in Book Reviews – Part II

February 11, 2019 Uncategorized 3 ★★★

Alright, as promised, here are reviews of the rest of the many books I’ve been reading on Silicon Valley!

Silicon Valley in Book Reviews – Part IITitle: The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World
Author: Brad Stone

This is the story of the beginning of several companies, but especially Uber and AirBnB. The coverage of their story felt reasonably balanced. The author doesn’t shy away from describing the negative impacts of these new companies or from showing conflicts where they look like the bad guys. However, we do get most of the story from the perspective of the founders of Uber and AirBnB. The author gives us their biographies starting in childhood. A lot of the story is told in their words. This made them feel like our protagonists and I think it makes readers more likely to be sympathetic to them. Regardless, it was a fun to get the history of these companies with some insider perspective. I particularly enjoyed hearing about their first encounters with the legal system. The way the companies and the laws have both evolved was fascinating. I just would have liked a little more depth.

I think this book shared some important perspectives that don’t always get a proper hearing. Interviews with activists and social workers trying to increase equality in the Bay Area or to deal with the impact of inequality were moving and informative. Unfortunately, the collected interviews weren’t organized particularly well. The transitions were strange. Even within sections, I didn’t think there was a clear theme or takeaway. Many of the interviews that weren’t with activists or social workers didn’t teach me anything new about the area. This may be less true for readers who aren’t from the area or who haven’t already read other books about Silicon Valley.

I also have to admit that I personally enjoyed this book less because the author seemed biased against new tech workers and against change. The only tech workers who were interviewed reviewed history; were extremely unsympathetic; or were disillusioned. People were interviewed who clearly blamed newcomers and were grumpy about people coming here for their careers. No one new to the area was interviewed and the problem of people who are from the area blocking changes (like building housing for the homeless or building more high rise apartments) was largely ignored.

3 Responses to “Silicon Valley in Book Reviews – Part II”

  1. whatsnonfiction

    The Upstarts sounds really interesting, I’m so curious about the effect of these new companies on the traditional business players in those industries and how it’s going to change the landscape going forward. If it discusses how laws are evolving, even better. I might have to pick that one up.

    Somewhat related to the Silicon Valley topic, are you listening to the Dropout podcast? It’s an ABC News reporter’s take on the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos story. I watched some related news story clips that were fascinating but haven’t started the podcast yet…I’m wondering if it won’t be much new having already read Bad Blood, but I thought of you!

    • DoingDewey

      I have been listening to the Dropout! Unfortunately, there’s really been nothing new compared to the book, but I’d not heard the voices of the people involved before listening to it, so it’s still been an interesting listen. Thanks for thinking to mention it 🙂

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