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and Other True Tales of Silicon Valley

by Po Bronson

Pub Date: July 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-50277-7
Publisher: Random House

            The growing subspecialty of business books that deals with the brainiac talents and picaresque entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley is upgraded to version 2.0 with this knowledgeable communiqué from cyberspace.

            Just as Hollywood is said to have done, Silicon Valley lures mature talent and young folk bright or attractive enough to cast hundreds of sitcoms.  Novelist and Wired contributor Bronson (Bombardiers, 1995; The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, 1997) presents the wildcatters of the valley, from the seller of used cubicles to the multimillionaire who bedded down each night under his desk, from the devious headhunters to the young CEOs of software firms with killer apps.  In a series of profiles, he probes their minds and hearts.  We witness the closing days of an IPO (more dramatic than the preceding scutwork).  Here, among the processors, terminals, modems, and servers are the individual progrananers, salespeople, venture capitalists, visionaries who build financial empires on vapor, and the new generation of studly geniuses who truly want to change the way the world operates.  It just takes being first with one big idea.  Here are the superachievers who risk all for exponential dollars.  And here’s the nude guy, who is no urban legend.  It’s all quite bizarre, of course, especially the money, which is “puppylike, untrained,” i.e., “it doesn’t behave commonsensically…People give money out here just to be part of the excitement of the deal.”  The stories are told with vitality and more than a touch of gonzo.  Though basic familiarity with the terminology might be nice, after reading this entertainment, you’ll think you understand the slang, the jargon, the gibberish, and the buzzwords of the valley.

            While Internet stocks are ballooning, so are books about the players.  Here’s a strong entry in the genre, savvy and clever.