eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work

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9780812930955: eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work

The first inside account of life within a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, eBoys is the fascinating true story of the six tall men who backed eBay, Webvan, and other billion-dollar start-ups that are transforming the Internet and setting a new pace for the economy.

Randall Stross, author of acclaimed books on Microsoft and Steve Jobs, blends a business historian's perspective with a journalist's flair for suspenseful storytelling to look at wealth creation up close. For two years, Stross gained unprecedented access to the venture capitalists at Benchmark, an upstart firm founded by thirtysomething renegades whose average height happens to be 6´5´´. Since Benchmark's founding in 1995, each partner's net worth has increased, on average, $100 million annually.

Stross was present as the Benchmark boys debated which businesses to support, and by recounting their conversations in testosterone-rich detail, he offers readers the most precise and enlightening account of the ways in which venture capitalists think, evaluate prospects, and wield influence.

Stross also gained access to a number of the Benchmark-backed start-ups, including a small, privately held San Jose company called eBay. The value of the company grew from $20 million to more than $21 billion within two years of Benchmark's investment, an increase of 100,000 percent. Business Week called it "probably the best venture capital investment of all time."

Venture capitalists have become iconic symbols of our time, just as investment bankers, investigative journalists, and hippies defined previous eras. In eBoys, Randall Stross has vividly captured the interplay of ambition, personality, experimentation, and risk, all acted out, larger than life, as the men of Benchmark and the entrepreneurs they back play their remarkable roles in the new world of Internet commerce and the creation of vast, sudden wealth.

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Review:

If you want to understand the 1990s, you have to understand venture capitalists. These are the people who listen to business pitches by the score, the financial-world equivalent of miners turning over tons of earth in search of precious metal. They're looking for the next Amazon.com, the next Yahoo!, the next eBay. Randall E. Stross, who teaches business history at San José State University, just happened to be there when a firm called Benchmark Capital discovered eBay. eBoys tells the story of how a group of not-quite-middle-aged men came to make an investment that returned a Silicon Valley record of 100,000 percent.

Stross is a gifted storyteller who weaves the personal histories of the Benchmark partners with stories of how the firm came to back such companies as Priceline.com and Webvan. We meet guys who weren't born to privilege, men who took unconventional routes into the venture capital business. Probably the most intriguing is Dave Beirne, a hyperaggressive executive recruiter who went into the business after realizing venture capitalists are the ones who really call the shots at high-tech start-ups. We also see the problems Silicon Valley guys have when they try to dot-com the bricks-and-mortar world. The short tale of an aborted partnership between Benchmark and Toys 'R' Us illustrates why the old economy is so mystified by the new.

Anyone interested in how business works should find something of interest in eBoys. From the organizational structure and corporate culture of Benchmark to the histories and personalities of its partners to its adventures in the world of Internet start-ups, it's a digital snapshot that reveals how successful businesses look, think, and mine gold in today's economy. --Lou Schuler

From the Back Cover:

"Writing with all the drama and speed of the Internet itself, Randall Stross spins a tale of risk-takers and rule-breakers that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This eye-opening firsthand account of the young, gutsy, and mega-rich entrepreneurs who are financing today's hottest Web-based businesses will leave you gasping. It's an insider's look at a very cloistered world--the one at the center of the most talked about revolution in business history."--Joël Glenn Brenner, author of The Emperors of Chocolate

"This is the one--the book about Silicon Valley we've all been waiting for. Randall Stross is the first journalist to truly crack the code, to get so far inside this world that what's emerged is not just an authoritative account but one that has the absolute ring of truth. With its vividly drawn characters, unforgettable scenes, and crackling dialogue, eBoys puts you in the room where instant companies--and instant wealth--are created. And when this age finally ends--as it surely will--eBoys will take its place as the definitive account of one of the wildest eras in the history of American capitalism."--Joseph Nocera, editor-at-large, Fortune

"Randall Stross's eBoys is that rare book that's both an important work and a fun read. The Silicon Valley venture capitalists whom Stross writes about with such verve and grace are the equivalent of the tech world's Hollywood casting directors, holding daily tryouts to spot tomorrow's talent. The miracle of this book is that somehow we're in the room as some of the best known VCs in the Valley audition the future. The result is not only a rich, page-turning tale but a voyeur's dream that for my money is the single best look at the VC world to date."--Gary Rivlin, author of The Plot to Get Bill Gates

"This book is so realistic that if you have been in a venture capital meeting it will make you sweaty all over again. eBoys is a terrifically written account of venture capitalists in action, financing the investor dreams or nightmares of the future with high-flying e-business companies like Webvan and eBay and more." The book is a great read."--Jack Covert, president and founder, 800-CEO-READ

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