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Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America

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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  997 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Andrew Yang, the founder of Venture for America, offers a unique solution to our country’s economic and social problems—our smart people should be building things. Smart People Should Build Things offers a stark picture of the current culture and a revolutionary model that will redirect a generation of ambitious young people to the critical job of innovating and building n ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Harper Business
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Start your review of Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America
Debbie Zapata
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dar
I had ordered this along with Yang's newer book, The War On Normal People. This one is from 2004 and is more about Yang's life in business and how he created the Venture For America program.

This book is naturally heavy on economics, and since he goes over a lot of the same points in his newest title, I tended to skim quite a bit.

This was interesting to a degree, but it is really geared more for the university student who might be looking for a meaningful way to make a gazillion dollars and do s
...more
Trey
Mar 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Basic message: high-achievers don't have to go to grad school and proceed to work as investment bankers. They can, and "should," take a risk and build a business instead.

The paradigm shift Andrew Yang seeks is a good one. College students are presented with too few options, and have been told to get the best grades in order to find the highest salary. Furthermore, they have been told that this is a secure path, and security and high compensation are the only things that really matter.

I appreciat
...more
James La Vela
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This should be mandatory reading for all college freshman - and graduates. We need more builders!
Sam
Aug 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Yang, by the time he was 30, had successively obtained an Ivy League law degree, worked as a high-end corporate attorney, launched a failing-dot.com enterprise, Stargiving, and then started an educational testing company that went big time—Manhattan GMAT—that made him a millionaire. Along the way, he got to party with NBA stars, and even appeared on Oprah before Stargiving failed, basically, because too few people visited its website—an eventuality that Yang hadn't foreseen, even after he had sp ...more
Nathan
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
A thought provoking read regarding the need for entrepreneurship amongst America's college graduates. Told by the former head of Manhattan GMAT and founder of Venture for America, Andrew Yang makes a compelling argument of how America's talented youth need to be creators in this society. Yang states that an increasing number of graduates go on to law school, banking, or consulting, particularly in one of 5 major metro areas, creating a void in startups and long-term job creation throughout the U ...more
Marian
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read this to get an insight on Yang the candidate, came away with really valuable perspective on career path, the definition of success on a national level, and what our economy needs. This book was published the year I graduated college - I only wish I had heard of it and read it at the time. Now as a twenty-something with "quarter life crisis," I find a lot of food for thought here and a new way to look at the career choices I'm making. ...more
Dave Applegate
Very thought provoking read I strongly agree with. Our brightest post-college minds are focusing too much on highly lucrative, predictable and minimal value creation jobs instead of working for start-ups. I felt Yang focused to heavily on the Venture for America cause with the likely intention of getting potential press, donations and recruits, instead of giving already start-up minded individuals actionable insights or thought provoking concepts.
Alex Devero
Great title and maybe be very good intention. However, the book could do a much better job providing some hands-on advice, guidance or lessons learned on entrepreneurship. It is more like a pledge to get people into building things, than a manual on how to actually do it. There is a lot of talk, some lessons learned and a lot of "nice" ideas on what builders can do.

This book might be a good read for people interested in entrepreneurship, who has nothing else to do and no better books to read. Ot
...more
Kylie
Sep 04, 2020 rated it liked it
As a non-ivy dumb dumb, parts of this book were pretty hard to relate to. I’d love to see a follow up of some sort on how “normal people” can make a difference through startups as well.

That said, I totally agree that funneling our best and brightest into the same 5 cities in the same 5 professions is counterproductive and unsustainable.

The War on Normal People was a more enjoyable read for me, but, as always, Yang presents his points well and it’s a pretty fun read! I feel like I learned a lot
...more
Robert Bowlin
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
It accomplishes it’s goal, but really could have been condensed to an excellent essay. Once you’ve gone through the first few chapters you’ve read the meat of it. A few interesting points in the appendix as well.
Stuart Marsh
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Good read. Andrew Yang is very astute in his understanding of entrepreneurship's role in economic growth and the steps we can take to champion said growth. Lots to take in. Can he just be our president now? ...more
Eric
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Entrepreneurs, College Students, Policy Makers, Venture Capitalists, Philanthropists
This book is a well-researched rallying call to reverse the downward-trending career impact of millions of Americans.

I perform career coaching for over 500 successful young professionals in New York City every year (who excel at impressive firms such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, McKinsey & Co, Deloitte, and Google). And so very many of these high performers state that they are unhappy with their "prestigious" jobs, express the desperation to create something of their own and make a differ
...more
David
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book will oversimplify matters by focusing on people like Shilpi who get identified as “smart” or “talented” via our national educational system. It’s clear that there are different forms of intelligence (analytical, creative, linguistic, artistic, interpersonal, athletic/kinesthetic, and so on), and that not all brilliant and talented people go to college or even graduate from high school.

By “building things,” we mean forming and helping companies and organizations that are innovating and
...more
Maggie Sun
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
The message points in the right direction but I found the first person narration somewhat condescending. The book also seems to focus exclusively on success scenarios while ignoring the possibility of failure, or the fact that VFA might not be the right fit for everyone.
Simon Gravel
May 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
I agree completely with the premise, but this book contains more self-promotion than new ideas - half the book is 4 stars, the rest is filling material.
Onewifeonly
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
While not likely to happen, the argument is quite convincing.
Chris Branch
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Andrew Yang didn't run for president because he wanted a position of power - he ran because he truly wants to make the world a better place. This book from 2014 presents more evidence of that, as well as for the fact that he's an intelligent, rational, and understanding person - and he's also a pretty good writer.

While he was campaigning, we heard a lot from Yang about his broad, sweeping proposals for the improvement of society, starting, of course, with his top priority, UBI. For anyone not fa
...more
Lindsay Hickman
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very insightful read, whether you want Yang to win the Democratic Nomination or not, it would be beneficial for other candidates to read this to get some solid ideas regarding a large part of the population in the United States.
I think this should be an assigned book for every incoming college freshmen because of two things: this book will help young people realize there are countless ways to make money, no matter their major, and it will be the first time they are told the truth abou
...more
Neeraj Kumar
Oct 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: entrepreneurship
Andrew Yang discusses entrepreneurship at a high level - why does it mean to the nation and also discusses it at a low level - what does it mean to the individual. It offers valuable insights in to the subject. What does it mean if smartest people are not building business? "Best minds are not working on the toughest problems of our time" - this is the quote from the book which i liked the most.
In this book, he discusses current American job market. He wishes America gets back to the culture of
...more
Vanessa
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mr. Yang narrates his own experiences of being part of the academic elite and becoming a lawyer for 5 months before leaving to start a business.

He explains how graduates of top tier US universities tend to follow the same paths after graduation- finance, consulting, medicine, law, and grad school. These countries’ top minds tend to flock to 5 cities- New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington DC, and maybe Chicago. Using data, Yang outlines that in recent years fewer businesses are being cr
...more
Chase Peterson
Sep 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
It's difficult to review this book, since it was written 6 years ago, several years before Andrew Yang's presidential campaign. Both the book and campaign were focused around a central theory of how to fix our broken economy... but they're not the same message. Yang's campaign was centered on Universal Basic Income as a solution to job loss caused by automation. Yang's book is centered on entrepreneurship as a solution to job loss caused by a decline in startups created by "smart people". These ...more
Nithin Vejendla
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Yang's successfully diagnoses what's wrong with the way we allocate human capital from top universities in this country ("smart people"). Because of their impressively large recruitment budgets, relative stability, and prestige, the finance and consulting industry are able to capture a sizable share of elite university graduates (more than 60% of Harvard's graduating class, for example).

He rightly diagnoses the fact that our economy would be better if those graduates joined startups and growth
...more
Michelle
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
Transitioning from McKinsey to my first corporate job ever was strange, even more strange was the fact that I joined a brand new team where for the first 3 months all the office cubes around me were empty, and it was just me, my boss who worked out of home in a different city, and a coworker who sat 26 floors above me. The team then grew to over 100 people globally in 3 years, and I did everything from building out an analytics product, to creating playbooks, to personally recruiting all of our ...more
Fiona
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
There are a lot of candidates for the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates. Who are they all? I have decided to read books written by them. This is one of them.

Who is Andrew Yang? He is not a politician but he is rnning for the presidency. He is an Ivy League educated lawyer who used to work on Wall Street but wanted more in a career. Since Wall Street he has formed his own business, failed in his own business, worked for a small company, and now works for a non profit that he created, Ventu
...more
Wendy
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Andrew Yang's book has an interesting message that would be useful for undergraduate students to read. Essentially, Yang argues that smart students from the most elite schools are being funneled into 6 defined career paths (medical school, law school, graduate school, Teach for America, finance, and consulting). These predetermined blueprints often make them another cog in the machine rather than a budding entrepreneur. Yang states that he would rather students take the riskier path and build so ...more
Josh Tarre
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Andrew Yang's concentration in this part memoir, part diagnosis and solution to a systemic problem is about the wayward direction of America's top young talent, who chase prescribed academic and career paths to riches and success over risk-taking, passion, character development, and societal value creation.

He depicts an elite group of students being mined into financial services and wealth management career tracks. Or heading off on paths, (lawyers, doctors, academics) without a real sense of wh
...more
Jason Carter
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Yang makes the case in the first part of this book that our talent development system is biased towards sending our nation's best and brightest to the Ivy League schools, and then straight in to several high-paying career fields: law, medicine, consulting, finance, etc.

And... that these career paths lead to high-paying but often ultimately unfulfilling careers that move money around from firm to firm in direct proportion to the number of PowerPoint slides that are created. He argues--as the titl
...more
Juan Rivera
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lecturas-2018
Now that I have children starting and finishing a career, I start thinking about how young people want to get out of school and find a place to work and get rich. They live only in cities and neighborhoods, they work only in companies where they can be very successful from the beginning.

Is this the only way? I believe that future generations should have the goal of creating new things, of making new companies, of being creative. This will enrich them much more as human beings.

A good book to thin
...more
Blake Williford
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This books reveals some troubling signs about entrepreneurship in America over the past few years that never seem to be talked about by the current "We have the greatest economy ever!" establishment. Enter COVID-19 pandemic and this problem has been exacerbated greatly. I wholeheartedly agree with Yang and believe that entrepreneurship is the true engine of a healthy economy, and as we try to recover from this pandemic we need to double down on getting young, smart, people to build new things ra ...more
Karen
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes. Smart People Can Build Things - that last!

This is a wonderful and deep book about the state of education, job markets, and creativity in the USA. I highly recommend that it be placed in the hands of every freshman before entering high school. Read it. Design a similar idea at that level. Yang comments that 22 - year olds are wired differently from the way they were in 1994. It's nowhere even close to the wiring in 1975. We need younger people learning and taking on responsibilities at every
...more
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I am running for President as a Democrat in 2020 on a platform of Universal Basic Income and evolution to the next stage of capitalism, Human Capitalism.

Visit the campaign website here: www.yang2020.com

___

Author of 'The War on Normal People' about automation, jobs and Universal Basic Income

I am the founder of Venture for America, an organization that recruits and trains top college graduates to st
...more

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
10 likes · 5 comments
“It wasn’t until I got to the law firm that things started hitting me. First, the people around me seemed pretty unhappy. You can go to any corporate law firm and see dozens of people whose satisfaction with their jobs is below average. The work was entirely uninspiring. We were for the most part grease on a wheel, helping shepherd transactions along; it was detail-intensive and often quite dull. Only years later did I realize what our economic purpose was: if a transaction was large enough, you had to pay a team of people to pore over documents into the wee hours to make sure nothing went wrong. I had zero attachment to my clients—not unusual, given that I was the last rung down on the ladder, and most of the time I only had a faint idea of who my clients were. Someone above me at the firm would give me a task, and I’d do it. I also kind of thought that being a corporate lawyer would help me with the ladies. Not so much, just so you know. It was true that I was getting paid a lot for a twenty-four-year-old with almost no experience. I made more than my father, who has a PhD in physics and had generated dozens of patents for IBM over the years. It seemed kind of ridiculous to me; what the heck had I done to deserve that kind of money? As you can tell, not a whole lot. That didn’t keep my colleagues from pitching a fit if the lawyers across the street were making one dollar more than we were. Most worrisome of all, my brain started to rewire itself after only the first few months. I was adapting. I started spotting issues in offering memoranda. My ten-thousand-yard unblinking document review stare got better and better. Holy cow, I thought—if I don’t leave soon, I’m going to become good at this and wind up doing it for a long time. My experience is a tiny data point in a much bigger problem.” 4 likes
“I run Venture for America, a nonprofit organization that recruits dozens of our country’s top graduates each year and places them in startups and growth companies in Detroit, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Providence, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and other cities around the country. Our goal is to help create 100,000 new US jobs by 2025. We supply talent to early-stage companies so that they can expand and hire more people. And we train a critical mass of our best and brightest graduates to build enterprises and create new opportunities for themselves and others.” 3 likes
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