From nineteenth-century whaling to a multitude of firms pursuing entrepreneurial finance today, venture finance reflects a deep-seated tradition in the deployment of risk capital in the United States. Tom Nicholas's history of the venture capital industry offers a ride through America's ongoing pursuit of financial gain.
... a celebratory history of the evolution of the venture capital firm ... Though it’s no secret that Pentagon money helped Silicon Valley to develop into a technology hub, Nicholas’s history sheds light on the less explored role of venture capital firms in bringing these new technologies to civilian markets ... while he mentions the importance of government policy in creating a healthy VC industry, Nicholas avoids exploring the implications of a system in which private firms profit from new technologies funded by public money.
A detailed, fact-filled account of America’s most celebrated moneymen, the book ably presents the logic of VC financing ... Nicholas shows less interest in the ways VC shapes society and in the inequalities it perpetuates ... while Nicholas’s book may not offer much criticism of those men, it provides a valuable look into their world ... Nicholas just does not pay that much attention to the ways that VCs’ hunt for outsized returns may have encouraged broader exploitation over the centuries ... Nicholas is at his best when he is charting just how reliant venture capital has been on the government—and just how far the industry has gone to try and shape government policy in its favor.
Mr. Nicholas, a professor at Harvard Business School, is evidently a fan of American-style venture capital... But his book doesn’t demonstrate that venture capital as promoted in the U.S. is the best way, or even a good way, to support risk-taking ... focuses entirely on the U.S. and offers no information about how high-risk startups are funded in other countries ... perhaps the history of U.S. venture-capital investing is not quite the triumph that Mr. Nicholas would have us believe.