Super Pumped is a well-sourced, fast-paced tell-all that is hobbled by its editing. Even if you’ve read many of the Uber hit-pieces, as I have, with glee, there’s still more to learn from this account. Like Bad Blood, the founder is the centerpiece but also inaccessible to the author, but Isaac does an admirable job of getting into Kalanick’s psyche.
But the editing is a problem. The main issue is that Super Pumped keeps reintroducing people. You’ll read about Gabi Holzwarth, Kalanick’s ex-girlfriend, and then in the next chapter, she’s re-introduced as Kalanick’s ex-girlfriend. Instead of clarifying, it makes you wonder whether Isaac is being specific because Kalanick has two similarly-named exes, but that’s never the case. Maybe it’s structured this way so that every chapter can be read - and republished - as an independent essay, but the ramifications of this choice (or mistake) really detract from the reading experience.
There are also a few awkward moments when Drummond, the only African-American in the story, is described as passing for “a fit line-backer” and where Emil Michael’s childhood was tough because they were “a family color in a largely working-class neighborhood,” implying that working-class is white.
There are also some continuity errors. Early on, Isaac discusses how the Uber fiasco threatened Benchmark Capital’s founder-friendly brand, and that Kalanick joked about how suing a founder would be enormously damaging to the firm. Later, that happens, but without any reference. Even the most hacky “just as he had forseen” was omitted.
Some passages just don’t make sense. For example, when Khosrowshahi and Immelt compete for the CEO position, in one paragraph we learn that Immelt’s failure put him out of the running, and in the next that Dara’s success was useful in case Immelt was no longer viable, which is precisely what the previous paragraph stated to be the case. It’s like the two paragraphs were flipped in editing but nobody reread them.
It’s hard to go wrong with this subject matter, and there are enough juicy details to make this read worthwhile, but it leaves plenty of room for a better-written and properly-edited alternative.