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THE FIRST $20 MILLION IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST by Po Bronson

THE FIRST $20 MILLION IS ALWAYS THE HARDEST

By Po Bronson

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45699-6
Publisher: Random House

 Bestselling Bronson's (Bombardiers, 1995) stab at capturing and conveying the high-tech angsts and ecstasies of California's Santa Clara (a.k.a. Silicon) Valley comes off as less a novel than a preachy, populist allegory. Despite a place on the payroll at La Honda Research Center, Andy Caspar is discontented. The Stanford grad is doing scut work while fellow engineers are advancing the state of broadcast, computer, networking, semiconductor, and telecommunications media for the West Coast electronics enterprises that fund the prestigious nonprofit institution. Rejected by the legendary Francis Benoit for a high-profile chip program, Andy winds up heading a dead-end project whose stated objective is to develop a personal computer that can retail for $300 or less. No shirker, Andy recruits some assistants and gets cracking. When word leaks out that the outcasts' efforts could bear fruit, an influential sponsor (less than eager to encourage low-end competition) lays down the law. Effectively cut adrift, Andy & Co. (who have devised a universal program that can afford speedy access to the Internet's data streams) go in search of venture capital. The only willing source of financing they can find, however, is a sleazy accountant. Desperate, they accept his hard bargain (which costs them control of the company) and learn that their angel is fronting for the duplicitous Benoit. Andy fights back, consigning a recoded version of his brainchild to the public domain and thwarting the best-laid plans of the villains for a megabuck public stock offering. At the close, Mr. Integrity and two of his three original colleagues are gainfully employed at a for-profit concern morally committed to making and marketing low-priced hardware and all-purpose software. Not without a few bright spots, but Louis B. Mayer was right: In most cases, messages are best left to Western Union. (Author tour)