Hey everyone! Mike Isaac here, a technology reporter over at the NYT and author of Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.

I've been covering tech for the last decade, and have lived in San Francisco for most of that time. I started writing about Facebook and Twitter when they were still private, beloved companies, and have had the privilege to cover a range of different Silicon Valley companies.

But things changed for me when I began writing about Uber in 2014, when I joined the New York Times. I watched the company during its early days as an unstoppable ride-hailing phenomenon with a near-endless war chest of billions. But by 2017 I saw the story shift as scandal after scandal poured out of Uber, rocking the company to its core and ultimately ending in the fall of its founder.

A lot of my book is the story of Uber and the rise and fall of Travis Kalanick, the company's former CEO. But as I was writing it I realized the book is really about how a large part of society has fundamentally shifted its view of tech's impact on the world, and how that has dramatically changed the way companies will be built in the Valley for years to come.

I'd love for you to read my book, which you can get here, and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about the company, my reporting, or anything else!

(Side note: I'm a long-time redditor with a recent cakeday of 10 years under my private alt, so doing an AMA is a true honor!)

Proof: https://twitter.com/MikeIsaac/status/1170015270049419264

Edit 12:04 pm PST — okay ive been at this for two hours and should go do my day job, but ty for the Q's, and I'll try to come back and do some more answering tonight if you have more! this was super fun!

Comments: 173 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

ashfein11248 karma

hey mike! huge fan here. just a quick Q for you—is uber good or bad?

MikeIsaac35 karma

ashley get out of here

Begginstrip33 karma

Now do wework. (?)

MikeIsaac36 karma

Man, it's like this stuff is scripted.

I was doing an event last night and said out loud how insane it is to me that a company will literally HALF its valuation based on ::waves hands at the ether::

NewWorldScrewWormFly31 karma

I was an early Uber employee who left (for a lot of the obvious reasons, namely, it was a nightmare place to work) before 2017, but your book captures the atmosphere perfectly. I stayed up all night reading it the day it arrived. Congrats on a great book.

Out of curiosity...are there any odd/absurd/sad behaviors about TK or the rest of senior leadership that you left out for lack of context or relevancy?

MikeIsaac21 karma

Really appreciate this. The thing I love hearing the most is from ex or current employees who validate my reporting. thank you tons.

Hmm, trying to think of what I left on the cutting room floor. I did have to chop like 30k words since I turned in a HUGE book at first.

I think a big part of it was really just how there was a complete lack of consequences internally for bad behavior. And TK's willingness to pit people against each other to create some bigger, better outcome.

Something i think I cut was the ongoing wars between the different orgs — like, i was told about growth vs finance, ops vs growth, product vs whatever — just these enormous all-out internal political battles that probably resulted in fantastic amounts of burned capital and waste.

Also I love the idea that the orgs are fighting and the real-world consequences end up shaping our (customers') lives. it's like shaking up an ant farm!

NewWorldScrewWormFly26 karma

these enormous all-out internal political battles that probably resulted in fantastic amounts of burned capital and waste.

Growth burned something like $40m the summer of 2015 trying to sign up drivers at gas stations. The name of the project, of course, was Project Superpump.

MikeIsaac21 karma

please tell me this is true. Because it is BEAUTIFUL and i am so bummed i didnt have this in the book

(also LMAO)

NewWorldScrewWormFly11 karma

I was really surprised it didn't make it in. Scout's honor, it's true.

MikeIsaac9 karma

cant wait till its time for paperback! ty, reddit friend

themaking29 karma

Longtime follower of yours on Twitter and did not realize you were hot...?

Are you single? This is a serious question.

MikeIsaac17 karma


Blackonblackskimask29 karma


MikeIsaac23 karma

She's freakin out right now for some reason. There's a lot of construction in my neighborhood right now and she HATES the noise.

(i also hate the noise, but i cry significantly less than her because of it)


Is Lyft less terrible than Uber or just terrible in a different way?

Are there any "unicorns" that would make a boring book?

MikeIsaac24 karma

I get the Lyft Q a lot.

I think it's entirely fair to criticize Lyft for a lot of the same practices that Uber has popularized. Competitive intelligence (though not to the same intense degree), labor practices, lack of safety practices for much of the company's history.

The theme, for me, has always been that whatever Lyft has done, Uber has had to amp it up a bit and do it just a little bit more intense — maybe a little bit worse, even. It's very Uber!

Boring unicorn books? Idk. I can't decide if palantir would be fun or yawn.

wongmjane17 karma

What's the backstory of your "rat king" nickname and profile picture on Twitter?

MikeIsaac30 karma

it is deeply stupid

  1. the charmin bear avi came from me noticing years ago that Charmin on twitter was hilarious and gross — they just tweeted about poop all the time, which i found funny because i am a 12 year old boy. so i took it as my avi, and now ive had it for so long that i cant ever get rid of it. really screwed myself on the old personal branding front.

  2. rat king literally came from me finding out what a "rat king" was when someone told me about it — go look it up on wikipedia, it is supremely fucked up — so i thought it was cool and took it as my name

i am not very deep or smart

WhoTookPlasticJesus12 karma

go look it up on wikipedia

jesus christ why the hell did I just follow this very bad advice.

MikeIsaac9 karma


kzr87sze8 karma

tbh I assumed rat king was a reference to all the leaks people make to you. Like they're "ratting" on their companies. lol

MikeIsaac13 karma

this would have been smarter

globbewl15 karma

is harry cherry your real name?

MikeIsaac7 karma

it is kind of a cool name

like a cartoon detective

mansomer13 karma

How hostile was Uber PR during your writing of the book (and your NYT articles)?

MikeIsaac17 karma

It's funny, I feel like we'll always be frenemies.

PR almost certainly didn't want me to write this book, and I think it's probably a difficult thing for them now because it's coming out two years after the nightmares have largely ended.

But we have a cordial and mutually respectful relationship and it's important to me to always be fair and give them ample time to deal with stories (or books!) as I write them. Hopefully they would agree with that characterization.

Agloe_Dreams12 karma

Currently reading the book, it’s been a wild ride so far, thanks for such a well written and enjoyable narrative!

At the end of covering it, do you feel like the current establishment and culture at Uber legitimately cares about the past transgressions? That the culture is different now then under Travis?

MikeIsaac16 karma

Thanks so much for reading it!

Yeah, I've spoken to a bunch of folks who have come out the other end of this and deeply care about making Uber a place that they aren't ashamed to work for.

Part of what helps someone like me do my job as a reporter is when people who abhor culture issues or bad behavior end up coming to me to leak about it. Leaks can often come from a place of wishing to create genuine change, and I think Uber's 2017 was a perfect example of that.

I do think Uber is a different entity now, if only at the bare minimum level of being too traumatized by constant scrutiny and negative coverage to even think of being as brazenly awful as some of the things that happened during its first ten years.

I also think a lot of the bad actors have cycled out, and that can certainly change a culture over time. It's almost, dare I say, a more boring place these days. And that's probably good for them!

755goodmorning9 karma

Mike, from someone who has followed you a long time - thanks for an epically constructed story. It’s impossible to put down.

And my question: where in the writing process did you decide to insert a whole footnote about TruckNutz?

Thanks and God Bless.

MikeIsaac4 karma

Thank you for appreciating my favorite foot note

ComradePalmer9 karma

When will we get a photo book of Bruna pics?

MikeIsaac5 karma

million dollar book deal right there

Clossus8 karma

In light of recent events with Anthony Levandowski and others, it seems that companies want to argue that what you learned on the job should be forgotten when you leave. It is as if your work history shouldn't even be kept track of. Are there any cases with less recognition than Levandowski that you know of? What sort of employee protections are in place for this kind of event?

MikeIsaac14 karma

Honestly one of my favorite things about the Levandowski case was the very legitimate question of what workers "take" with them in their heads out the door.

Besides the specifics of that case — which involves actual downloading of many, many files — you can look to Google X during that era in 2016 and see a LOT of talent bleeding from the org. Saw some folks turn around a quick bucks over at Ford, and it seems like leaving google, doing some sort of nascent self-driving startup and getting acquired by an automaker or some other bigco betting on AV is actually a strategically sound business plan. (or at least, it was for the two years when everyone was hyping the imminence of self-driving tech)

I do wonder what this does for employees moving between companies going forward. And I do wonder if it might get more litigious. (Look at Musk suing a few ex employees).

Great question!

chass58 karma

Hi Mike, long time first time.

If California passes AB5, I assume they won't do the same thing they did in Austin, which was take their ball and go home for a while as punishment. But what do you think they will do? Take a look at the old Kalanick playbook and try to break the law?

MikeIsaac5 karma

so my current understanding:

AB5 prob gonna pass, but doesn't immediately turn drivers into employees, changes some legal tests around classification

what i think is interesting to pay attention to is that uber (and others ) are negotiating a kind of hybrid solution — a not-quite-employee, but not quite contractor thing which basically keeps drivers as 1099's but with added protections. not sure how successful that has been yet

I can't see them overtly breaking the law at this point since it would be the dumbest thing on earth

chass54 karma

that hybrid solution sounds like the kind of thing that will become standard employment practice for low wage work very quickly if it’s not done correctly! thanks mike!

MikeIsaac3 karma

cheers sir or madam!

samfbiddle6 karma

Mike: longtime fan, congratulations on all the great reporting and book. Thoughts on PF Chang’s?

MikeIsaac5 karma

sam — lets go again

namtendo6 karma

The New York Times published a series of articles a few months back on the taxi industry that attributes their decline mainly to the inflation and manipulation of medallion prices, and that the rise of rideshare apps like Uber was not a major factor that many people believed it to be. Do you agree with that conclusion?

MikeIsaac8 karma

havent read those (dont tell my colleagues!) but ill check them out and give thoughts, thx for flagging

hitekredneck486 karma

How do we stop these companies from getting to this point? Seems like every “unicorn” company of our time relies on this world domination monopoly strategy and legislators are asleep at the wheel. What’s it gonna take?

MikeIsaac9 karma

What I wonder is if this last era of unicorns becomes the catalyst for DC to start taking action. Clearly 2016 and Facebook shook up what the FTC thinks it should start doing (though you could argue that some of their settlements have been ineffective)

I feel like this next few years is going to be a crackdown, in part because it seems politically expedient to be harder on tech. It's weird to me to think that "break up big tech" is a popular position but i feel like that's starting to become the case.

(part of this is also fueled by the unproven conspiracy theory that big tech is censoring conservatives, which adds another layer of complexity into antitech sentiment. I find that dangerous because it blends legitimate concerns with unfounded ones)

JakeFlat76 karma

What's your favorite bar in SF?

MikeIsaac8 karma

lucky 13 baby

MercTreads6 karma

Do you see the commercialization of personal data by companies such as Facebook, Google, etc. to be an inevitability of our ever increasingly internet based society or do you think there's a way for these companies to remain profitable without exploiting their user base?

MikeIsaac7 karma

One thing I'm really interested in now is this trend towards taking back user rights around privacy and data. This company called Canopy is doing some very interesting stuff around that for content suggestion.

What I don't have perspective on is how popular the trend is. Like, do normal, everyday people prefer convenience and novelty over higher barriers around their personal data? Or maybe they will, that is, once journalists start doing a better job explaining how the products they use actually work? (And when companies make clearer their own practices, as well.)

All-Your-Base5 karma

Mike, congratulations for your book. I follow you on Twitter and I enjoy your writing. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy your book when it arrives from Amazon (I’m from Chile and it takes a couple of days to get here)

1) Do you see a financial crash coming in the next years like a Dotcom Bubble 2.0? I don’t think the current model of most Silicon Valley companies is going to be sustainable in the long term

2) I would legit like a copy signed by Bruna and you

MikeIsaac10 karma

heck yeah chile! Bruna sends her love

I think everyone is anticipating a recession, which is why you saw uber and a bunch of other companies rush to IPO this year even when it wasn't convenient. the thinking is that the shit is about to hit the fan, so get out while the economy is still not in the toilet.

I think it's gonna get bad. I dont know how bad, but we're already seeing valuations of at least SOME companies (coughWeWorkcough) crashing back down to reality. imagine the effect on valuations that a recession might have!

5B12654 karma

Hey Mike! Slowly going through the book and it’s great so far. X to the x is such a crazy story and it made me wonder, are there any stories or anecdotes you left out of the book?

Edit: Answered it above

MikeIsaac2 karma

ill try to think of more

TheVitoGallo3 karma

First a comment - you and Casey were great last night at the booksmith. Now how do I get time away from work to actually start reading your book?

Also, when I can preorder your next book about WeWork? Please and thank you.

MikeIsaac2 karma

<3 <3 <3

bmunn943 karma

Hey Mike! Love the book so far and love your reporting! Was there a distinct moment during your reporting of Uber that you knew you wanted/had to right a book about it?

MikeIsaac3 karma

yep, absolutely. was the morning after I reported Kalanick's ouster and his being forced out in 2017. I did an episode of The Daily, and my agent heard me and was like "you gotta do a book."

I had thought about doing an uber book back in 2014, but it didn't feel right. I didn't really feel compelled to write the story of a company that is good at raising money and growing quickly.

But the morning after he was ousted, the story was so crazy I knew it needed to be a book. there was so much stuff I had left over that didn't make it into stories. and frankly the book could have been even longer than it turned out! (had to cut a lot)

duruq3 karma

Mike, quick question—

Dipping dots vs toilet paper for life?

MikeIsaac3 karma

idk if i understand the question — do i either use dippin dots or toilet paper? wtf man

BoostMoot3 karma

I’m really interested in the role investors had in this whole shitstorm. Did you find that the flush of VC money insulated Kalanick or otherwise empowered him? And why do you think coverage was so uncritical of him/his company for so long?

MikeIsaac13 karma

a lot of the past two years for me has been about revisiting coverage of the rise of Uber, and taking a critical look at just how uncritical we were (myself included).

This is part of why I think Uber is such an important company, largely because while the book is about uber, it's also really not about Uber. It's about how people view tech today, and what we're okay with regarding employee behavior, or company practices, or data collection, or etc etc etc.

There's a reason Facebook has been the punching bag for the past year, and I imagine why Google and YouTube will be the next ones to get their asses handed to them publicly.

I see it as kind of a reckoning for a lack of awareness on just how fundamental tech is to the world and how it shapes literallly everything we do, what we read, how we move around and so on. And it happened very fast.

(A lot of my sources were caught off guard by it, but the more self-aware ones can appreciate that tech very much is a center of power now, and it's not going to go back to the blind-worship era any time soon.)

yoyononogogo3 karma

I just finished the book. It was really good! Uber's share price has really struggled since IPO, and lines of business that were considered promising (like Eats) are starting to look like they won't be profitable soon (or ever). If Uber ultimately isn't able to be profitable or fulfill TK's vision of challenging Amazon as a last-mile delivery leader, what do you think his legacy will be?

MikeIsaac10 karma

TK's aspirations to challenge amazon really were fascinating, and I think a large motivator for employees. Again, for all of his faults, he did instill a sense of loyalty in many folks due to his fire and passion for the work.

Interesting thing to me is that the competitive environment TK built uber in has completely changed — now Uber has to fight well funded competitors across multiple continents and spend huge to get into new lines of biz that wont pay off for years.

Funny thing is he may actually benefit from not being there anymore. he can take credit for creating an enormous company but can avoid the idea that he wasnt able to make it the next amazon because he got taken out too soon to do it. I do wonder what it would be like there today were he still there. what battles would be ongoing?

endless_thread3 karma

Ben Johnson here from team Endless Thread--great to see you doing an AMA and it's been fun to talk to you in the past about Uber and other tech things during my Marketplace days. One thing I think about more and more is the importance of company culture--how it is created, how hard it is to fix when it is terrible, and how companies get it right. Can you talk about Uber's culture, how it has evolved and where it came from? And maybe your thoughts on how it could be fixed? Startup culture is made fun of so often and there's a lot of reporting about how bad it is...but not as much reporting (IMO) about *how it gets created* in the first place.

MikeIsaac6 karma

Ben! great to hear from you dude!

One thing that I think about a lot w/r/t companies and culture is DNA and founders. every company is built by a specific set of founder(s) who really can set the tone for what the company will be in the future.

People like to look at Google as a "grad school," due to the cerebral approach L&S had to forming it. Facebook is a bit more undergrad. Apple is ultra secretive and buttoned-up, and so on.

This is why I think it's a hopeful thing now that at least some founders are thinking more proactively about culture and company formation decisions from the very beginning. Perhaps if we gain anything from the past few years of shitshow company implosions we'll start to see a more thoughtful generation of founders and startups shooting for an attitude of inclusivity from the outset.

imissedthelastbus3 karma

A lot of other startups are adopting Uber's business model (spend, spend, spend... and then worry about it later). With how Uber is doing now and the latest WeWork news, should we be more worried about the VC-funded, startup bubble popping? Is the end of disproportionally rich techies upon us?

MikeIsaac3 karma

i sort of mentioned this in another post but I absolutely think the market is more risk averse than ever right now, in terms of what balance sheets are acceptable to public market investors.

the amount of red ink in the WeWork S1 got them laughed off of the street

amlg232 karma

how’s Bruna’s snoring going ?

MikeIsaac1 karma

p good — shes asleep now but not snoring. i imagine itll kick in soon

sheikjonez2 karma

Are you and Farhad actually friends? And what do you think Uber looks like in 10 years?

MikeIsaac3 karma

i do consider farhad a friend! he's someone i admire because he is constantly intellectually curious, which is not something you can say about everyone.

uber in ten years will either be the "amazon of transportation" it keeps claiming it wants to be, or, man IDK. maybe some conglomerate of merged ride-hailing companies that had to stop burning cash against each other and start cooperating or something?

carltheawesome2 karma

What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?

MikeIsaac10 karma


how bout: i went to high school in texas and really miss chicken fried steak, the most unhealthy and v delicious entree

Last_King_of_Sachsen2 karma

Who will play you in the inevitable movie?

MikeIsaac6 karma

vin diesel obvs

happyskittles2 karma

How do you navigate the inner circle in SF? Do people pander to you? Do you worry about having real friends etc.?

Genuine question. I've heard founder folks that have made a name for themselves complain a bit about it, but I feel like it must be on another level for you.

Also hi! We follow each other on twitter :) I'm already halfway through!

MikeIsaac6 karma

i think i benefit from the fact that my twitter avi is a cartoon shitbear and i keep my face less public (though now with this book it may be harder), so i only get stopped on the street maybe once or twice a week

that said SV is a small town and i do get DMs on occasion from folks who say "saw you at the grocery store hi hi" and it does sort of remind me to, idk, not pick my nose in public or something

also despite my public twitter presence i am a pretty private guy and am not out and about carousing with the SF elite — i like reading, hanging with dog, film, video games (nerd!), museums and shit like that, which generally dont rely on me needing to like, hobnob with powerful people, thankfully

also i'd like to think that i can smell BS better than the average bear, since im a journalist, so usually try to cut those people out of my life

my real friends exist! they are often not in media or tech, though

littleflashingzero2 karma

Are your Bruna and Jia's Luna sisters from other misters?

MikeIsaac3 karma

Soul sisters!!!!

melibrry2 karma

howdy, mike isaac! i'm halfway through super pumped, its v good! i enjoy your online presence on Twitter, ur a funny dude :) my question is not about your reporting or the book but uh, what happened to the pounds of cheese and peanut butter?? lmao im dying to know

MikeIsaac2 karma

Oh man I had to get rid of it — too much

SpecialGato2 karma

Hi Mike

I am about 2/3 of the way through. Cannot stop. It's like watching a train wreck -- but is anything going to change when there is too much money chasing the shiny object? How does it stop?

Also, what do you think of scooters? (spoiler alert - not a fan)

MikeIsaac6 karma

so glad you're liking it!

I think people will always be driven by base instincts — lust for power, wealth, status, etc — and working in the Valley gives many an opportunity to go after all of those things! Though I wonder how overtly acceptable that will be to like, peacock your wealth and power in a new time of tech accountability. Maybe it will just take a different shape. Or maybe nothing changes! Sheesh.

I hate scooters personally b/c they look lame as hell. But have to give some kindness to the idea that they lessen dependence on cars and can improve transpo in cities. still, the initial rollout in SF was just to blanket the entire city in scooters and it was the WORST. made me hate them by default.

SpecialGato2 karma

Re scooters like you even more now <3

a longer convo, but scooters and cars and even bikes don't mix on roads designed for 2,000 ton vehicles. You think SF is bad... try crunchy East Bay

MikeIsaac1 karma

have they taken over the east bay already?! oh no!!!!

SpecialGato3 karma

Hahahaha, you should see Lake Merritt -- littered with scooters and probably maimed bodies (promise you don't need a visa to come to Oakland. Between your body art and Bruna, you will look like a local)

MikeIsaac2 karma

I used to live off of Park ave and 19th back in the day

I’ll spend more time in the east bay soon, I miss it over there

jhoge2 karma

Has the way Uber justifies itself to lawmakers changed over time? I remember some of the original chatter was ‘we take cars off the road!’ which seems increasingly untenable. What do they say today?

MikeIsaac2 karma

i basically treat all of their marketing from the earliest days as unmitigated BS. nothing they said was really demonstrably true, and I have records of lies that were told to me that going back now seem hilarious to think they were ever believable.

now their pitch is more "we swear we arent evil!" and in some cities it's about "last-mile/first-mile" connections to public transpo, which is a legitimate claim

bestminipc2 karma

what's the 1-line summary or summary of this book?

MikeIsaac1 karma

A story about the limits of cult-like founder worship in Silicon Valley

dawhizkid1231 karma

Is there a ride sharing company anywhere in the world that you believe has fulfilled the vision of becoming “Amazon-like” better than Uber? I only see things from afar but it seems like Grab in Southeast Asia has had success in becoming a full fledged mobile wallet.

MikeIsaac3 karma

I think asia is where SF founders go to stare into the future. i often laugh when they come back and try to institute some of these features into american products and fail at it, probably b/c some of the norms/behaviors just dont translate

app-as-wallet seems like a game changer but i wonder if/when it will ever take hold in the US. (this is something uber is working on fwiw)

dylan1 karma

hi Mike! business of books question... maybe you don't want to (or cant?) answer this, but do you make more $$$ if i buy/preorder from a local brick and mortar vs amazon? i typically preorder books from authors i like online because i get it delivered to me free on release day and that way i don't have to leave my apartment and speak to another human being, but if i knew an author made more from local bookstore sales i would do that instead.

MikeIsaac3 karma

lol, ty for asking!

Honestly not totally sure, but I think the best thing is probably pre-ordering a hardcover book from a local indie at full price.

I'm sorry if that forces you to interact with people though (ugh)

conversation31 karma

if not being a journalist, what would be your dream job?

MikeIsaac3 karma


something in the movies or TV — i would love to write fiction for the screen!

lindadogs1 karma

Do you miss gigposters?

p.s. Love your book, it's great!

MikeIsaac1 karma

every single day

buddyw1 karma

Hey Mike, long time twitter follower here. I'm about half way through your book. I'd heard of tech bros, but being a Dallas area tech person that's largely insulated from the bay area, I don't think I'd ever really understood/visualized them until your book. In my professional experience, that type is (fortunately) not that common here.

Do you have any feel for how pervasive tech bro culture is in silicon valley outside of specific companies like Uber that seemed to welcome and accommodate it?

MikeIsaac2 karma

hey buddy! thx for reading and tweeting!

I think tech bro-ness is a very real thing, though I do not think it's characteristic in every Valley company. I'll try to think of a few examples

amlg231 karma

do you think Uber is a bellweather for changing tides in silicon valley around founder worship or tech bro culture ? what is the startup culture impact if any ?

BotThatSaysBro2 karma

bro 😎💪

MikeIsaac1 karma


NudeTayneMNW1 karma


MikeIsaac1 karma

nude tayne!

martinky241 karma

WhAt made you decide to embrace bald? Can you walk us through that process?

But can’t wait for my book to show up, and your one of my fav Twitter follows. Thanks for that.

MikeIsaac2 karma


i'm half lebanese so i was destined for baldness, and like i definitely did not one to be a guy who tries to cling desperately to a patch of thinning hair

honestly its weird because it's the thing i am least self-conscious about — no hair dont care!

laflures1 karma

What do you think will be the thing that knocks over the house of cards?

Edit: also - please post more Brian content, please and thank you.

MikeIsaac3 karma

i hope brian means bruna

santiburon1 karma

What was it like talking to Michael Barbaro? Did you gain any new insights into the story from your interview with him?

MikeIsaac3 karma

it's so funny he's famous now, i remember him mostly as just my nice pal in the newsroom when i lived in nyc, and now he's a SUPERSTAR

ewlamy1 karma

Are there any smaller but promising companies you see as being at risk of going down a similar path as Uber?

MikeIsaac1 karma

nothing specific now but i always hear rumors of "oh man this company is a total shitshow" so ill be curious to see what pops up if bad behavior is less tolerated

rasheeeed_wallace1 karma

Hi Mike, congratulations on a really well written book. After reading it, I came away with more sympathy for Travis Kalanick than I anticipated. The whole tech company funding ecosystem is entirely fucked and it doesn’t seem to me that any of the VCs learned anything from the Uber debacle.

I read you saying that ultimately you were optimistic about tech going forward. Why is that when the VCs seem to be as fucked up as ever?

MikeIsaac7 karma

thanks so much!

I tweeted that optimism thing after a day of insane press blitzing so my mind was half broken but

the optimism I'm starting to get is when I meet young kids fresh out of college who come and tell me that they dont want to build the next shitty company. they want to do it differently than before, to make something new, better, not go after insane growth for growth's sake or go for the BMW and baller lifestyle, maybe think about inclusivity and culture from the beginning instead of trying to repair it later.

these are actual questions being asked of themselves now, and i find that inspiring! or, like, in a deeply fucked up system, perhaps it's a thread of hope!

rasheeeed_wallace3 karma

Everyone’s an idealist until they raise their first round of funding.

MikeIsaac3 karma

hah, i love this

000phaedon1 karma

Hi Mike! All of the excerpts I've read of your book are SO JUICY — I've ordered your book and am looking forward to ripping through it this weekend.

I am curious what you think of the tension between Uber and public transit? In their IPO filing, Uber mentioned that they viewed public transit as "competition", but after public outcry they redacted that section. As Uber comes into the gunsights of city regulators (for various reasons: their impact on city traffic, dubious labour practices, withholding API access to third-party developers, etc.) do you see Uber actually deepening its commitment to public transit, or do you think they're blowing smoke up the ass of cities? I've noticed more local politicians being publically skeptical of Uber's intentions with respect to solving traffic — do you think this has contributed to cities looking to partner with less "car-reliant" mobility companies, like Lime and Bird, or mobility aggregators like Citymapper and the Transit app?

MikeIsaac3 karma

Heck yeah! enjoy it this weekend!

I think for most of uber's life it was at odds with cities, and had little to no interest in a true partnership.

Now they claim to be wanting to form some alliances with cities, or integrate as first-mile-last-mile in some ways, which I find interesting but also difficult to imagine as a priority (see article below)


one funny side effect of the uber wave of city antagonism has been a kind of remembered trauma from cities and an immediate crackdown when a startup tries to just flood the zone again. See: Bird's entrance into SF and its subsequent smackdown from the city

in the future i do think it will be more difficult to barrel in and set up shop without asking permission, which is probably a net positive thing if it means private/public sectors work together more often?

TMulv1 karma

Will more people own horses or cars in the future?

MikeIsaac3 karma


cardifan0 karma

What's your dog's name?

MikeIsaac3 karma


bikashag02-2 karma

Have been following you for a couple of years on Twitter now. One thing that I noticed is that, though Uber has achieved so much on its own, you rarely tend to report/tweet any positive news. Agreed Uber has lots of flaws, but it sometimes feels like you wanted Uber to fall and with that Travis Kalanick. Would love to hear your view?

MikeIsaac4 karma

hiya, thx for the Q

definitely don't have skin in the game or a wish for anything to turn out in any way. and as someone pointed out below, i do actually try to give a fuller portrait of TK in the book.

i would challenge the notion that i only covered the negatives, though — I definitely wrote about uber in ways that were more effusive back in 2014 through 2016