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The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley Paperback – February 21, 2012
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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
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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.
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.
I wrote more on my blog: "how do we grow the Italian rainforest?" [...]
Yes, I will read the book again and continue to grow our community in that direction.