An intriguing learn-from-failure investment manual with a hard-edged practical side.



A business book on the nature of startup failure and success.

As this work begins, entrepreneur Undheim, who previously wrote Leadership From Below (2008), immediately tackles the age-old idea that success breeds success, citing a much broader and more flexible notion of what leads to success in venture capitalism and startups. In these pages, he seeks to differentiate between simple failure—in which nothing is advanced, no attitudes are changed, and nothing is learned—and something he calls “reflexive failure,” an entirely richer and more fruitful process. For failure to be instructive, Undheim writes, “it must have a deep cost in time and energy.” People shouldn’t seek out failure, of course, but they should seek risks, which can very often not work out as intended. The author urges readers to get a feel for the rules of disruption while always keeping in mind the potential downsides of both failure and success. Building a startup demands a lot of attention—“sometimes more [than] you have to give,” Undheim writes. “The risk is high. Is it truly worth risking your kids’ college savings? Your job? Your ability to pay the mortgage?” In clear, engaging prose, the author offers many specific examples; the sheer number of unsuccessful startups mentioned in these pages is, in its own strange way, curiously uplifting. There’s also plenty of insightful generalization, as when the author reminds readers, for instance, that the process of innovation isn’t simply mechanistic, because businesses are social systems governed by many interlocking forces. Undheim’s book is very clearly not for beginners, but experienced venture capitalists will find much of his outside-the-box thinking to be thought-provoking.

An intriguing learn-from-failure investment manual with a hard-edged practical side.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64764-728-5

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2020

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.


Everyone’s favorite avuncular socialist sends up a rousing call to remake the American way of doing business.

“In the twenty-first century we can end the vicious dog-eat-dog economy in which the vast majority struggle to survive,” writes Sanders, “while a handful of billionaires have more wealth than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.” With that statement, the author updates an argument as old as Marx and Proudhon. In a nice play on words, he condemns “the uber-capitalist system under which we live,” showing how it benefits only the slimmest slice of the few while imposing undue burdens on everyone else. Along the way, Sanders notes that resentment over this inequality was powerful fuel for the disastrous Trump administration, since the Democratic Party thoughtlessly largely abandoned underprivileged voters in favor of “wealthy campaign contributors and the ‘beautiful people.’ ” The author looks squarely at Jeff Bezos, whose company “paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018.” Indeed, writes Sanders, “Bezos is the embodiment of the extreme corporate greed that shapes our times.” Aside from a few passages putting a face to avarice, Sanders lays forth a well-reasoned platform of programs to retool the American economy for greater equity, including investment in education and taking seriously a progressive (in all senses) corporate and personal taxation system to make the rich pay their fair share. In the end, he urges, “We must stop being afraid to call out capitalism and demand fundamental change to a corrupt and rigged system.” One wonders if this firebrand of a manifesto is the opening gambit in still another Sanders run for the presidency. If it is, well, the plutocrats might want to take cover for the duration.

Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593238714

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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