The Upstarts: Uber & Airbnb are Dominant Corporations

Recently finished The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone. I have been a fan of Brad Stone since I read The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. This latest book is entertaining for those interested in Uber and Airbnb as it weaves through the history of both startups along with the characters and funding sources that drove them to the goliaths they have become today. The book provides quite a bit of detail on legislative fights, competitors that emerged along the way and a peek into where they are headed for the next leg of growth.

What I found most interesting and prescient given the spate of negative Uber news recently was the author's casting of Airbnb and Uber in good guy bad guy roles. It was particularly evident within this passage:

The abundance of company worship at the Airbnb Open was tough for any hardened journalist to handle. But the hosts themselves, walking around the Grande Halle and attending speeches and seminars with whimsical names like “Hospitality Moments of Truth,” were disarming and inspiring. They were Airbnb’s most persuasive evangelists. Here was a group that loved the company and what it stood for, demonstrating a kind of loyalty and passion that Uber, for example, would never see from its drivers. 

Regardless of role, one thing is certain. These two startups gained the scale and impact no legacy hotelier or transportation company has in the history of the world. These two companies have worked to disrupt the largest companies in the world and in turn have become them. As Brad Stones notes and implies how the name upstart was given:

And if they can’t meet their own lofty goals? Or if the intensity of competition pushes them further toward a ruthless, win-at-all-costs mentality? Then Uber and Airbnb risk validating the worst claims of their critics—that they used technology and clever business plans merely to replace one set of dominant companies with another, amassing a staggering amount of wealth in the process.

We can no longer call either company a startup. Uber and Airbnb are dominant corporations.

Related: Airbnb vs. Hotels, Airbnb Gains Coveted Business Customer