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Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan Hardcover – July 17, 2012
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“Entertainingly recounted but also full of eye-opening—and hair-raising—insights into the challenges of doing business in the third world.”— The Christian Science Monitor
"A great book. You should read it."—Kai Ryssdal, NPR's Marketplace
"Satisfies as both a business tale and a personal saga...Sitting down with Bright Lights, No City is like an amusement park visit...careening along, you're in thrall to the ride."—Fortune/CNN Money
“A former People editor’s memoir about accompanying his brother— co-creator of the Cranium board game – as he tries to start a business in Ghana”—People
"A zany, surreal terror ride into the bush...At times improbable yet always comic and wise, Alexander's tale of the brothers making a business pitch to Africans renews our understanding of service, need, and determination in the global village."—Publishers Weekly
"The author's colorful writing and humanitarian drive make the book well worth reading. An invigorating reality check for anyone thinking about starting a business in a developing country."—Kirkus
"Overflowing with wit, cultural insights, and colorful anecdotes, Alexander's work is an inspiring example of third-world renewal and an irresistibly readable, true-life travel story."—Booklist
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Top Customer Reviews
"Bright lights" is both an interesting, funny, human story, it is close to being a textbook for a social entrepreneur. Whit Alexander (and his author brother) engaged in a highly unconventional start up in perhaps the most unlikely of places. Rather than try to build a business in a wealthy country or market, Whit Alexander found and created opportunity amongst the people of a truly poor economy. It is part of the general notion of "the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid" (without the fortune), where people have cell phones but no electricity, where they have an economy and not much of a formal market (see also, "The stealth economy"). Alexander does not condescend to these people, nor does he offer charity. Instead, using a creative combination of personal and financial capital, along with a clear-headed drive to serve an underserved market, he sells "brighter/louder" to a dark, quiet portion of the world economy, and learns how to better serve his customers through the natural market of customer feedback. Embracing the locals as well as American college interns (Brigham Young), Alexander and his crew of evolving market missionaries work small economic miracles.Read more ›
Whit, a co-inventor of the game Cranium, is convinced that Africa needs businesses that sell effective, essential products to people who earn $1-2 dollars a day. His research tells him rechargeable batteries sold on a rental plan by local agents fit this model, which he names Burro. He'll turn out to be right, but nothing in Africa is easy. Max's wonder at Ghanian driving habits/road conditions (deadly), restaurants (the menu has nothing to do with what's actually available, and watch out for cat dishes), languages, schooling, business practices, and pretty much anything else you can think of, is rendered in a wry, understated tone that's bemused and gradually, charmed.
It's this on-the-fly description of the culture and history of Ghana, interwoven with a readable business primer on the manufacturing/sales/marketing twists and turns Burro takes to better reflect Ghanian reality, that makes the book so valuable. It's great for those wanting to start a business overseas (the bits about China should be really useful), or those who'd like to fight poverty more effectively and permanently than massive infusions of aid have done. Most business founders would quit at any one of the obstacles Whit encounters; but he just figures out an alternative approach and goes on.Read more ›
All in all, a very fun read that manages to inform as well. Think of it as a cross between kidder's mountains beyond mountains and a good man in africa.
It is a view of the country apart from that seen by most tourists (there is not much tourist infrastructure in Ghana). It is an insightful view of people struggling yet often happy without the benefits of our more advanced culture. It is a description of the challenges of dealing with a culture more "relaxed" than our own and one where getting by is on the one hand hard but on further examination aided by a communal effort. There is a community structure depicted so different from our own small towns. The author often glances humorously at the foibles he deals with.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great picture of day-to-day life in Ghana. Interesting business story. Max Alexander has the ability to find humor in the ordinary. A very entertaining read.Published 12 months ago by maryann phipps
As someone that has lived in Ghana and done business locally, this book hits the nail dead on. Max Alexander brilliantly and humorously details what life is like in Ghana through... Read morePublished 16 months ago by snapper
Wonderful story about a person who wants to help people help themselves.Published 19 months ago by Shiva's Girl
Interesting read. Humorous but also shows the complexities of working in a developing country. Makes you think and laugh. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Glaciert
Whit Alexander cofounded Cranium, Inc., the company which produces the popular board game Cranium, with a fellow ex-Microsoft employee in 1998. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Steven
For a Ghanaian in the diaspora this was very encouraging of possibilities for entrepreneurs. I like the presentation because it's very realistic, based on what I knew of the... Read morePublished on June 10, 2014 by s.o.a-a
I love books about other cultures so I think I started this because it occurs in Africa. But I was pleasantly surprised by the humor. Read morePublished on April 6, 2014 by stylingstella
I read this book because it was recommended by the professor of a social entrepreneurship course I was taking. Read morePublished on March 19, 2014 by Sean Collins
Fantastic. Dont go back to your day job, boys. Africa is not just an economy to pillage but culturally complex dangerous and not for the feint-hearted. Read morePublished on December 14, 2013 by moya kate