Category Archives: Must watch or read

A Library of Books about Startups, High-Tech, Innovation

I began this blog in July 2007, so more than 15 years ago. I began my professional activity around startups in September 1997, so more than 25 years ago. So many adventures, so many great moments. And so much book reading! I revisited these pages and did an exhaustive list of the books I could remember reading. Most have a post somewhere in the blog.

I created a little artificially 6 categories:
– About Google and Apple
– Entrepreneurs’ Biographies
– Startup Stories and Analyses
– Ecosystems and Innovation
– Venture Capital
– How to
– Fictions / Thrillers (or close)

Here they are… Enjoy (maybe!)

About Google and Apple

  • Goomics, Google’s corporate culture revealed through internal comics, Manu Cornet
  • In the Plex, How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives, Stephen Levy
  • How Google Works, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg
  • Dogfight, How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution, Fred Vogelstein
  • I’M Feeling Lucky, Falling On My Feet in Silicon Valley, Douglas Edwards
  • The Apple Revolution, Steve Jobs, the Counter Culture and How the Crazy Ones Took Over the World, Luke Dormehl
  • Work Rules! Insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead, Laszlo Bock
  • The Google Story, David Vise
  • Return to the Little Kingdom, How Apple and Steve Jobs Changed the World, Michael Moritz


  • Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for A Fantastic Future, Ashlee Vance
  • Steve Jobs, La vie d’un génie, Walter Isaacson
  • Inside Steve’s Brain, Leander Kahney
  • The Man Behind the Microchip, Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley, Leslie Berlin

Startups Stories / Analyses

  • Trillion Dollar Coach, The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle
  • L’entrepreneuriat en action, Ou comment de jeunes ingénieurs créent des entreprises innovantes, Philippe Mustar
  • Chercheurs et entrepreneurs : c’est possible ! Belles histoires du numérique à la française, Laurent Kott, Antoine Petit
  • Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyrou
  • Bienvenue dans le Nouveau Monde, Comment j’ai survécu à la coolitude des startups, Mathilde Ramadier
  • Les start-up expliquées à ma fille, L’entrepreneuriat vu de l’intérieur, Guillene Ribière
  • Startup, Arrêtons la mascarade, Contribuer vraiment à l’économie de demain, Nicolas Menet, Benjamin Zimmer
  • No Exit, Struggling to Survive a Modern Gold Rush, Gideon Lewis-Kraus
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Building a Business When There are no Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz
  • Zero to One, Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel, Blake Masters
  • Startupland, How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business, Mikkel Svane, Carlye Adler
  • European Founders at Work, Pedro Gairifo Santos
  • Founders at Work, Stories of Startups’ Early Days, Jessica Livingston
  • The Monk and the Riddle, The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Randy Komisar
  • Once you’re lucky, Twice you’re good, The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web, Sarah Lacy
  • They Made It! Angelika Blendstrup
  • Betting It All, The Entrepreneurs of Technology, Michael Malone,
  • In the Company of Giants, Candid Conversations With the Visionaries of the Digital World, Rama Dev Jager, Rafael Ortiz
  • Startup, A Silicon Valley Adventure, Jerry Kaplan

Ecosystems and Innovation

  • From the Basement to the Dome, How MIT’s Unique Culture Created a Thriving Entrepreneurial Community, Jean-Jacques Degroof
  • The Microchip Revolution: A brief history, Luc O. Bauer, E. Marshall Wilder
  • The Code, Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, Margaret O’Mara
  • Loonshots or how to nurture crazy ideas, Safi Bahcall
  • Troublemakers, How Generation of Silicon Valley Upstarts Invented the Future, Leslie Berlin
  • The Rainforest, The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley, Victor W. Hwang, Greg Horowitt
  • The Innovators, How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, Walter Isaacson
  • The Entrepreneurial State, Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, Mariana Mazzucato
  • Genentech, The Beginnings of Biotech, Sally Smith Hughes
  • Science Lessons, What the Business of Biotech Taught Me About Management, Gordon Binder
  • Le prochain Google sera Suisse (à 10 conditions), Fathi Derder
  • Prophet of Innovation, Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction, Thomas McCraw
  • Start-up Nation, The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, Dan Senor, Saul Singer
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed–and What to Do About It, Josh Lerner
  • The Innovation Illusion, How So Little is Created by So Many Working So Hard, Fredrik Erixon, Bjorn Weige
  • Un paléoanthropologue dans l’entreprise, S’adapter et innover pour survivre, Pascal Picq
  • Against Intellectual Monopoly, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine
  • The New Argonauts, Regional Advantage in a Global Economy, AnnaLee Saxenian
  • Regional Advantage, Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128, AnnaLee Saxenian
  • Silicon Valley Fever, Growth of High Technology Culture, Everett M. Rogers, Judith K. Larsen
  • Creating the Cold War University, The Transformation of Stanford, Rebecca S. Lowen
  • Nurturing Science-based Ventures, An International Case Perspective, Ralf Seifert, Benoït Leleux, Christopher Tucci
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Peter F. Drucker
  • The Gorilla Game, Picking Winners in High Technology, Geoffrey Moore
  • Inside the Tornado, Strategies for Developing, Leveraging, and Surviving Hypergrowth Markets, Geoffrey Moore
  • Crossing the Chasm, Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, Geoffrey Moore
  • The Founder’s Dilemmas, Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup, Noam Wasserman
  • The Innovators Dilemma, When New Technologies Cause Good Firms To Fail, Clayton M. Christensen
  • Accidental Empires, How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date, Robert X. Cringley

Venture Capital

  • The Power Law, Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future, Sebastian Mallaby
  • The Masters of Private Equity and Venture Capital, Management Lessons from the Pioneers of Private Investing, Robert A. Finkel
  • The Startup Game, Inside the Partnership between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs, William H. Draper III
  • Creative Capital, Georges Doriot and the Birth of Venture Capital, Spencer Ante
  • The Business of Venture Capital, Insights from Leading Practitioners on the Art of Raising a Fund, Deal Structuring, Value Creation, and Exit Strategies, Mahendra Ramsinghani
  • The New Venturers, Inside the High-Stakes World of Venture Capital, John Wilson


How To

  • The Mom Test, How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you, Rob Fitzpatrick
  • Straight Talk for Startups, 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds, Randy Komisar, Jantoon Reigersman
  • Measure What Matters, OKRs, The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth, John Doerr,
  • The start-up of You, Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career, Reid Hoffman
  • Don’t f**k it up, How Founders and Their Successors Can Avoid the Clichés That Inhibit Growth, Les Trachtman
  • How To Start a Business That Doesn’t Suck (and will actually turn a profit), Michael Clarke
  • The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Successful Strategies for Products That Win, Steve Blank (NB: the book has been updated and renamed as The Startup Owner’s Manual, The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, Steve Blank, Bob Dorf)
  • The Lean Startup, How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries
  • Business Model Generation, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • Slicing Pie, Funding Your Company Without Funds, Mike Moyer
  • Getting to Plan B, Breaking Through to a Better Business Model, John Mullins, Randy Komisar
  • Winning Opportunities, Proven Tools for Converting Your Projects into Success (without a Business Plan), Raphael Cohen
  • Start-up, (anti-)bible à l’usage des fous et des futurs entrepreneurs, Bruno Martinaud
  • The Art of the Start, GuyKawasaki


Fiction / Thrillers or close

  • Drop by Drop, Keith Raffel
  • Smasher, a Silicon Valley Mystery, Keith Raffel
  • dead, a Silicon Valley Mystery, Keith Raffel
  • The Ultimate Cure, Peter Harboe-Schmidt
  • The First $20 Million Is Always The Hardest, Po Bronson
  • The Nudist on the Late Shift, And Other True Tales of Silicon Valley, Po Bronson

Startup stories again : Spotify, Gumroad

Twice recently, my colleague Antoine who knows my obsessing passion for Silicon Valley tried in a way to mitigate it with alternative points of view. He first mentioned a new Netflix series, The Playlist, about a European success story, Spotify (here is a post about its IPO a few years ago); and second pointed me to Gumroad through what his founder, Sahil Lavingia, had to say about success and failure.

Sahil Lavingia explains in Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company that success is subjective. Gumroad may not be a unicorn, and the investors are probably frustrated, but Gumroad has created a lot of value. Worth the 10-15 mn read.

The Playlist is as entertaining as HBO’s Silicon Valley and as informative as Something Ventured. The 6-episode series is structured on archetypes of startups, The vision, The industry, the lawyer, The coder, The partner, The artist. More important, it is really well built in its dramatic climax.

I will just extract a few images which illustrate my passion again!

Nothing to add to the subtitles! Except that these are taken from episodes 1 and 5. The scene is shown twice. It must be important to the series’ creators…

The final image requires some explanations. Here one of our “heroes” meets with Peter Thiel and the final handshake (and the full scene) is illustrative of these strange personalities.

I am not finished with the series and will watch the final episode soon. But clearly, this is one of the best accounts and also most truthful of the startup world.

The Return of Dark Humor in Russia

When I noticed the article by French newspaper Le Monde En Russie, le retour de l’humour noir soviétique, I immediately remembered the great and funny book I had been offered in 2018. I probably should have also been concerned with this poisoned gift, ah ah ah!

I’m not going to praise it again but let you (re?)-discover the articles at the time
Why was I offered that book? Humor and bureaucracy in June 2018.
Humor and bureaucracy (part II) in October 2018.
I was not aware of the Wikipedia page on the topic, which also deserves to be read: Anecdotes.

I will conclude on this April 1st that apparently Russia has decided to give Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace the new name of “Special Operation and High Treason”.

Mathematica by David Bessis – about logic and intuition

“Mathematicians are the humans who advance human understanding of mathematics.” William P. Thurston

I had already mentioned David Bessis’ book, Mathematica, when the author appeared on France Culture. He had spoken of Grothendieck, but said above all that between logic and intuition, he gave more importance to the second to do mathematics. Go back to the article to find the interview link. I had the chance to read his very beautiful book in the recent days and the author is convincing. He explains quite well the failure of the teaching of mathematics which gives too much importance to the first.

No doubt it will be difficult to change the minds of skeptics, but the argument that there is no special talent or gift for doing mathematics but above all curiosity and perseverance, as for any activity that requires learning, is well illustrated in his book.

It is not a question of tricks that are used too often in the teaching of mathematics, which can make people less fond of the discipline. In the article on the Beauty of Mathematics, I wrongly and a little too much used this impression of magic. It is more a question of deep understanding of things, in the sense that we end up seeing them. The downside of math is that while music is heard, or a sport is physically visible, math is mostly made up of mental images.

He also talks (as I must have done if you follow the #mathematics hashtag) about proofs of the sum of the first natural numbers and Bessis is luminous when he explains that Gauss’ clever proof probably does not really allow to “understand” the solution:

while there are more intuitive approaches such as the use of triangles or distance from the mean. Read his pages 169 to 181, it is easy to understand why Thurston as a child first gave 5000 as an answer to the sum of the first 100 integers, then corrected himself to give the exact answer. The average of a random drawing of numbers between 1 and 100 is also not quite 50… (unlike that between 0 and 100) and there is a link between the two subjects.

I really liked the descriptions and portraits that Bessis makes of Descartes, Thurston, Grothendieck and the less famous Ben Underwood. Or the magnificent passages on Pierre Deligne and Jean-Pierre Serre. I hope to give you the desire to discover them.

It is a beautiful book to offer to anyone who wishes to discover or rediscover the beauty of mathematics. And perhaps more importantly, as the subtitle of the book indicates, an adventure in the heart of ourselves, Bessis shows that all explorations are above all a choice to overcome one’s fears, to accept the possibility of mistakes, and the possibility of a path to more self-confidence. A paradox is an advice that comes up often in his book: “You should never read math books”. Except this one! Superb!

The Power Law (part 5) – Sequoia Capital

Sometimes I publish posts which may be unreadable, they might be more for myself, not for other readers. In a way, this blog is my second memory… so I am not sure this post is worth reading…

There have been two major venture capital firms in history. So important, I have created hashtags for them: Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins. So not surprisingly Mallaby covers them both in his great book, but in different manners. According to him, Kleiner Perkins (KP) has lost its leadership. Both Sequoia and KP were #1 and #2 from 1980 to 2005, but since, Sequoia has kept its ranking and KP is not even in the top 10 partnerships (see page 413). KP is covered in the last part of Chapter 11, with subtitle The decline of Kleiner Perkins. The full chapter 13 is entitled Sequoia’s strength in numbers.

Mallaby has a lot of convincing arguments, from the team strategy to the diversification of the firm activity: Sequoia has now large growth funds, a hedge fund, even an endowment, and a presence overseas in Israel, China, India and even recently in Europe. And Sequoia’s performance looks impressive: Taking all its U.S. venture investments between 2000 and 2014, the partnership generated an extraordinary multiple of 11.5x “net” – that is, after subtracting management fees and its share of the investment profits. In contrast the weighted average for venture funds in this period was less than 2x net. (Data from Burgiss). Nor was Sequoia’s achievement driven by a couple of outlandish flukes: if you took  the top three performers out of the sample, Sequoia U.S. venture multiple still weighed in at a formidable 6.1x net. Deploying the capital it raised in 2003, 2007 and 2010, Sequoia placed a grand total of 155 U.S. venture bets. Of these a remarkable 20 generated a net multiple of more than 10x and a profit of least $100M. (Proving it was not afraid of risks, Sequoia lost money on nearly half of these 155 venture bets.) The consistency across time, sectors, and investing was striking. “We’ve hired more than 200 outside money managers since I came here in 1989”, marveled the investment chief at a major university endowment. “Sequoia has been our number one performer by far”. [Page 320]

So I had a look at my own data. Here what I found about their fund history.

I also looked at my cap. table and found where Sequoia was an investor. When the data was available, I looked at how much the firm invested and what was the stake value at the IPO or acquisition. Indeed impressive.

PS (May 3rd, 2022): I just read a very interesting account of Mallaby’s book by Bill Janeway : The Forgotten Origins of Silicon Valley. Janeway likes the book and adds interesting criticism. Two points are not new, that is
– the role of government would be underestimated by Mallaby,
– East Coast VCs and the field of biotechnology are not analyzed well enough.
But a third point was newer to me: technology became open in the 70s and 80s (the PC, the operating systems, the networks including the internet) and this created huge opportunities for new companies. I have never been fully convinced by the first two points, motsly because the funding of research brings no guarantee to great innovations. But the third point is more intriging.

The Power Law and Venture Capital (part 4), China’s rise

In the part 1 of my post about The Power Law, I had embedded my own visual history of venture capital. There was a missing element which is China’s rise, that Mallaby adresses in his 27-page Chapter 10. Before 2010, venture capital in China was behind Europe, but today it’s challenging the USA:

Source: Mallaby’s The Power Law, appendix, page 413.

Mallaby convincingly explains that it developed not with the support of, but bypassing the Chinese government and surprisingly thanks to a combination US venture capitalists and Chinese people who had been in close contact to the American entrepreneurial culture. I knew nobody from the people below but one entrepreneur (you can check their names at the end of the post).

I had heard about the BATX which are nowadays compared to the GAFA and I loved Jack Ma’s video which could have been given by many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Here it is again:

I had a few Chinese startups in my 800+ cap tables and they are mostly internet and ecommerce companies. Mallaby seems to have similar views. I extracted them all (see below) and here are a few interesting characteristics:

Not only are they mostly internet/ecommerce companies, but they are recent, went public quickly, their founders are younger than average, keep more equity than others, and they have many more founding CEOs than the average. Interesting…

Equity List China

In the image above are the:
Funders: Gary Rieschel (Qiming), Neil Shen (Sequoia China), JP Gan, Hans Tung (ex-Qiming), Kathy Xu (Capital Today), Syaru Shirley Lin (ex-Goldman Sachs)
Founders: Jack Ma, Richard Liu, Wang Xing

The Power Law and Venture Capital (part 3), planners and improvisers, betting big or diverse

Mallaby is a marvelous storyteller – thanks to his team probably as he mentions at least 15 collaborators in his acknowledgments. This is part 3 of my posts about the Power Law, following part 2 and part 1.

You will discover so many figures of venture capital and entrepreneurship that it would be impossible to mention them all. But here are illustrations. If you do not know them, chek their names at the end.

What is really impressive in Mallaby’s book, is that whatever the strategy of the investors – for example being improvisers or planners, betting big or small in a small or large number of opportunities, replacing or mentoring the founders, the power law prevails.

As a side and unimportant comment, Mallaby is great at story-telling, he is less good with numbers. But valuations of startups can be tricky when you mix pre-money and post-money, dilution and stock options. Page 155-6 : “The founders tentatively suggested a valuation of $40million up from just $3million when Sequoia had invested eight months earlier. […] Son duly led Yahoo’s Series B financing providing more than half of the $5million […] In a bid without precedent in the history of Silicon Valley, he proposed to invest fully $100million in Yahoo. In return he wanted an additional 30 percent of the company. Son’s bid implied that Yahoo’s value had shot up eight times since his investment four months earlier.” I am not sure all this is correct. I let you check. Or page 147 : “Rather than merely doubling in power every two years, as semiconductor did, the value of a network would rise as the square of the number of users. Progress would thus be quadratic rather than merely exponential; something that keeps on squaring will soon grow a lot faster than something that keeps on doubling.” As Etienne Klein has often said, the “exponential function” is heavily mistreated in the media and now abusively assimilated to a function whose only characteristic is to grow very quickly…

The founders:
Nolan Bushnell, Jimmy Treybig, Bob Swanson, Sandy Lerner, Bob Metcalfe, Mitch Kapor, Jerry Kaplan,
Rick Adams, Marc Andreessen, Jerry Yang, Pierre Omidyar, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Max Levchin, Elon Musk.

The funders:
Don Valentine, Mike Moritz (Sequoia), Tom Perkins, John Doerr (KP), Jim Swartz, Arthur Patterson (Accel),
Bill Draper, Masayoshi Son (Softbank), Bruce Dunlevie, Bob Kagle (Benchmark), Peter Thiel, Paul Graham.

The Power Law and Venture Capital (part 2) Fairchild and Rock

Following my previous post about the book The Power Law and Venture Capital, I can only confirm it is a fascinating book about the history of Venture Capital. I have now read chapters 2 & 3 which covers the sixties mainly through Arthur Rock and his funding of Fairchild and the Traitorous Eight.

About Fairchild

Coyle pulled out crisp dollar bills and proposed that every man present should sign each one. The bills would be “their contracts with each other,” Coyle said. It was a premonition of the trust-based contracts – seemingly informal, yet founded, literally, on money – that were to mark the Valley in the years to come. [Page 35]

Source :

Each of the 8 founders put $500 for 100 shares ($500 was two to three weeks of salary), Hayden Stone (through Rock and Coyle) 225 shares at the same price per share and 300 reserved for future managers. Fairchild put $1.4M as a loan to be compared to the initial $5,125, with an option to buy all the stock for $3M. It happened making the founders rich but not as rich as if there had not been that option. Fairchild had made a profit of $2M at the time of acquisition and price to earnings were easily 20x to 30x. SO I had to do my usual cap. table from foundation to exit. Here it is:

What VCs such as Rock looked for

I just scanned pages 48-49 and this is very similar to what you could find in slideshare slides in the previous post.

“Some winning venture capitalists claim to look almost exclusively at the backgrounds and personalities of the founders; others focus mostly on the technology involved and the market opportunity the venture addresses” from The New Venturers, Wilson (1984)

“They look for outstanding people without worrying too much about the details of product and marketing strategy. The right people have integrity, motivation, market orientation, technical capability, accounting capability and leadership. The most important is motivation.
Rock’s style was supportive of entrepreneurs with an implacable will.”
from Wilson (1984)

In 7 years, the Davis & Rock $3.4M fund would return $77M or a 22.6x multiple… [Page 50].

If you do not fully understand what I talk about read Mallaby! And of course watch Something Ventured.

The Power Law and Venture Capital – according to Sebastian Mallaby

Sebastian Mallaby has just published a new book about Venture Capital which looks very interesting. I have already explained here what the Power Law is and will not do it again. But I will quote Mallaby as I do when I read good books.

About the term : “Venture capital” had also cropped up in 1938 when Lammont du Pont, the president of E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company spoke before the US Senate Committee to Investigate Unemployment and Relief. “By Venture Capital I mean that capital which will go into an enterprise and not expect an immediate return, but will take its chances on getting an ultimate return” du Pont clarified. […] but this phrase making did not stick and the term was not widely used until at least the 60s. [Note 28 page 418]

And what about this : “All progress depends upon the unreasonable man, the creatively maladjusted. Most people think improbable ideas are unimportant, but the only thing that’s important is something that’s improbable”. From Vinod Khosla [Page 3]

About the return of VC. The normal distribution applies to size, weight of individuals, traditional stock markets, but the power law applies to the exceptional – wealth of individuals when not really regulated, as well as venture capital: Like the 7-foot NBA star, unexpected large price jumps are rare enough and moderate enough that they do not affect the average. The S&P500 budged less than 3% in 7763 days out of 7817 between 1985 and 2015, that is 98% of the time. […] Now consider venture capital. Hosley Bridge is an investment company which had stakes in venture funds that backed 7,000 startups between 1985 and 2014. A small subset of these deals, accounting for just 5% of the capital deployed generated fully 60 percent of all the Hosley Bridge returns. [Page 8]

Examples of Khosla’s deals [Page 10]

Startup Investment Return Multiple
Juniper Networks $5M $7B 1,400
Siara A few $M $1,5B >150
Cerent $8M Bought for $7B

About predictions: The revolutions that will matter – the big disruptions that create wealth for inventors [and investors! HL note] and anxiety for workers, or that scramble the geopolitical balance and alter human relations – cannot be predicted based on extrapolations of past data, precisely because such revolutions are so thoroughly disruptive. Rather, they will emerge as a result of forces that are too complex to forecast – from the primordial soup of tinkerers and hackers and hubristic dreamers – and all you can know is that the world in ten years will be excitingly different. […] the future can be discovered by means of iterative, venture-backed experiments. It cannot be predicted. [Page 11] “I always tell my CEOs, don’t plan. Keep testing the assumptions and iterating” Khosla again. [Note 32, page 416] All this of course reminds me also about the Black Swan.

Why is venture capital so different from other sources of finance? Most financiers allocate scarce capital based on quantitative analysis. venture capitalists meet people, charm people, and seldom bother with spreadsheets [*]. Most financiers value companies by projecting their cash flows. Venture capitalists frequently back startups before they have cash flows to analyze. Other financiers trade millions of dollars of paper assets in the blink of an eye. Venture capitalists take relatively small stakes in real companies and hold them. Most fundamentally, other financiers extrapolate trends from the past, disregarding the risk of extreme “tail” events. Venture capitalists look for radical departures from the past. Tail events are all they care about. [Page 14]

[*] Academic survey work confirms that one in five venture capitalists do not even attempt to forecast cash flows when making an investment decision. [Note 36 page 416]

All this is from the introductory chapter only and I liked it very much. Maybe more soon but in the mean time, you can always have a look at my visual history of venture capital.

Larry Page and Peter Thiel – 2 (different?) Icons of Silicon Valley

I just read two long and interesting articles about these important personalities of Silicon Valley. The one about Larry Page was mentioned to me by a colleague (thanks François!) through its French translation. It is rather old (2014) but still very interesting and relevant : The Untold Story of Larry Page’s Incredible Comeback (Nicholas Carlson – April 24, 2014).

The one about Peter Thiel was recently published by the New Yorker, I find it a little less interesting as there is not much new, but still very clear as usual with this great magazine : What Is It About Peter Thiel? The billionaire venture capitalist has fans and followers. What are they looking for? (Anna Wiener – October 27, 2021)

What do they have in common, I am not sure: they have very different personalities, one is rather secretive, the other very visible. They certainly have in common the belief that technology and entrepreneurship can (still?) change the world, but Thiel puts this as a political statement and I believe he is wrong. Politics are about collective decisions (I hope), wheras entrepreneurship is more individual decisions (I think) even if is does include cultural (therefore collective) features.

Page was born in 1973 in Michigan and Thiel in 1967 in Germany, they both studied at Stanford University, Thiel in the law school, Page in the engineering school. They apparently both funded the Singularity university, something I do not really understand except the link to their extreme belief in technology saving the world…

I have written so much about them, you may want to check that through the tags #thiel or #google. In the article about Larry Page, there are very interesting moments, for example his “lessons” about management:
– Don’t delegate: Do everything you can yourself to make things go faster.
– Don’t get in the way if you’re not adding value. Let the people actually doing the work talk to each other while you go do something else.
– Don’t be a bureaucrat.
– Ideas are more important than age. Just because someone is junior doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect and cooperation.
– The worst thing you can do is stop someone from doing something by saying, “No. Period.” If you say no, you have to help them find a better way to get it done.

It’s really worth reading these two articles and see again how much diversity there is (or not) in Silicon Valley. The last sentences of the articles about Page says: Instead of ending his life destitute and ignored, [contrary to his icon, Nikola Tesla] Page, still just 41, will spend the final half of his life pouring billions of dollars and countless hours into his wildest visions. “Anything you can imagine probably is doable,” Page told Google investors in 2012. “You just have to imagine it and work on it.”

Whereas the one about Thiel ends in a little more mysterious but enlightening way: Of course, when it comes to Thiel, what registers as mystique may simply be practiced opacity. Strauss, the conservative philosopher, proposed that academics and writers often advance their ideas through intentionally obscure prose — a technique in which “the truth about all crucial things is presented exclusively between the lines,” such that it is legible “not to all readers, but to trustworthy and intelligent readers only.” In interviews, Thiel can come across as “Straussian” — opaque, enigmatic, even oracular. He is a master of conversational redirection, and his arguments can be indeterminate. Religious references and allusions lend his ideas about business or globalization a sense of mysticism, as though the truth of his own speech is lurking just around the corner. Online, clues proliferate — about Thiel’s ideas and much else. Sleuths hunt for meaning, and search for signs indicating that they are among the “trustworthy and intelligent.” For Thiel’s fans, part of his appeal must be the endless opportunities he presents for decoding, deciphering, and hypothesizing. He offers readers the anticipation of revelation. Then again, the truth could be much simpler: when money talks, people listen.