STARTUP by Jerry Kaplan


A Silicon Valley Adventure
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 Kaplan, the intrepid founder of a company that was devoted, in every sense of the word, to a new kind of computer, chronicles his hazardous adventures in darkest Silicon Valley. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but will it beat a computer keyboard? Starting with the notion that a penpoint, rather than a keyboard, is the way to bring zillions of new users to computers, Kaplan (who was trained in computational linguistics) brings us along for the startup of a corporation called GO, which intended to develop a new breed of hand-held computer. We go along with the increasingly byzantine business contortions needed to attract regular infusions of capital. Upwards of $75 million was spent. The product never sold. The venture capitalists who supplied much of the money were not a bad bunch, but the business partners (including biggies like AT&T and IBM) exercised their inherent rights, too, and many of the rights were conflicting. Lenders squeezed, suppliers defaulted. Mitchell Kapor of Lotus was skittish, John Sculley of Apple was fractious, and Bill Gates of Microsoft was intractable. Of course, as the odds would have it, GO stopped. The structure that Kaplan built, with his gang of dedicated young colleagues, finally imploded for a number of reasons. Foremost, surely: Nobody really wanted a portable computer driven by handwriting; that, and being beset by the big boys. ``The good news,'' said one participant, ``is that we have Microsoft on the run. The bad news is that they're running in our direction.'' For the industry, it's not an unusual tale, but Kaplan tells it with novelistic style replete with races against the clock and sharp character sketches. There are human touches, like the death of the author's father and his too-cute marriage proposal (using a computer, of course). An insider's well-written story of the death of a new machine, probably composed on a keyboard. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1995
ISBN: 0-395-71133-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


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