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VC: An American History

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  83 ratings  ·  16 reviews
A major exploration of venture financing, from its origins in the whaling industry to Silicon Valley, that shows how venture capital created an epicenter for the development of high-tech innovation.

VC tells the riveting story of how the industry arose from the United States' long-running orientation toward entrepreneurship. Venture capital has been driven from the start by
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Harvard University Press
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Jan 23, 2020 rated it liked it
The whaling stuff was fascinating, but then the book gets lost into a too much in the weeds history that has already been told in many other places. I like the attempt to describe how VC shaped modern finance, but I don't think this book is worth the effort it takes to read.
Trey Shipp
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As expected, this book tells the legendary stories of how VC firms like Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins, and Sequoia launched companies such as Intel, Genentech, and Google. But Nicholas also goes back to the early 1800s, beginning with the financing of whale ships. Whaling agents operated similarly to today’s VC firms. And like high-tech investing, a few big hits paid for the unprofitable ventures.

From this history, Nicholas describes why VC developed as it did in America. If you are only
Spence Byer
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dry at times, but a worthwhile read on history of venture capital in the United States. If you’re in a hurry maybe skip chapters 2, 3, and 5. Chapters 1, 6, and 8 alone are worth buying the book—they cover the whaling industry, styles of VC investment in late 20th century, and the internet boom/bust respectively.

Nicholas did an incredible job of diving into various aspects of the principle agent problem in LP structures throughout. All important risks for anyone considering VC investments.
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tax levers can affect affect labor mobility, especially in a world where talent flows are more global than they have ever been before.

Corporate venture capital has become more significant in recent years, allowing incumbent firms engaging in it to be increasingly able to fend off creative destruction by making strategic investments in areas where they face competition.

The VC industry could benefit by embracing more diverse talent pools - not as recompense for its past inadequacy, but in order to
Kevin Whitaker
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech-data, history
There was a lot I liked about this book -- focused, relatively readable, not too long -- but it's really in the weeds; you have to really want to learn a lot about the history of venture capital to enjoy it.

Three things I learned:
1. Whaling ventures in the 19th century had similar profile as many of today's tech startups -- high up-front investment required with a long time to pay off, long-tailed returns, potential principal-agent problems -- so financing became similar to today's VC.
2. How
Rohith Darisa
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pros- Very detailed, gets to foundations and fundamentals of why VC space is how it is today. Also how VC and it's mindset is an integral part of America's Growth story and being the world leader. Illustrating its spin-offs and developments from early 18th century to late 20th century.

Cons- Not covering the dynamic 21th century happenings in the VC space, as it is going through a dynamic and fast-going phase. It's a big void that has to be filled to make it complete. Should have thrown light on
Dec 16, 2019 added it
Shelves: for-work
I was excited to read a history of venture capital, and the first chapter was so interesting on risk and whaling ventures in New England. The book is super-informative (I took many pages of notes!) but it is very academically written. There were many points where Nicholas spends time justifying sections where it almost reads like a pitch to an editor/thesis adviser about uniqueness that got left in (e.g. while many books cover Silicone Valley, the way I'm doing it is useful because it's through ...more
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
A bit dense, but a solid follow-up to Janeway's "Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy" and Perez's "Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital". To truly get a longitudinal understanding of venture finance, I would recommend reading Perez, Janeway, and Nicholas in that order.
Nick Hernandez
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book starts by drawing an interesting corollary from VCs to the whaling industry in the 1800’s. It ends by detailing the shark frenzied, clown investing tactics of the late 1990’s. Regarding the latter, my favorite quote: “We realizes only once it was too late that we forgot to pay attention to this one important factor called profitability.”
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this if you like history and are interested in the VC industry. The author analysis the performance of ground breaking VC funds, dives into the personalities, and does a great job comparing the industry to 18th century whale voyages.
An interesting concept for a book. The history of the VC industry.
That said, it wasn't as meaty as I had hoped. Part of the reason for this is that there simply hasn't been that much innovation in the industry. There is maybe just a few milestones over the last hundred years.

Nick Harriss
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, finance
A very good book on the evolution of the venture capital industry and why certain elements contributed to successes and failures. Well worth reading if you are interested in financial history.
Roberto Charvel
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
The first part of the origins of VC and whaling were exceptionally well documented. Felt it a little rushed at the end. Fun book
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A deeply researched and long-lensed view into the American venture capital industry.
Patrick Schultheis
I liked it. Good history. Academic in nature. Some repetition.

While the pre-20th century info was interesting, there was too much of it.
Anirudh Pai
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Dec 16, 2019
Chris Yarie
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Mike Murphy
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“VENTURE CAPITAL (VC) IS LARGELY an American invention. It is a “hits” business where exceptional payoffs from a few investments in a large portfolio of startup companies compensate for the vast majority that yield mediocre returns or simply fail.” 0 likes
“In the venture capital context, long-tail investing denotes a systematic approach to the deployment of risk capital into entrepreneurial ventures by intermediaries who attempt to use their domain expertise to generate large returns. In a world of perfect information and efficient markets, economic theory suggests, intermediaries should be absent. The fact that venture capitalists do exist is arguably because they are able to maintain informational advantages in the selection and governance of startup investments. Another interpretation is that they function merely as capital conduits and organizers, but do not particularly add value in terms of startup outcomes.” 0 likes
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