Since their founding less than a decade ago, Uber and Airbnb have wrangled with regulators, challenged the taxi and hotel industries, earned extraordinary valuations from venture capital investors — and fundamentally transformed the way people think about urban transportation and travel. Veteran Bloomberg technology writer Brad Stone unravels the facts from the mythology surrounding the companies’ rise.
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The Origin Stories
At Uber, the idea for the business has been portrayed as this stroke of ingenuity, but it was actually inspired by Casino Royale. Garrett Camp, one of Uber’s founders, the idea for using phones to let users see the locations of a car service.
Airbnb’s origin story revolves around two design school students who decided to welcome guests into their apartment and let them sleep on air mattresses.These were very ambitious entrepreneurs who had been desperately searching for a winning startup idea for quite a while.
Uber/Airbnb Founders vs. Other Founders
Other founders (Facebook/Google) were terrible communicators, not charismatic, and very wary of the press. They didn’t have to be good storytellers because their businesses spread virally and their products stood for themselves. Uber and Airbnb are different. The first thing that happened to these companies was that they became involved in regulatory battles with cities. Because of these challenges, these companies required a different kind of CEO — extroverted, a good storyteller, a politician, someone who could charismatically rally customers to their cause.
Future and Success for X-Sharing
Both Chesky (Airbnb) and Kalanick (Uber) are disciples of Bezos, who personally invested in both Uber and Airbnb. They’ve learned a lot from Jeff, and they’ve modeled their companies after Amazon. Both companies are getting into new businesses: Uber is working with driverless cars and food delivery, and Airbnb has launched Experiences and Trips to become a broader travel company. Right now neither company seems like it can change our lives the way Amazon has, but you have to give them time.
My 2 cents:
The common thread between Uber and Airbnb’s founding fathers was an that innate ability to disrupt and industry and not only stand by the dream in the face of the trials and tribulations of facing the incumbents, but also the ability to woo VC funding despite serious qualms.
It might be too early to declare total legal victory for either player (Uber will face taxi driving syndicates and security issues as it moves further down its long tail of applicable countries. Airbnb still has serious contention from the hotel industry) but it is definitely not too early to think about what comes next. For Uber, next means new tech (selfdriving cars) and a new industry (food delivering) while for Airbnb next means value added services (Experiences and Trips), and for both, next means new management expertise.
The road to future x-sharing leadership will likely transition from the charismatic, lobbyist leader to the pivot, split and build type of leader. Facebook and Google have set the standard for the reinventive leader, but they’ve had little turmoil to face compared to Uber and Airbnb, so it feels fitting that Chesky and Kalanick would turn to Bezos, who has transformed Amazon to the golden standard of building off a successful platform and expanding to new industries and services, delivering win after win.