Book review: The Upstarts

Charles Paumelle is a serial entrepreneur currently running the international operations of Microshare, a company specializing in data compliance and monetization of the Internet of Things. Here, Charles shares his insights into The Upstarts by Brad Stone (Transworld Digital, 2017).

I loved this book. Everyone talks about Uber and Airbnb as the poster children of digital transformation, but this book reinforces just how diverse their respective journeys have been, in such an incredibly short period of time. Remember, less than a decade ago, these multi-billion dollar businesses didn’t even exist.

The author dives deep into the mechanics of both businesses, clearly having done a lot of thorough research – and it’s refreshingly clear the book wasn’t simply a public relations project. He includes fascinating backstories and shares lessons throughout that will benefit just about anyone in business. He also includes some excellent detail about early competitors –I was amazed by Uber’s experience in China (but I’ll let you read that for yourself!)

As someone who is well on his way to building a second business in an evolving market, the message in this book is clear: don’t be limited by existing frameworks or infrastructure. And whatever you do, don’t give up!

I found it heartening to read about two businesses with two vastly different philosophies that have ended up equally successful.

From the outset, Uber was pretty ruthless in its bid to build (and win) the market. The company was very aggressive, and openly pushing legal boundaries from the very start. Whereas Airbnb appears to have had a much softer, more community-driven start. Of course, over time Airbnb’s founders and management have had to become much more astute businesses people, and the book demonstrates this evolution well. It’s heartening to learn that both types of business have the opportunity to succeed.

The Upstarts is an entertaining page-turner though it was equally easy to dip in and out of, whenever I was able to find the time. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s thinking about digital transformation or contemplating bringing new models to established industries.

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