The Upstarts, Brad Stone’s excellent account of the ‘New Silicon Valley’, revolves around two stand-out performers of the post-Facebook era, Uber and Airbnb. From precarious beginnings they evolved into near-ubiquitous leviathans, affording anyone with 4G signal and some disposable cash the opportunity to traverse cities in strangers’ cars and then sleep in a different stranger’s bed. Stone describes how together they superseded the ‘awkward, introverted innovators’ of the 2000s (Facebook, eBay and Instagram) and stepped into the brave new world of tangible service provision, delivered through the smartphone. In the process they have conjured new consumers who weren’t previously in the market, a move that has propelled them into the category of ‘unicorns’.
While these two companies offer very different things – one sets out to provide memorable and (that brand-defining adjective) authentic experiences; the other rewards being forgettable (if you don’t notice your Uber driver there’s no reason to award him or her fewer than five stars) – they are both exemplars