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  • Published: 1 February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241557341
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $35.00

The Power Law

Venture Capital and the Art of Disruption




From an award-winning financial historian comes the gripping, character-driven story of venture capital and the world it made


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.

  • Published: 1 February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241557341
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $35.00

Praise for The Power Law

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

As we face urgent man-made existential challenges from climate change to economic inequality, Sebastian Mallaby shows that the capitalists of Silicon Valley are shaping the future in ways few understand. In The Power Law he takes us inside their rarified world, showing the possibilities and shortcomings of their big egos and big bets. Mallaby's deep access enables us to get a rare and unsettling look inside a subculture of unparalleled influence

Jane Mayer, Chief Washington Correspondent, The New Yorker

If you can read only one book on venture capital, this is the one. The Power Law narrates the evolution of venture capital from its origins in Silicon Valley to its emergence in China by following the ambitious and often idiosyncratic investors who finance risky new ventures while recognizing that success is rare, but transformative. The book is a fascinating read, and illustrates well one of its core themes, that venture capital is a network that straddles and offers the virtues of both markets and corporations

Professor AnnaLee Saxenian

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