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The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley [Kindle Edition]

Victor W. Hwang , Greg Horowitt
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Winner: Book of the Year, Gold Medal in Business & Economics, ForeWord Reviews
Winner: Small Business Book Awards
Winner: Independent Publisher Book Awards, Finance/Investment/Economics (Bronze)

What makes places like Silicon Valley tick?
Can we replicate that magic in other places?

How do you foster innovation in your own networks?

Discover the answers in this groundbreaking book from two of the world's leading experts at the intersection of venture capital and global development. Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt propose a radical new theory to explain the nature of innovation ecosystems: human networks that generate extraordinary creativity and output. They argue that free market thinking fails to consider the impact of human nature on the innovation process. This ambitious work challenges the basic assumptions that economists have held for over a century.

The authors argue that such ecosystems - what they call Rainforests - can only thrive when certain cultural behaviors unlock human potential. People in Rainforests belong to "tribes of trust" and follow a secret unwritten code: the Rules of the Rainforest. The theory of the Rainforest is influenced by several breakthrough ideas in academia, including insights on sociobiology from Harvard, economic transactions from the University of Chicago, design theory from Stanford, and the latest research in neuroscience and social network theory, among others.

With an unorthodox and entertaining narrative, the book reveals the mysterious mechanisms of Rainforests. Furthermore, the authors provide practical tools for readers to design, build, and sustain new innovation ecosystems. The Rainforest will transform the way you think about technology, business, and leadership.

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

"In their debut business title, two venture capitalists offer an insightful, forward-thinking assessment of what makes Silicon Valley tick. If Silicon Valley can be held up as a living, breathing example of American ingenuity, why haven’t we been able to recreate it elsewhere? Hwang and Horowitt suggest that Silicon Valley is an innovation ecosystem they liken to a rainforest—hence, the book’s title. Thinking of Silicon Valley as a living biological system “helps innovators ‘tinker’ together in the same way that atoms ‘tinker’ together in natural biological systems ... [to] discover more valuable recipes for combining and recombining ideas, talent, and capital together.” The authors proceed to offer an engaging, highly creative analysis of the workings of a “rainforest,” using Silicon Valley as the prototype. They present 14 compelling “Rainforest Axioms,” for example, “Axiom #2: Rainforests are built from the bottom up, where irrational behavior reigns,” along with the “Rules of the Rainforest,” “Rule #4: Thou shalt experiment and iterate together.” The authors also explain how to build and measure a rainforest. The text is enhanced by well-designed graphic illustrations and explanatory charts. Hwang and Horowitt write with authority and wit, carefully backing up their theory with substantive examples. Readers get the feeling that the authors have unveiled a very big, important concept, one that could serve as the basis for intentionally, methodically developing other “rainforests” similar to Silicon Valley. However, they acknowledge that following the Valley’s winning formula is challenging, suggesting that “The Rainforest concept does not come naturally to many leaders” and that it requires “a new active capitalism” to create a rainforest. While Silicon Valley may not be entirely unique, replicating its ecosystem is no easy task. A provocative study of innovation."


"...a detailed analysis of the power of environment on startup success, and in particular an explanation of why Silicon Valley has been such a powerful incubator of ideas and innovation.... If you are interested in the interplay of environment and business, and in understanding in broader terms how our professional relationships define our success, I recommend picking up a copy." -- Forbes

"I thought I was planting seeds, but I have been planting weeds. This amazing book relates innovations to random propagations of life in the rainforest. I haven't read a book this innovative since Bionomics." --Tim Draper, Founder and Managing Director of the Draper Fisher Jurvetson Rainforest

"A well-written book with a valuable empirical and multi-disciplinary approach." --Prof. Ronald Coase, Nobel Laureate in Economics, University of Chicago

"The Rainforest - a book filled with passion, energy and wisdom - bubbles over with energizing insights and practical advice for policymakers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists around the world. Drawing on their deep experience as entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, as well as some of the most advanced research in the social and psychological sciences, Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt use the analogy of the rainforest to clearly explain the complex evolutionary interactions that must exist... Few issues could be more important for the United States and for developing countries..." --Richard Foster, Former Director and Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

"Everyone's glooming and dooming, and this is literally the blueprint for the new world." --Daryl Browne, entrepreneur

"Every once in a while, a business book with a big idea that defines a way of thinking comes along. Such books as Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore and Jim Collins’s Good to Great come to mind. The Rainforest feels like one of those books." -- ForeWord Reviews

"Offering a challenge to traditional economic wisdom, The Rainforest is a much recommended read for those who want to better understand the intersection of economics, innovation, and business success."-- Midwest Book Review

Product Details

  • File Size: 2620 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Regenwald; 1 edition (February 21, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007AUWLU0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,985 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is a readable and well-reasoned book which describes why so many attempts to replicate the success of Silicon Valley in other locations fail. Often policymakers simply park some venture capitalists next to a research university and expect a new center of innovation. The Rainforest shows that you cannot produce the success unless you understand and replicate the culture.

Understanding "what goes without saying" is critical to succeeding in any new environment, and the authors make explicit the implicit assumptions that govern behavior among startups, venture capitalists, and large corporates in the Valley. The authors pull from multiple disciplines and integrate a varied set of research and real-world observations to weave an explanation for how and why Silicon Valley works. This makes it an excellent travelogue for those new to the Valley or visiting it - anyone entering startups or venture in California should read it. It also is indispensable for those policymakers and practitioners who want to create innovation ecosystems in other locations in the US and in other countries.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's people, not structures February 23, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am an active angel investor in Northwest Energy Angels and I have been impatiently waiting for this book to be published so that I can give copies to everyone I know who is involved in entrepreneurial ecosystems - from charitable foundations who want to encourage economic development to government officials with dispersible funds to entrepreneurs who come to our deal pitch meetings looking for funding. This is the real 4-1-1 - Greg and Victor share with us the real reason entrepreneurial ecosystems can be built and thrive; to work, such systems depend on personal relationships, fairness, the building of trust, and self-policing. Quoting from the book's abstract, "The key factors driving the strength of human innovation ecosystems are: diversity of talents, trust across social barriers, motivations that rise above short-term rationality, and social norms that promote rapid, "promiscuous" collaboration and experimentation among individuals. This is the culture of the Rainforest". This is why Burning Man works, and why Silicon Valley has worked. I recommend prioritizing reading this book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful February 23, 2012
As a legal practitioner who likes to think he is familiar with the VC industry, I thought the book provided a really unique and compelling insight and analysis of the nature, drivers and future of innovation - things we sort of know are fundamentally important, but that we often just accept without much thought. The book clearly benefits not just from deep first hand industry experience that the authors draw on, but also from their ability to relate much of that, anthropologically and otherwise, to what motivates people and communities to innovate and to other real world examples. There's a ton of books addressing innovation, including with a VC theme, but this one added a fresh perspective, particularly with respect to trying to understand and anticipate future innovation trends and clusters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touches the core of innovation--the human element September 19, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book delves into the core of what spawns true innovation--or rather innovative environments--the human element. Innovation is not defined by technology or scientific discoveries or brilliant ideas. It is true that these elements are essential components of the process, but they are far from sufficient. A successful innovation culture requires people, people from all walks of life, all backgrounds and expertises--people are the glue that hold it all together.

This book speaks to changes in culture, in the importance of lowering social barriers and alterations of perspective that are required to bring about the extensive (and often prohibitively difficult) collaboration that is necessary to create self sustaining innovative environments. It challenges ideas that innovation can be "engineered" from the top down and rather presents it as an organic growth, a symbiosis of tacit social contracts. True innovation comes from maximizing serendipity, it cannot be predicted, it cannot be engineered, but its conditions can be fostered. This book will change your perspective on how to enter into collaborative environments, how to interact with diverse parties, and how to change your attitude and behavior to benefit a system (and consequently yourself) that spawns truly revolutionary innovations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A essential read for policy makers February 24, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As someone who has been involved in public policy, venture capital and economic development for over a decade, I only wished this book was available to me when I started. The joke we often used = 'the only place not trying to be Silicon Valley in this world is Silicon Valley itself.' Thats because we focussed only on the tangibles and the first thing we could put a finget to was money as in "Lets have more VC dollars." This is somewhat like 'let them eat cake instead' when the basics have not been thought out.

Victor and Greg have done an incredibly fine job in shaping the content to change this mindset. A chapter in this book "Capital in the Rainforest" points out that mutualism (where both sides benefit) and that V is always bigger than C (as in the entrepreneur matters more than the money). At the heart of this book, the authors are deeply spiritual thought leaders. They say that "making more by owning less" is possible. They essentially debunk the VC approach that early stage means more ownership = higher IRR. They offer elegant and fresh solutions like subsidized capital and 'balancing of interests.'

Strongly recommended for policy makers, economic developers and VCs alike - it will change the way you see startups and your ecosystem. It will make you a responsible member of the forest.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
While introducing a broad range of high level concepts and ideas, the authors made sure to provide the reader with practical steps to establish or transorm their ecosystem. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sterling Ashby
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read....
This book is well thought out and insightful. This should be required reading for policymakers at all levels and business leaders.
Published 4 months ago by Christopher White
3.0 out of 5 stars What I thInk and feel.
This was a very enjoyable book. I read it to the finish. I think I have to read it again to get some of the concepts. Read more
Published 6 months ago by T. Kenneth Kanehara
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
This is a very well done and current update on the Rain Forest concept of supporting each other when the roots are not deep. Good book with great graphics! CCJS
Published 9 months ago by Cynthia C Jones Shoemaker
5.0 out of 5 stars buy this book.....
better yet, read it. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, innovation and you don't live in CA and can't figure out why other parts of the country can't seem to get it right,... Read more
Published 15 months ago by D. Milbauer
4.0 out of 5 stars IndieReader Review
The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt, describes the essentials of the technological, economic and behavioral... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Amy Edelman
5.0 out of 5 stars Depth I was hoping for
Lots of books popping up on Community building... but this one had the depth of ideas I've been searching. An easy read for such an academic project. Read more
Published 18 months ago by J. Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiration in a book
Rarely, do I get this inspired by a non-fiction book that isn't a biography. Nonetheless, Rainforest made me feel as if I could personally do something to enhance my community and... Read more
Published 20 months ago by JBZ
5.0 out of 5 stars Victor Hwang's Brillance and Vision needs to be read by anyone who...
Here are some thought provoking Axiom's from Victor Hwang's book, "The Rainforest." We have his permission to quote him. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Mike - The Economic Development Guy
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Novel Thinking
Fascinating and Unique observations about the environments that lead to innovation. Absolutely out of the box thinking and guidance. Highly recommended.
Published 23 months ago by Kindle Customer
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