The Power Law

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

It is no exaggeration to say that venture capital has been central to the greatest legal creation of wealth anywhere, and enabled much of the world we live in, yet we know surprisingly little about this strange tribe of financiers.

In The Power Law, Sebastian Mallaby turns his unprecedented access to the industry’s central players into a riveting, character-driven account of venture capital and the world it has made. Most of the tech start-ups funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalists fail, but a very few hits succeed at such a scale that they will more than make up for everything else. That extreme ratio of success and failure is the power law that drives venture capital, and the wider tech sector.

Mallaby make sense of the seeming randomness of success in venture capital, an industry that supposedly relies on gut instinct and personality rather than spreadsheets and data. We learn the unvarnished truth about some of the most iconic hits and infamous disasters in Silicon Valley history?, from the comedy of errors that was the birth of Apple to the avalanche of venture money that fostered hubris at WeWork and Uber. And he shows how the power law now echoes around the world.

© Sebastian Mallaby 2022 (P) Penguin Audio 2022

Critics Review

  • In his well-researched book, leavened by lively portraits of leading figures, Mr Mallaby explores the history of the VC industry and the reasons for its vitality

  • Sebastian Mallaby sets off into the world of venture capital and the strange bunch of financiers behind some of the most successful companies. It’s a tale of triumphs but also major failures, hubris and jaw-dropping eccentricity

    Financial Times
  • [An] absorbing new history of startup investing

  • [Mallaby] brings his trademark mixture of exhaustive research and clear analysis to his most interesting subject so far

  • Venture capital has influenced the American economy for over half-a-century now, and finally we have a book of exceptional reporting, analysis and storytelling to bring that history to life. What makes Sebastian Mallaby’s The Power Law a classic is how deeply it takes us into VC’s defining successes and failures – which are much harder to get anyone to talk frankly about. I’m not sure this is the book of VCs’ dreams, but it’s what the rest of us have been waiting for

    Charles Duhigg
  • A fascinating journey through the tightly networked world of the venture capitalists who make Silicon Valley tick, from the scrappy dealmakers of the 1960s to the high-flying global investors of today. Filled with eye-opening case studies and vivid personalities, frank in its analysis of the industry’s greatest strengths and most dangerous blind spots, The Power Law is essential reading for understanding our tech-driven economy and where it might go next

    Professor Margaret O'Mara, University of Washington

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