He wanted the growth, the stock options... and he wasn't cut-out for the demands:
Yes and no. Most startups have the opportunities for growth, stock options that could become valuable, etc., though you always have a decent chance of not getting anything from them other than more work. But there's definitely a point beyond which that extra work qualifies as worker abuse. This is why we need stronger laws on employee work hours.
Don't get me wrong; I'm okay with people hiring "exempt employees" with the understanding that their work hours will vary throughout the year, depending on what is happening. Where that scheme goes off the rails is when that turns into an expectation that you'll work 50+ hours every week—something that is fundamentally unsafe from a psychological perspective, causing serious harm to workers when done over a prolonged period. And from what I've read, Uber is one of "those companies".
Make no mistake, that culture is entirely the fault of Uber's management. Young people tend to think they're invincible, so without managers telling them to do otherwise, they will work themselves into the ground—sometimes literally. They think that by working ridiculous hours, they'll get ahead of their coworkers, and when enough people do that, others start to believe that long hours are required; thus, a work culture forms around that expectation.
What those young people don't realize is that those longer hours invariably lead to bad decision-making and lower quality output. Statistically, for every hour above about thirty hours, productivity falls off, and by about 50 hours or so, productivity actually goes negative; for every hour worked beyond that limit, you end up doing more than an hour of extra work to fix the additional screw-ups caused by the hour of extra work. For this reason, it is crucial for every tech business to have competent managers who strongly encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Managers who do not do this—managers who prioritize short-term gains over worker health—invariably lead to worker burnout, long-term low productivity, and yes, suicides.
Unfortunately, between Uber and video game companies, it is pretty clear that self-regulation by industry isn't working, and that government needs to step in. Exempt shouldn't mean "we own your life". It should mean "40 hours average", i.e. the same as non-exempt workers, but allowing for seasonal variation. It should be illegal for exempt workers to spend more than an average of 40 hours per week spread across a one-year period. Huge fines are quite literally the only thing that companies like Uber will understand.