An informative, thought-provoking report on the professional investors who run big risks, in hopes of achieving dramatic rewards, by bankrolling startup companies. As San Francisco bureau chief for Business Week, Wilson has first-hand knowledge of the commercially fertile Silicon Valley. His anecdotal account of venture capitalism's high-rollers and their contributions, however, offers intelligence from both coasts and a few points in between. Predictably, he focuses on information processing, integrated circuitry, bioengineering, and other state-of-the-art fields that have in recent years produced venture capital's more visible winners--e.g., Apple Computer, Intel, Genentech, et al. He also tells a number of low-tech tales, including how Jock Whitney (who seems to have coined the phrase ""venture capital"") put up $15,000 to get Minute Maid into the frozen-food business. Venture capital is no longer the private preserve of a few BayArea specialists, Wilson shows. Major corporations (Exxon, GE, et al.) and banks (Citicorp, e.g.,) have been playing the game, with varying degrees of success, since the 1970s. As one result, the pool of funds available to fledgling firms grew by roughly $13 billion during the seven fat years before 1985. The dark side to this prosperity: fast-buck artists (known as vulture capitalists) are promoting deals that might never have been done absent an abundance of seed money. Supply/demand forces are correcting interim distortions, says Wilson, who speculates that the real problem may center on forestalling government intervention which could stifle the entrepreneurial spirit now abroad in the land. Europe Ltd. and Japan Inc. still lag the US in the timely application of technical know-how, and venture capitalists (who understand market incentives) can take much of the credit for the competitive edge currently enjoyed by American industry. In sum, a first-rate perspective on venture capital--and its socioeconomic implications.