Tag Archives: Jeff Bezos

Brad Stone is Optimistic in The Upstarts

On Friday, April 7, I present a synopsis of The Upstarts:  How Uber, Airbnb, UpstartsBookCoverand the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World (New York:  Little Brown, 2017).

The author is Brad Stone, who previously wrote the best-seller, The Everything Store (Back Bay Books, 2014), about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com.

You can register to hear this presentation at the First Friday Book Synopsis for just $29 online by clicking on:  www.15minutebusinessbooks.com.  The site also has directions to the Park City Club.  Breakfast opens at 7:00 a.m., and we end the session at 8:05 a.m.

Brad Stone PictureIn the book, Stone is optimistic about the future of these companies:

Both Travis Kalanick and Brian Chesky had made big promises:  to eliminate traffic, improve the livability of our cities, and give people more time and more authentic experiences.  If these promises are kept, the results might be well worth the mishaps and mistakes that occurred during their journeys; perhaps they’ll even be worth the enormous price paid by the disrupted.

“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.

“I’m more optimistic than that.  I believe in the power and potential of the upstart s and have frequently admired their resourceful, adaptive CEO’s.  But it’s up to us to hold them to their promises.  They are the new architects of the twenty-first century, every bit as powerful as political leaders and now completely enmeshed in an establishment that they have, at times, bitterly fought” (pp. 331-332).

The Upstarts by Brad Stone Promises Much

Depending upon how it fares on the best-seller lists that we monitor, one book you may see us The Upstarts Book Coverpresent at an upcoming First Friday Book Synopsis was just released today (1/31/17).  I only write about it here because of the great potential that it has.  In fact, within just hours, it has already climbed to # 1 in three categories on Amazon.com, and is sitting at # 302 in total book sales.  And, it was just released today!

Authored by Brad Stone, the book is entitled The Upstarts:  How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World (Little, Brown & Company).

Here is how Adrian Liang, of the Amazon Book Review, summarized the book:  “Brad Stone has a gift for unwrapping the mythology around a company’s origins and making its actual origins—and growth and flubs and pivot points—far more fascinating than the mythology ever could be. In The Upstarts, Stone tackles the genesis of Airbnb and Uber, two companies that have woven themselves into the daily lives of people around the globe in less than ten years. Too many books spotlight a company’s wise decisions and business victories, making success seem almost inevitable. In contrast, Stone gives Uber’s and Airbnb’s mistakes as much room on the page as its scrappy triumphs, allowing a far more complex story to build. Interwoven among the highlights and lowlights are innovation incubators, dirty tricks, desperation among VC investors to not miss the Next Big Thing, competitors’ bright ideas, and the strikingly different personalities of the two companies’ young leaders. But this is a book without an ending, because Airbnb and Uber are still evolving, making their long-term effect on their industries hard to predict. Timely, clear-eyed, and crisply written, The Upstarts is a must for readers seeking insight into how ideas and eventually businesses can succeed or fail in a technology-rich landscape.”

The Upstarts was also reviewed in the Wall Street Journal (1/31/17, p. A13) by Alex Tabarrok.   He calls the book “a fun, briskly told narrative….[that] is not the end of the story, but an excellent history of the beginning.”

Brad Stone PictureDo you know who Brad Stone is?   His own website (brad-stone.com) says this, of which I have edited liberally:  In 2013, he published The Everything Store:  Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.  He is a senior executive editor at Bloomberg News, and hosts a weekly podcast entitled ‘Decripted.’  He also wrote a non-fiction book, Gearheads:  The Turbulent Rise of Robotic Sports.  He graduated from Columbia University in 1993.

Please continue to watch our website as we make our monthly selections for the First Friday Book Synopsis.  If my prediction is true, and as the book grows stronger, the chances of our presenting it will dramatically increase.

Start With the Customer; Acquire New Skills — Wisdom from Bezos of Amazon

News item:  Tony Romo got a Kindle for Christmas, his favorite gift — he is a voracious reader…

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Slate.com has a terrific interview conducted by Daniel Lyons with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (borrowed from Newsweek).  Here are two key lessons to learn from Bezos from this interview:

1)  Start with the customer, and work backwards from there. This reminds me of the foundational truth from Drucker:  “Who is your customer?  And, What does your customer consider value?”

2)  Innovation is an ongoing necessity, because “the world changes out from under you,” so you always have to be innovating, and learning new things, always adding to your skill set.

Here are the key excerpts:


Jeff Bezos and his Kindle

Lyons: Amazon started off as a retailer. Now you’re also selling computing services, and you’re in the consumer-electronics business with the Kindle. How do you define what Amazon is today?
Bezos: We start with the customer and we work backward. We learn whatever skills we need to service the customer. We build whatever technology we need to service the customer. The second thing is, we are inventors, so you won’t see us focusing on “me too” areas. We like to go down unexplored alleys and see what’s at the end. Sometimes they’re dead ends. Sometimes they open up into broad avenues and we find something really exciting. And then the third thing is, we’re willing to be long-term-oriented, which I think is one of the rarest characteristics. If you look at the corporate world, a genuine focus on the long term is not that common. But a lot of the most important things we’ve done have taken a long time.

Lyons: You’ve talked about Kindle being this example of working backward from the customer. Can you explain that?
Bezos:  We had to acquire new skills. There’s a tendency, I think, for executives to think that the right course of action is to stick to the knitting—stick with what you’re good at. That may be a generally good rule, but the problem is the world changes out from under you if you’re not constantly adding to your skill set.