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