I got to know Andy about two years ago, and discovered that we have both sometimes cynical, ironic and bemused view of Silicon Valley. Of course we shares a passion for hot szechwan cooking and dim-sums! I had enjoyed his columns in Forbes and then at the Wall Street Journal. Often I used to wonder, why doesn’t this man sit down and write what really is on his mind in form of a book. Well he has obliged. And Running Money is a perfect way to spend hot San Francisco afternoon, hiding in the shade, sipping the SPIN at Tully’s. Took me precisely four hours to get through the book – and best four hours I spent in recent memory!
Unlike a lot of dot.con books, this one is a wonderfully written, well researched and opinionated book by a man who rode the bubble to the top, but didn’t buy into it wee-bit. Journalists can write as much as they want, but they cannot get the first hand perspective of the madness. The book has shades of Michael Lewis’ Liar’s Poker, but has the benefit of being written by a “real player.” This is a wicked look into the 1996-2001 era when all wrecks rose with the tide. It takes you back to Industrial britain, and introduces you to the genius of Douglas Englebart. Gyrating between goateed 20-somethings and short sellers like David Rocker, the book is a reminder of all the excesses, stupidity and the infantile ego of Silicon Valley. Ironically, the book comes at a time when financiers are trying to fund “profitless” companies especially in the VoIP space.
The book, while living mostly in the recent past, ends on a more positive note. Andy predicts that the current shift from “industrial” to “intellectual” economy is going to be tough for the US, but in the end it would pay out. The argument is the same I have used many times. Hardware is commodity, lets someone else sweat it. Software is where the dollars are. Andy equated software, movie, movies etc to “the intellectual property” which is going to keep America competitive. I agree, expect, maybe 5 percent of the US population will participate in that. Still, if there was one book you were going to read to get a bellyful of laughs, some tears and lots of education, pick up Running Money. And if you are a VC, think of it as a reminder of the collective stupidity of Silicon Valley.