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The Leap: A Memoir of Love and Madness in the Internet Gold Rush Hardcover – May 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395839343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395839348
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

These days, if it isn't a dot-com venture, it's no adventure at all. But in early 1996, when Tom Ashbrook jumped from the world of ink and paper to that of computer screen and mouse, Internet start-ups were largely the domain of computer geeks and 18-year-old whiz kids--not exactly the most obvious place for a journalist with a family to support. But with big dreams and a midcareer itch, Ashbrook took The Leap. The result is a look back at those adrenalin-pumped years that's filled with honesty, humor, and a healthy dose of introspection.

Neither a geek nor a whiz kid, Ashbrook was an award-winning writer for the The Boston Globe, where he had worked for 15 years. Shortly after winning a coveted one-year sabbatical in Harvard's Neiman Fellowship program, Ashbrook began talking Net dreams with an old college friend, Rolly Rouse. Their vision was to launch a Web site that would present home-design information and images and enable users to create online idea portfolios and buy quality products for their dream homes. Ashbrook soon quit his job and plunged into the project full time, endlessly revising business plans, tapping anyone and everyone for advice, courting venture capitalists, hoarding free credit cards for backup "security", and forever trying to convince a sane and worried wife that he wasn't zooming headlong over a cliff. As a case study of HomePortfolio.com, it's a story of manic speed and energy. As the story of one man's midlife adventure, it's a tale of trepidation, fear, ambition, love, and wonderment.

Ashbrook writes with eloquence. His descriptions are imaginative, juicy, and always dead-on. For example, Harvard Business School "was a gleaming, vitamin-enriched, brick and marble and white-trimmed monument to economic steroids," and its old buildings "always looked next-to-new, like rich, pampered matrons on full-dose nip-and-tuck regimens of estrogen and plastic surgery." And he remembers the Myers-Briggs personality test "smelled a little like horoscopes for eggheads to me, with its big gumbo of letters and pat descriptions." Occasionally, Ashbrook's tendency to spice up his descriptions gets a bit much as he throws in too many metaphors; it's as if his brain is on hyperlink overdrive. Overall, though, his graceful prose flows with alacrity, and the pace is infectious. Forget the quiet comfort of your favorite reading chair; you'll be stomping down the sidelines, hoarsely shouting, "Yes, yes, you're almost there, go, one more push!" For that's what this is, a breathless tale of giving birth, an exhausting, exhilarating play-by-play of sweaty labor and life-changing success. Beware... it'll give you the itch. --S. Ketchum

From Publishers Weekly

In 1996, after 12 years as an international reporter and top editor at the Boston Globe, Ashbrook reconnected with his old college roommate, Rolly Rouse, to begin a quixotic project: a CD-ROM architectural pattern book that would allow baby boomers to design their own homes. While at Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship that allowed him to explore his interests, Ashbrook used his newfound free time to work on the project and later decided to make the "leap from security to risk" and devote himself to it fully, despite the economic uncertainty for his family (including three kids) and his wife's recurring doubts. He and Rouse raised some money from family and friends, recruited a few staffers, vaulted into a new world of venture capitalists and partnership disputes and morphed into an Internet company, HomePortfolio.com. Momentum and tension build as the partners scramble for connections, run out of money and Ashbrook's marriage frays. Ultimately, credit cards, fortuitous funding and a dash of New York Times publicity save the day: Ashbrook's too-short epilogue tells us that HomePortfolio.com grew enormously. Though his company is more impressive as an entrepreneurial effort than as a revolutionary creation, Ashbrook's leap wasn't really about money. As he told his wife, it was "about wanting to feel really, really alive." His book may not range as broadly (or offer as much dish) as Michael Wolff's Burn Rate, but it certainly captures the manic energy of midlife Internet dreams. Author tour. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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One gets the feeling that Ashbrook has not only taken the leap, he has landed as well.
Philip Steele Krone
This richly crafted book is both a thrilling page turner and a beautifully written story where each chapter, each sentence is treasured.
Daniel Schneider
This book should be required reading for anyone considering "the leap", and for their spouse as well.
Gregory N. Jackson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read this in about two days...could barely put it down. I actually cried at a couple places late in the book, which is absolutely weird for a business book, but Ashbrook's tale is poignant, beautiful, and wonderful, as much a story of indefatigable spirit and the human appetite for risk and glory as it is a business case study. And this book worked on a different, more personal level for me, too. I've lived a teeny bit of "The Leap" myself -- my husband founded a small financial magazine with his childhood friend and eventually quit his job to make a go of it, doing the venture capital route, etc. He wound up selling the little company to an Internet company (in the process, he actually met with some of the same people who Ashbrook talks about), and got a tidy little sum as well as the satisfaction of seeing it live on online. I never knew quite what he was going through then, and admittedly I could have been more supportive, but now I think I know. Wonderful, wonderful book...not just for Internet fans or business book people, but for anyone.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amy Caplan on April 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Leap is a book that tells the story of the launch of a business but, the story is told through the lense of the author's relationships. The author's journey is powerful and his experiences are palpable. The writing is vivid and powerful. In addition, Ashbrook truly captures the restlessness and angst of his generation. I could not put it down and I learned a great deal...a most unusual experience and a most extraordinary book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By kristin Umile on May 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved the leap. Read this even if you have no interest in the internet, the new economy, business etc. The story is not about starting a business or how to make millions on the internet. It is about a regular guy's unchartered, frightening, exciting and emotional journey into a world he knew he had join. Tom Ashbrook's story is funny, romantic and crazy. Most of all it is inspiring. After reading it, I was compelled to evaluate my own life choices - we should all hope to be as courageous And driven as Ashbrook in our search to be challenged, motivated and successful.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"The Leap" is a fun, accessible and page turning foray into the world of e-commerce wannabes, especially if you happen to be clueless but intrigued by the phenomena of web start-ups and the preternatural sums of money required for so many of them. A friend lent me this book unsolicited. More out of courtesy than curiosity, I thought I'd skim the first few pages and return it. Wrong! Until I read it, I didn't think I was particulary interested in e-commerce matters, especially yuppie-sounding ones. But I found instead that Tom Ashbrook's book resonates on multiple levels, so that someone like me who'se not likely to be interested in what goes into starting 'just one more cyber company' is in for a big suprise. "The Leap" is an edgy mixture of personalities, relationships, families, mid-life crises, risk taking, and lots more. It's a quick and suspenseful read. Given the fickle nature of these companies, there's no final ending. Since completing this book, I've found that I pick up on media stories about other similar ventures undertaken by people with little or no capital and have a more fully informed (albeit of a 'cyber start-up 101' nature) idea and appreciation for what's involved. While people like Tom and his partner, Rolly Rouse (the obsessed and original brains behind the entire Homeportfolio venture) may not be entirely like you and me (they are after all Yale educated and know lots of people with potential deep pockets) they and their families are enough like lots of us that their story is simultaneously exciting and frightening. Enjoy your leap into their leap!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Arnold Kling on June 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As someone who "took the leap" myself, I was expecting to see a book with business insights that I could compare with my own, or with others found in, say, "High Stakes, No Prisoners." I figured there'd be "do's and don'ts" about leaving your job in midlife to try an Internet business.
Instead, this book is in a completely different genre. To me, it reads like an inspirational autobiography of someone who once was a drug addict or a prisoner of war. It's a tale of pain, degradation, and ultimate redemption.
You see how this comfortable, middle-class guy lets his need to join the entrepreneurial crowd take him lower and lower and lower. He goes past the threshold of pain that I could have taken and past what he would have believed he could take.
Once my expectations adjusted, I loved the book. He writes so powerfully! Anyone with a soul will find the book to be thrilling and moving.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jj on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Wow. What a book! What a storyteller! Ellen Goodman says this book delivers the mega-buzz of a double latte, and she is sooooo right. Finally we get an honest to god dotcom love story. Ashbrook delivers the passion worthy of this huge change in the economy and its thousand deep effects on our lives and loves. His wife Danielle is an amazing hero. What should you do when your husband/spouse goes off the deep end with a wild vision? It's all here: romance, terror, and a relationship reborn. Get this book for her, and read it for yourself, big guy. This is a brave, gifted writer who is not afraid to be richly human and real.
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