Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: Book Review
I avoided this book for the longest time – after all, I said, who the hell needed to read a fawning tale about a bunch of Silicon Valley Web 2.0 hipsters? I went to the same parties (fewer in number, to be sure) and read the same blog posts to know better.
I was wrong. The book is very readable, very entertaining, very good. If you follow the tech industry and scene closely, most of the information is well-known in broad strokes. But Sarah Lacy (author) managed to score detailed and excellent interviews with several folks at the forefront of the renaissance of the web, including Max Levchin, Kevin Rose, Marc Andreessen, Gina Bianchini (disclosure: a friend and a mentor), Jay Adelson, Evan Williams, etc. The personal back stories are compelling. Their reasons for starting companies and building great products make for a great read for any Valley junkie. A lot of fine details that weren’t covered in blog posts are perfectly suited to the longer book format. If you’re a student of human behavior especially as applicable to this weird little place we call home – this book is well worth the quick romp. The book is also fun for those of us who aspire to be entrepreneurs – no matter what your opinion of Digg/Slide and other companies, these guys were the first to capitalize on the Web in the last 5-6 years. They did more than most of us. Kudos to them and to the author for capturing that.
What’s more fun, however, is reading the book 2-3 years after publication. The author spends a bunch of time talking about Slide versus RockYou, a very appropriate discussion for the time. As of today, however, who gives a shit about the great slideshow rivalry? Slide got sold for a respectable $228 million but a nice strong climb down from the heady $550 million valuation. RockYou is now billed as a “social ad network”. Other parts of the book seem….well, simply quaint in hindsight. There’s a decent bit of discussion on the “widget economy”. Yeah you never hear about that anymore.
A quick final point: do not expect detailed discussions about product strategy, execution challenges at the companies discussed, etc. This is, by and large, a compelling set of portraits of a set of people and the times they lived in and the things they built.
Long story short, read this book. Well worth the few hours for any Valley junkie.