Martinez calls Silicon Valley “the tech whorehouse” and like that proverbial piano player in the whorehouse, he writes a classic “tell all” of who is screwing who.
The good stuff
The most likely path to achieve liquidity in 20th century Silicon Valley was via an IPO. Back then no investment banker would take you public without 5 quarters of increasing revenue and profitability, with another 4 quarters post IPO in the bag. Therefore, investors taught their founders how to build company’s. Today the words “startup,” “entrepreneur” and “venture capital” are still spelled the same, but rising out of the dot-com ashes they took on a very different meaning then they did in the 20th century. Today in web/mobile/software, company building for revenue and profit is long gone. For most startups the likely liquidity path is to get acquired. Startups get bought for their talent (aqua hire’s) or for their user base or their technology, and startup mills like Y-Combinator crank out tech wonks who get funded with 3-minute pitches. And therein lies Martinez's tale.
Martinez is a great writer (in the gonzo journalism style of Hunter Thompson) and tells a great story of what startups and entrepreneurs look like in the second decade of the 21st century. If you didn’t know how web/mobile advertising technology worked he’ll educate you. If you wanted to know the inside mechanics of how Facebook worked, he has plenty of juicy gossip of a low-level manager. And if you wanted to know how to overthink and badly run a startup while screwing your co-founders as you’re selling out as an aquahires, yep it’s there as well.
Well written, cynical, nasty, sarcastic, the book is punctuated by great clear-eyed insight that people on the bottom of the pile often have.
If you like the HBO series “Silicon Valley” here’s a real-life version. The book definitely should be on your reading list.
The bad stuff
As Dan Lyons proved in the book "Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
" being a smart cynical critic is almost a guarantee that you’re unable to build something of value. It may just be that you have such clear insight that you get the game but can’t bring yourself to play it, but the fact is that you’re trashing the people you’re working for while you’re taking their money. Much like being the moralist writing, “My life in the whorehouse.”
In some worlds you realize; integrity is worth more than money, the testosterone and alcohol fueled binges of your 20’s and 30’s are not things you are going to be proud of later, the co-founders you screwed were a test of your character, and the children you fathered and abandoned - while grist for a great book, might not make you a great person.
But not in the world Antonio Garcia Martinez inhabits. The fans cheering him on are like the people who cheer on the jumper on the edge of the building. It’s great entertainment with clearly a movie deal and lots of book signings to come.
Let’s just hope the end isn’t like Hunter Thompson.