Book Review: The New, New Thing by Michael Lewis

Recently, I have been more and more interested in the current state of the field of technology and have been reading more and more about the histories of the current unicorns and FANG stocks.  In my search to find the next book to read, I took to Twitter and asked Michael Batnick, the blogger on the site, “The Irrelevant Investor“, for his best books on the bubble.

Aah, the beauty of Twitter.  I ended up purchasing “The New, New Thing” and “Bull” and jumped right into Michael Lewis’ book when it arrived two days later (thanks Prime).

What really jumped out about the book from the summary was that it was about Jim Clark who founded three billion dollar companies (Silicon Graphics, Netscape, and Healtheon) and is a legend of Silicon Valley.  However, the book did not come close to matching my expectations and the majority of the book that I found interesting could have been found on Jim Clark’s wikipedia page.

Now Michael Lewis is a legend and his books all garner critical acclaim and rightfully so.  However, as he did with “Liar’s Poker” and “The Big Short“, he finds other angles to paint the picture of the times rather than focusing solely on the financial and technical aspects, which is what I am most interested in.

The book ran 350 pages and it felt like 200 pages were focused solely on Jim Clark’s boat, the Hyperion, which was designed to be the largest boat in the world, and in Jim’s mind, the largest possible.  He felt is was the largest possible because at 197 feet, that was the height of the Panama Canal at low-tide and anything taller were be unable to clear.  He felt anyone wanting a boat that large would, only naturally, want to be able to sail through the canal.

In the recent podcast, Masters in Business, which I highlighted briefly in an earlier post, Barry asks Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, about his co-founder and mentor, Jim Clark, and the accuracy of the book.  The book portrays Jim as extremely aloof and uninterested in the technical details and simply focusing on the broad strategy and taking the company public to collect a check.  Marc highlights how untrue this is and states the book fails to show how great of a technologist Jim Clark was.

While the sections of the book that talk about his business success and the journey’s of each company were fascinating, I finished the final page wanting more.  The odd part is as I am writing this I am trying to determine if I missed something from the book.  Was there deeper meaning in the pages about the book that I mistook for only the surface?  I plan to read the other recommendation from Michael Batnick called “Bull” and plan to follow-up with the book, “Go” to get a better idea of the bubble and perhaps as I read more on the subject, my perception of “The New, New Thing” will change.

If anyone has any book recommendations, please send them my way.


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