The Power Law
Sebastian Mallaby’s sweeping and authoritative history of the venture capital revolution, from its cottage industry roots in the 1950s to its colossal influence today, tells an undercovered tale. — Read the complete FT review
Innovations rarely come from “experts.” Jeff Bezos was not a bookseller; Elon Musk was not in the auto industry. When it comes to innovation, a legendary venture capitalist told Sebastian Mallaby, the future cannot be predicted, it can only be discovered. Most attempts at discovery fail, but a few succeed at such a scale that they more than make up for everything else. That extreme ratio of success and failure is the power law that drives venture capital, Silicon Valley, the tech sector, and, by extension, the world.
Drawing on unprecedented access to the most celebrated venture capitalists of all time, award-winning financial historian Sebastian Mallaby tells the story of this strange tribe of financiers who have funded the world’s most successful companies, from Google to SpaceX to Alibaba. With a riveting blend of storytelling and analysis, The Power Law makes sense of the seeming randomness of success in venture capital, an industry that relies, for good and ill, on gut instinct and personality rather than spreadsheets and data. We learn the unvarnished truth about some of the most iconic triumphs and infamous disasters in the history of tech, from the comedy of errors that was the birth of Apple to the venture funding that fostered hubris at WeWork and Uber to the industry’s notorious lack of women and ethnic minorities.
Now the power law echoes around the world: it has transformed China’s digital economy beyond recognition, and London is one of the top cities for venture capital investment. By taking us so deeply into the VCs’ game, The Power Law helps us think about our own future through their eyes.