Mallaby’s angle is fresh. Most people who write about Silicon Valley do so from the viewpoint of entrepreneurs who built companies with the backing of venture capitalists. Mallaby writes from the perspective of the venture capitalists themselves. He tells his story through an accumulation of smaller stories, each one phenomenally detailed and engaging. In so doing, he’s written a book that is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand modern-day Silicon Valley and even our economy writ large ... Mallaby makes good points. He caused me to question some of my skepticism about venture capital.
Mr. Mallaby tells a gripping fly-on-the-wall story of the rise of this unique and important industry based on extensive interviews with some of the most successful venture capitalists ... Though the book focuses on the winners, Mr. Mallaby doesn’t shy away from criticism, especially in his description of the decline of Kleiner Perkins ...Telling stories of rich investors betting on young visionaries and earning insane profits could become tediously repetitive, but Mr. Mallaby writes a fast-paced narrative. He also has a journalist’s eye for revealing details[.]
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 ... The Power Law is comprehensive to a degree that occasionally tests the reader’s patience, but Mallaby enlivens it by diving into the personalities, and the tensions, behind the industry’s evolution ... Mallaby concludes judiciously that 'venture capitalists as a group have a positive effect on economies and societies'.
There have been many attempts to explain Silicon Valley’s success ... But in this entertaining history, Sebastian Mallaby makes a convincing case that venture capital is a critical part of the jigsaw ... Mallaby is a thoughtful guide who acknowledges the problems with venture capital: the lack of transparency; the startling absence of diversity; the profound inequality that focuses so much wealth in the hands of so few. On balance, though, he sees it as a necessary way of accelerating progress and creating consumer value ... Whether luck or judgment, though, no one can doubt the impact these companies have had on our lives. If you want to understand a world in which a handful of coders became richer than most countries, this is an invaluable guide.
As someone who enjoyed Mallaby’s More Money Than God (2010) and The Man Who Knew (2016)...I anticipated that he would be gentle on the otherwise tight-lipped venture capitalists who agreed to talk to him. And he is. But where the indulgences of those earlier narratives were redeemed by ample demonstrations of Mallaby’s intelligence and storytelling skills, The Power Law mysteriously contains only trace amounts of either. Part of the problem is that Mallaby never quite settles on the story he wants to tell ... The book includes a lot of granular detail about deals getting made, phone calls volleyed back and forth, meetings arranged and postponed. Banal bits of conversations get recounted, even when they seem only to serve as narrative clutter ... Some of Mallaby’s metaphors make no sense ... Such is the material that pads this overstuffed book, which never quite delivers on the case it laboriously tries to make.
... [a] seriously great, and wildly important new book ... While the author comes to a few odd conclusions, it would at the same time be difficult to find a more important book than Mallaby’s in 2022, and most any year for that matter. If read the right way, Mallaby’s brilliant book explains so much, and in the process discredits so much ... Mallaby has written a book about truly difficult, maladjusted, frustrating individuals who aren’t satisfied with how things are, and who are willing to risk it all in pursuit of something better. Mallaby articulates it wonderfully in a book that flows[.]
... a deeply researched history of the venture capital industry with a full-throated polemic in defense of the social value of a venture market ... Mallaby sheds important light on the structures and processes behind what has become a powerful (and cloistered) force in American life. But although the accounts of the key figures that established modern venture capital are often fascinating, his own excellent reporting does not fully justify the observations and policy proposals in support of the industry ... Where The Power Law is most enlightening is in its detailed descriptions of the diverse approaches of the most storied venture capital firms ... The detailed stories of how the most iconic companies of the current era, from Apple to Facebook and Google, got financed in the first place make for a compelling read. At a variety of key points in the historic narrative, however, The Power Law goes strangely silent ... The Power Law performs a useful service in revealing the roots and accomplishments of a poorly understood but increasingly significant economic sector and cultural bellwether. Its central urgent claim, however, that 'governments must do everything possible to foster technology startups' makes little sense when we're likely in the midst of a startup bubble.
... a circumstantial portrait of the venture capital revolution, with all its ups and downs ... [a] highly detailed and sometimes wearisome account ... Though it plods in spots, as forays into economics will, financial wonks will find it indispensable.
This is no dry business treatise; Mallaby’s colorful narrative foregrounds the eternal battle between investors and the often eccentric, even abusive, tech visionaries they fund ... The result is a lucid, thoughtful, and entertaining account of high-wire capitalism at work.