Chaos Monkeys: Obscene fortune and random failure in silicon valley

This read more like a novel than anything else – it covers a few years in the life of Antonio Garcia Martinez (AGM) .. how he went from a Quant at Goldman Sachs to the startup life. He originally joined a startup, before going through Y Combinator to start his own company .. eventually getting “acquired” by Twitter and instead joining Facebook.

It’s pretty much what you’d expect of silicon valley story – lots of shaking the boat, negotiations and money (and plenty of it!).

A few things that struck me are:

  1. The power of partners, real partners. The way AGM describes the challenges they faced as a startup, and how YC was able to stand by them is uplifting. It makes me think that YC is going to be around for much, much longer .. primarily due to the huge network effects they have, and the fact that they operate in such a founder friendly manner.

  2. Negotiation! AGM strikes me as a ridiculously good negotiator – and it’s poetic how he’s able to navigate through so many tricky situations and bending the most brittle of agreements (even in situations of little or no leverage). That’s certainly opened my eyes to opportunities I may not have considered before.

  3. Thoughts on financial independence. Living on a ship in SF because the rent was too high – that’s creative, and almost certainly something I would do in the same position. He speaks about leverage in the terms of how much money you make vs. how much you spend (or standard of living tax). He also aptly recognizes that despite making ridiculously large sums of money as employees at tech companies, what keeps people there (and needy) is their corresponding increase in standard of living.

If they are not financially independent, they are harmless tools. Only the man who needs nothing is truly free.

Other noteworthy tidbits:

Overall, it was an OK book .. though lengthy. I prefer useful books over dramatic ones, and the utility/drama ratio on this book was lower than most of the books I’ve been reading as of late.