When I was a teenager I read a book called Barbarians at the Gate about KKR’s leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. Two journalists detail the dramatic struggle for power and control of the company between Henry Kravis of KKR and Nabisco’s CEO Ross Johnson. From that point, I was hooked on business history.
In the valley, there’s a massive collection of verbal history that is passed around. There are anecdotes of Google’s early days with a high burn rate, personal chefs, unbending founders and without a business model in sight; the handful of times Netflix had just enough cash to make payroll that week; the tactics and psychology behind LinkedIn Series B pitch deck; the genesis stories of YC starlets
Those yarns enthrall me because they reveal the relationships, the biases and passions that form the truth, from one observer’s point of view, about how and why things unfolded the way they did. Many of these events effected dramatic change on the technology landscape.
Today, there is no place to collect those stories. Quora has bits and pieces of that lore. Blogs capture scraps. Books like Steven Levy’s In the Plex and Hatching Twitter also collect the stories through a journalist’s lens. But these are distributed and limited to one person’s point of view.
I hope one day such a Wikipedia of tech history comes into existence that validates identity, collects tales from the protagonists and distributes to entrepreneurs who can read them, dissect them and learn from them.
What a Library of Alexandria it would be for the world of technology and startups.
Published 2013-10-18 in