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Super Pumped, Bro Culture, And Short-Termism

I just finished reading Super Pumped, by Mike Isaac, for the second time (my first pass at it was in late 2019). Friends and former colleagues worked there, so much of the content didn't surprise or shock. The prevailing image of a bro-filled boiler room would, in the end, hurt the company.

Yet, it could all have been avoided.

Through a global pandemic Uber's market cap moved beyond $100 Billion. Turns out a technology company offering food delivery, package delivery, and couriers is well placed to help and profit from humans at home. Ride-hailing has halted, but that didn't halt the need for transportation.

Uber, the idea, is genius. Push a button, get transport for you or for something you need.

Uber, the growth engine, was the problem. As Nitasha Tiku described it:

"Uber’s business model was based on a simple, brutal calculus: raise money, spend like crazy on incentives, drop fares for drivers or increase prices, repeat."

Crazy incentives included the "X to the x" retreat, a week long Las Vegas party costing upwards of $25 million (Beyoncé provided the entertainment). Open bars, prepaid credit cards, and expensive hotel rooms created a bro-friendly environment, one which encouraged and rewarded bad behaviour.

Short-termism was rewarded, too. When winning deals - at any cost - wins out over winning hearts and minds long term, bad things happen. Every party, like every other crazy incentive, was a reward for short term thinking. Super Pumpedness codified key attributes that unlocked those rewards.

Turns out, Bro Culture and short-termism go hand-in-hand. Ironically, the polar opposite of breakthrough technology companies where sustainable, long term growth is the ultimate goal.

Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's current CEO, made a point of showing Bro Culture (and, many Bros) the door as soon as he joined. In his own words:

"For instance, 'toe-stepping' was meant to encourage employees to share their ideas regardless of their seniority or position in the company, but too often it was used as an excuse for being an asshole."

Mike Isaac's Super Pumped is a fantastic lesson on why grow-at-all-costs business development tactics are short lived (and why purveyors of these tactics have short shelf lives).

High quality products - not high energy pumped-ness - build value over the long term.