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‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’ exposes the titanic rise and fall of its disruptive CEO

‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’ exposes the titanic rise and fall of its disruptive CEO

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Silicon Valley is synonymous with the billionaires’ club as it houses the biggest names in the tech world: Apple, Google, Meta, LinkedIn and Zoom Video Communications, to mention a few.

Of course, we are in the era of disruptors and, whether consciously or subconsciously, we’ve all become converts, in some way.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve switched from conventional TV to streaming platforms, or if you have gone from using regular taxis to now e-hailing services, or from listening to the radio to now podcasts, change has come and it has been welcomed.

This acceptance has also been accompanied by curiosity and high praise for the faces behind the start-ups that have become unicorns for venture capitalist investors.

Of course, Hollywood wastes little time in bankrolling the stories about the disruptors. We’ve seen it manifested in “The Social Network”, directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, which told the rags-to-riches story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Of course, it has since changed to Meta.

But there are so many similar offerings, including “The Dropout”, “Devs”, “WeCrashed”, “Silicon Valley” and “StartUp” that piggyback off the clout of real-life success stories.

This brings me to “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber”, which I started watching and, once I did, couldn’t peel my eyes off the screen.

This seven-part series is anchored by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the controversial Travis Kalanick. Now, many might question the casting – after all, Gordon-Levitt has the face and disposition of a nice, honest guy.

But, boy oh boy, does he prove his acting chops in this role. He owns it in every way.

The series opens with a talented, passionate Travis looking for an investor for his vision that aims to disrupt the transport system – UberCabs. It was later changed to just Uber to avoid getting bogged down by red tape.

But a pioneering idea isn’t anything to brag about until it is realised. And after getting Bill Gurley’s (Kyle Chandler) attention – barring a few arrogant moves on Travis’s part – the project was a go.

Of course, introducing it into the market wasn’t without strong opposition from politicians, legislation and rivals.

‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’ exposes the titanic rise and fall of its disruptive CEO
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Travis Kalanick with Kyle Chandler as Bill Gurley.

But it was a hurdle Travis fearlessly navigated with his team. His actions, many of them morally bankrupt and often very questionable, helped him corner different markets.

Along the way, success and power turned him into a person who was not very likeable. He fostered a “boys’ club culture” in the office, which left shareholder Austin Geidt (Kerry Bishé) somewhat defeated, more so, following a #MeToo incident at a work event.

Again, Travis treated it like a negligible incident as the perpetrator, who was his buddy, was let off with barely so much as a slap on the wrist.

Rules, especially when it comes to violating user rights, were treated as yields more than no-go areas.

And the more Uber trailblazed its way into the tech space, the more reckless Travis got. In fact, it wasn’t a far reach to say he was a borderline megalomaniac.

The advice provided by Bill fell on deaf ears because Travis was unrelenting in making people pay for disloyalty. His bottom line was more important than the welfare of his drivers or female staff.

And that’s largely where the battle lines between the two were drawn.

With Babak Tafti (Emil Michael), his chief business officer, backing his every play, Travis felt invincible.

And it showed at an off-the-record media dinner, where he said: “Elbows out, ego personified, ass**** – these are just a few ways I’ve heard myself portrayed in the media and, you know, fair f***** enough, I have been so busy on my grind that I haven’t taken the time to show you that I am not a rapacious industrialist, I’m just a man stewarding a world-altering vision that’s exceeding all expectations. Not mine, but…

“But, first, let me introduce myself, my name is Travis. I am the founder and CEO of Uber and, contrary to what you may have read, I’m not a monster.”

Read between the lines what you will. But it’s very “Wolf of Wall Street” meets “Devils”.

I watched “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” with equal amounts of fascination and disgust. That said, the writers have masterfully captured Travis's rise and fall.

Of course, success is a gambit every CEO with a start-up venture takes. And you have to change or break the rules if you want to be celebrated as a disruptor. Travis definitely fits the bill on that front.

“Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber” is streaming on Showmax.

Original Article

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