28 Quotes from Super Pumped book by Mike Isaac

Hello friends. This post is a collection of quotes from the book - Super Pumped by Mike Isaac.

Based on hundreds of interviews with current and former Uber employees, along with previously unpublished documents, Super Pumped has been described as a pause-resisting story of ambition and deception, obscene wealth and bad behavior that explores how blistering technological and financial innovation culminated in one of the most catastrophic 12-month periods in American corporate history.

Part 1 Quotes

Joining Uber in those days was a statement, like driving a Tesla or wearing a Rolex. The anxiety, stress, and crushing schedule of twelve-plus-hour days was all going to be worth it. They were all going to get paid, big time. - Super Pumped, Chapter 1

With the rise of Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Snapchat, venture capitalists looked everywhere to fund the next Mark Zuckerberg [...]. And as more money flowed into the Valley from outside investors [...] the balance of power shifted from those who held the purse strings to the founders who brought the bright ideas and willingness to execute them. - Super Pumped, Chapter 1

As Kalanick saw it, delivering people from place to place was only the beginning of Uber's potential; one day, Uber would match drivers with packages, food, and retail goods, and solve untold numbers of other logistical problems. Kalanick imagined he would one day become a direct challenger to Bezos, reshaping the way people and goods moved major urban centers. Uber wanted to be the Amazon for the twenty-first century. - Super Pumped, Chapter 1

Travis loved efficiency and hated waste. He appreciated how the rise of software and the internet allowed old, ineffectual, and broken systems to be overturned and rebuilt anew. Code and programming enabled anyone willing to learn and work hard a chance to change the system - to change the world. - Super Pumped, Chapter 2

If a startup is a house, AWS is the electric company, the foundation and the plumbing combined. It keeps the business up and running while the company founders can spend their time focusing on more important things like, say, getting people to come to their house in the first place. - Super Pumped, Chapter 4

The iPhone radically reimagined what a smartphone was supposed to be. A sleek, glass-faced front with a dazzling array of colorful apps - a rainbow of greens, blues, and yellows. The iPhone took the luxuries of an enterprise-level business device, like email and internet access, and opened mobile computing up to the masses. You didn't need to carry an MP3 player, mobile phone, and bulky laptop around to browse the internet on your commute. You didn't need a separate camera to take photos during an afternoon walk in the park. The iPhone had it all. - Super Pumped, Chapter 4

A sense of pigheadedness can often be a virtue for startup founders and CEOs, but only when the idea works. If the idea doesn't work, then a stubborn and pushy CEO ceases to look "exacting" and "visionary" and becomes "difficult." - Super Pumped, Chapter 5

VCs, in Kalanick's mind, weren't in the game for the right reasons. They weren’t there to change the world like he was, or even to alter it slightly. Venture capitalists cared about one thing: the bottom line. - Super Pumped, Chapter 5

Uber needed a fighter to lead it, one who could take on the cutthroat world of venture-funded competitors while battling the entrenched taxi cartels. [...] Kalanick was the right man for the job. - Super Pumped, Chapter 5

Part 2 Quotes

Building a startup is very, very hard. To create actual software, a founder must first convince engineers to take a pay cut in exchange for company stock, then do the same with marketers, salespeople, and the rest of a lean staff. - Super Pumped, Chapter 6

A founder needs to be able to wear any number of hats, from human resources one day to conference speaker and PR manager the next. As optimist, cheerleader, therapist, and problem solver, the founder must balance the needs of a growing company with those of each individual on staff, without neglecting their own spouse or children. And when the bank accounts start getting low, a founder needs to get back down to Silicon Valley and start hustling for more dollars. With money in the bank, a founder must then juggle the demands of the backers, who expect nonstop growth. - Super Pumped, Chapter 6

Having a good idea is important. Executing on that idea is paramount. Silicon Valley is teeming with people with big ideas and empty bank accounts. It is a town where being first to an idea doesn't always mean you'll end up the winner. - Super Pumped, Chapter 6

In a habitat like Silicon Valley, awkwardness is ignored or encouraged, and the only thing that matters is whether you have the brains to back up your ideas. - Super Pumped, Chapter 7

Venture capital isn't as much a profession as it is a brawl. If it were a sport, it would be like rugby without the mouthguards. There are no real rules, except that players should do whatever they need to do to seal a deal. - Super Pumped, Chapter 8

The hardest part of a VC's job isn't even necessarily about finding the right company, the right idea, or even the right industry to park their next investment. It is about finding the right person to run the company: the founder. - Super Pumped, Chapter 8

The most vaunted title in Silicon Valley is, has been, and ever will be "founder." It's less of a title than a statement. "I made this," the founder proclaims. "I invented it out of nothing. I conjured it into being." - Super Pumper, Chapter 8

A good founder lives and breathes the startup. [...] The founder embraces the spirit of "the hacker way"; he is captain of the pirate ship. A good founder will work harder tomorrow than he did today. A good founder will sleep when he is dead. [...] a good founder shepherds his company through difficult funding environments, but chooses his benefactors wisely. A good founder takes credit for his company's successes, and faces the blame for its shortcomings. A good idea for a company, even if it lands at the right time and in the right place, is still only as good as the founder who runs it. Most important of all, there can only ever be one real founder. If this sounds messianic, that's because it is.   - Super Pumped, Chapter 8

It was as if Kalanick had hired a private army of mini-entrepreneurs and given them one mandate: Conquer. Everyone was a founder of their own city-level fiefdom. Everyone got to live the startup, hacker ethos, something Kalanick cherished and never wanted his company to lose, even as Uber spread like wildfire. With a slap on the back, Kalanick would send his officers out into the field to build their own infantry and fight for Uber. - Super Pumped, Chapter 9

Most people who know Travis Kalanick remark on one thing: in every game he plays, every race he enters, in anything where he’s asked to compete against others, he seeks nothing less than utter domination. - Super Pumped, Chapter 9

Kalanick had created a powerful cabal that supported his power as chief executive. No investors could meddle in how he spent Uber's money, no shareholders could tell him who to hire, who to fire, and so on. Uber was Travis Kalanick's company - and if you were lucky, he would let you invest. - Super Pumped, Chapter 10

Part 3 Quotes

Grow or die. It is the maxim by which every entrepreneur in Silicon Valley lives. From the moment a founder signs their first term sheet from investors, they’ve made a pledge to fight to keep the startup alive and growing, growing, growing. - Super Pumped, Chapter 12

When other people looked at Kalanick, they saw another rich white guy riding the wave of venture capital while putting hard-working, blue-collar taxi drivers out of their jobs. Worse, he was living large - women, wine, song - and flouting it. - Super Pumped, Chapter 13

Kalanick's approach to management was to let each department fight for control until a winner emerged. It was the fairest way, in his mind, to determine the most talented staff. What Kalanick didn't see - or chose to ignore - was all the politicking that went on behind his back. Everyone knew you couldn't really challenge TK - the staff's nickname for Kalanick - if you wanted to stay on his good side. - Super Pumped, Chapter 14

At some point in his or her career, every mobile software engineer in Silicon Valley has come up against the vague, byzantine rules of the App Store. Each year, Apple would update its mobile software. A simple tweak in Apple’s software practices could make or break an entire startup business plan. To build mobile software, especially for Apple, was to be in a state of constant anxiety and frustration. When developers submitted new apps to the App Store they would wait for a response like pilgrims at the Oracle of Delphi. Sometimes Apple would answer helpfully. Other times Apple would say nothing at all. - Super Pumped, Chapter 16

The tone of Uber's culture was being set from the top. Kalanick knew what he wanted in his employees - who were mostly white, male, and in their twenties - and made his hiring decisions based on that instinct. The result was a workforce that largely reflected Kalanick himself. - Super Pumped, Chapter 19

Part 4 & 5 Quotes

All Kalanick cared about was recruiting. He saw HR as a tool to onboard swaths of new talent and quickly dismiss the inevitable bad hires, rather than as a way to retain and manage Uber's standing workforce. Managerial coaching and training were almost completely ignored. A handful of people looked after the working lives of thousands of full-time employees. - Super Pumped, Chapter 22

Despite the waste and ill effects caused by imbalanced incentives, Kalanick never ceased rewarding growth. Growth was what made the difference between an average employee and a high performer who delivered results. High performers were untouchable. - Super Pumped, Chapter 22

One investor said Kalanick treated them like mushrooms: he fed them shit and kept them in the dark. Kalanick thought they should be grateful even for that. - Super Pumped, Chapter 28

Cited Quotes

Environments like this (talking about 2008 financial crisis) tend to sort out the true entrepreneurs from the pretenders. When money is easy in Silicon Valley, it tends to attract short-term opportunists looking to make a fast-buck rather than build a lasting company. Only the best entrepreneurs set sail in rough seas like this. - Bill Gurley, as quoted in Super Pumped, Chapter 7

Growth is something to celebrate, but without the appropriate checks and balances can lead to serious mistakes. At scale, our mistakes have a much greater impact - on our teams, customers and the communities we serve. That's why small company approaches must change when you scale. I succeeded by acting small, but failed in being bigger. - Travis Kalanick, as quoted in Super Pumped, Chapter 26

This company (talking about Uber) is undoubtedly the most successful startup in the history of Silicon Valley. It grew faster, bigger, it touched more people customers, countries cities faster than ever before. [...] With great success comes great responsibility. We are no longer considered a startup by the outside world. We are considered one of the largest, most important companies in the world. And our behavior, our corporate behavior, has to begin to equal and parallel that expectation or we're gonna continue to have problems. - Bill Gurley, as quoted in Super Pumped, Chapter 27

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