Sunday, September 11, 2005

The New New Thing

Most people in the entrepreneurial community consider Jim Clark the greatest entrepreneur of all time. He is the only person in history to start three multi-billion dollar companies -- Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and Healtheon. Last week I finished reading Clark's biography, The New New Thing, by Michael Lewis.

I came away from my reading with mixed feelings. One one hand, Clark is a gutsy genius who deserves all the attection he has garnered for being an otherworldly businessman and inventor. If I had half the brains and foresight of Jim Clark, you would be one of hundreds of thousands of people reading this blog. Things as they are, you are probably one of dozens. :)

That being said, I wouldn't recommend this book to a colleague for two reasons

1) The "hero" of the story is portrayed as a greedy jerk. (Disclaimer: I say "portrayed" because I don't know Jim Clark from Adam, and for all I know he's a class act.) The Jim Clark that Lewis describes is a greedy, foul-mouthed, self-centered person. At one point in the book, Clark is described by a friend and business partner as having "a clarity of vision that is prompted by the purest form of greed. Nothing clouds it."

Call me idealistic, naive, self-righteous, whatever -- but I'm a real "Kawasakian" type of guy who sincerely believes that the best kind of success is rooted in a desire to change the world and help other people. Greed just doesn't do it for me.

2) When I read a business book, I generally read for one of three reasons: 1. To learn a new skill 2. To be inspired 3. To be entertained. The New New Thing doesn't really teach a skill and, as noted above, the main character of the book isn't very inspiring.

To top it all off, the book didn't really hold my attention very well. Throughout the book, Lewis abandons the most exciting element of the book (the creation and sale sale of Clark's three multi-billion dollar companies) in favor of chapter upon chapter describing Clark's silly side project (creating the first-ever computer-run boat) that never amounts to anything.

That said, I wouldn't say the book was totally bereft of value. The New New Thing illustrated the insane amount of work it takes to run a successful start-up. Throughout the book there were references to programmers who basically lived in their cubicles, working 20-hour days. Some of the Indian engineers who worked with Clark went so far as to send their families home to India so they could focus! I'm not an advocate of families falling to the wayside in the interest of business, but the example o f Clark's programmers has helped me kick it up a notch in my worklife.

So there you have it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm sipping my cup of Tazo Zen here, sitting in my shorts and wondering how the web has really changed the way we work and market.

Your site is a prime example why people need to get online and read up on what is happening in their niche. Changes Happen Daily folks!

My site does cover network marketing and people often comment my views are radical! But they work!

Dave Jackson - Naples, FL

8:41 PM  

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