Potrero Hill Author in the Driver’s Seat, With Uber

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Book Cover: Wild Ride: Inside Uber's Quest for World DominationLove or hate the company, it’s a rare week when ride hailing mega-contractor, Uber, isn’t in the news.

Potrero Hill resident and Fortune Magazine executive editor, Adam Lashinsky, has been covering Uber since its 2009 inception.  His Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination, available May 23, will help feed the seemingly insatiable curiosity about the company.

“In my trails I have found pretty much that everybody is fascinated by Uber and they know way less than they like,” said Lashinsky, who lives near Daniel Webster Elementary School. Outside the technology world and journalists covering Uber, he believes people don’t know much about the firms’ inner workings.

Previously published books about Uber have focused on critiques of the firm, or been generalized depictions of the shared economy. In contrast, Lashinsky had inside access to Uber’s controversial chief executive officer, Travis Kalanick, including accompanying him on a business trip to China last summer.

Kalanick was initially cold to the idea of cooperating, threatening Lashinsky in an email that he’d have another book written under his control to compete with it. Over time, with persistence, Lashinsky secured the combative Kalanick’s cooperation.

“I think I persuaded him by one, that I was going to do it anyway, and two, that I think it would be in his interest that he would have his say,” said the author. The Uber CEO does indeed get his say in the book.  In the detailed prose of a veteran journalist, Lashinsky lays out Kalanick’s missteps and character flaws, as well as his successes.

The book follows the CEO’s career trajectory, taking readers into a world where it’s possible to raise $300,000 for a business that’s $200,000 in debt, with no customers, as Kalanick did with his second company, Red Swoosh. Or, after being indicted in South Korea for operating an illegal taxi service, to be more worried about negative publicity from a potential photo of his arrest than the charges themselves.

The 225-page book also explores the trials and tribulations a largely inexperienced business has faced breaking new ground and dealing with rapid success. In one chapter, Lashinsky gets behind the wheel as an Uber driver, discovering the company’s training dealt as much with tips for cleaning vomit from his backseat as anything more formal.

Adam Lashinsky. Photo: courtesy of Adam Lashinsky

Lashinsky, who lives with his wife and fourth grade daughter, was promoted to executive editor at Fortune in March after 15 years with the magazine. He previously worked at TheStreet.com and the San Jose Mercury News, and is a regular commentator on Fox News.

“I’m not a technologist,” he said. “I’m a finance and business writer.” The focus of his work with Fortune, and his book, has been covering business strategy and financial performance. Technology is an area of knowledge simply because of his proximity to Silicon Valley.

Wild Ride is his second book. Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–and Secretive–Company Really Works, came out in 2012. Lashinsky’s impetus for that volume was his belief that Apple was the most important company to emerge over a generation. In that vein, he felt Uber was a natural choice for his next work.

“Uber is the most fascinating business story in the world right now. Period.” he said.