It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book review on my blog. I still read quite a bit (My reading list on linkedin) but with my new gig at SOASTA I had to prioritize some of my activities But this book was so good that I wanted to share it with you all. It’s been recommended by my boss, Tom Lounibos, and he’s been spot on! What a fantastic read!
Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos has been written by Sarah Lacy who is TechCrunch Editor. It’s an incredible piece of journalism which makes you travel to China, Brazil, Rwanda, Israel and try to explain how entrepreneurs, despite difficult living condition, are able to rock their own part of the world. Sarah traveled to 11 different countries in 40 weeks to bring back incredible stories!
You’ll find the story of Marco Gomes who grew up in the slums of before and started his company, raised capital and launched boo-box. The story of Jean de Dieu Kagabo who first started his entrepreneurial journey by selling toilet paper. Pony Ma, CEO of Tencent that is now the third largest internet company in the world! All stories are completely different with different context, different culture and challenges. But they have one thing in common: they describe people who wants to make a difference whatever the difficulties.
There have been many books written on emerging markets, especially China. I can’t be called an expert, but I keep my eyes open, all the time. And frankly, while the Silicon Valley is far from being doomed, the next 20 years might shift the balance of power toward these countries. Chapter 1 by itself gives an interesting and realistic outlook:
These entrepreneurs have an inkling of how modern venture capital works. They know tiny companies can become huge powerhouses quickly. They know high risk can be highly rewarded. They know David can beat Goliath. And this new global entrepreneur has three big advantages. The first one is the home field advantage. Americans may wish the next few decades’ growth was in the American heartland where the demise of manufacturing has left millions unemployed and local economies sputtering, but it’s not. It’s in emerging markets.
Goldman Sachs first argued this point to Wall Street in 2001 with a paper entitled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs,”2 in which the investment bank predicted that Brazil, Russia, India, and China would make up more than 10 percent of the world GDP by 2010. By 2007, it was already 15 percent. So much for the all-important G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States; by the middle of this century, the seven largest economies in the world will be China, the United States, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and Indonesia.
The second advantage is that in today’s globalized world, money and talent don’t have boundaries; they flow where the opportunity is. And the flow has already started to the emerging world. Right now, there is more than $100 billion in venture capital and private equity hungry to make money off the developing world, especially after the zero stock market growth over the last decade in the United States.
Meanwhile, many of the immigrants who came to the United States over the last few decades seeking opportunity are returning home. Duke Researcher Vivek Wadhwa expects hundreds of thousands of immigrants will return home to China and India in the next five years. Many more are getting shoved out of the United States by an increasingly hostile attitude toward immigrants and H-1b Visa holders. Still more who might have come to the United States a few years ago for college or graduate school aren’t coming now. The year 2009 was the first year that foreign-born admissions to top U.S. grad schools fell.
The final advantage is the hardest to quantify: These emerging markets and their entrepreneurs have nothing to lose. When a country, industry, or entrepreneur has nothing to lose, it is freed from all the normal restrictions of the way things are usually done. Having nothing to lose gives one the luxury of starting with a clean sheet of paper and far more freedom to take risk—or, as it’s called in business circles, a greenfield opportunity. It’s the reason South Korea has better broadband than the United States ever will. It’s the reason I can get a clear cell phone signal amid pygmy huts in central Africa but not in my living room in San Francisco. It’s the reason Japanese cities are connected by futuristic bullet trains that New York and Los Angeles may never have.
Sarah’s definition of an entrepreneur is one of the best I’ve read so far: “It’s a way of thinking and problem solving, coupled with the internal compass to believe in the idea and the confidence and determination to carry it out. Great entrepreneurs’ minds just work differently than others people’s. They can see solutions to problems clearly. And while those solutions seem to make obvious sense when explained, few others can come up with them… True entrepreneurship can’t be taught. It can’t be faked. It can’t be silenced. You either have it or you don’t.”
Here are two short videos where Sarah discusses her book.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Do you have any similar recommendation? I need my next book fix!