“The world crowns you a ge­nius, and you start act­ing like one”

De­cep­tion, lies, and be­trayal in the “tech whore­house” By Ellen Huet

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS -

Antonio Gar­cía Martínez’s mem­oir, Chaos Mon­keys: Ob­scene For­tune and Ran­dom Fail­ure in Sil­i­con Val­ley, be­gins as the au­thor i s leav­ing his job as a num­ber cruncher at Gold­man Sachs in New York to head west. He joins an ad startup, leaves it to launch an­other, sells that one to Twit­ter 10 months later, then goes to work in the fever­ish cult of pre-ini­tial pub­lic of­fer­ing Face­book. And that’s just the first half of the book.

Un­like most foundi ng nar­ra­tive s t hat flow out of the Val­ley, Chaos Mon­keys (Harper; 528 pages) dives i nto the un­bur­nished, day-to-day re­al­i­ties: the fran­tic piv­ots, the en­thu­si­as­tic as­skiss­ing, the ex­cru­ci­at­ing in­ter­nal pol­i­tics. The mon­keys in his ti­tle are ac­tu­ally software pro­grams de­signed to wreak havoc on a com­puter sys­tem to test its re­silience. But Gar­cía uses the term as a metaphor to il­lus­trate how suc­cess­ful dis­rup­tion of­ten comes as much from luck as from skill.

The way he sees it, Sil­i­con Val­ley is much like Wall Street, or any other sec­tor of cor­po­rate Amer­ica, when it comes to shady deal­ings. Be­cause our iPhones are de­signed there, though, we tend to imag­ine it as a techno-utopia. In one of the mem­oir’s high points, Twit­ter of­fers to buy his startup, AdGrok, a plat­form that lets busi­nesses au­to­mate bid­ding on Google key­words. Gar­cía and his co-founders hope to coax a ri­val of­fer from Face­book. While pitch­ing AdGrok to the so­cial net­work, Gar­cía hints that Google is in­ter­ested as well. It’s not. Some­how, Gar­cía im­presses the Face­book folks so much that he gets a job of­fer, shock­ing the Twit­ter ex­ecs who fol­low through on their $5 mil­lion of­fer for the com­pany but wind up with two co-founders in­stead of three. “That one throw­away line of mine was prob­a­bly half re­spon­si­ble for what fol­lowed,” he writes. Later, he adds: “Moral­ity, such as it ex­ists in the tech whore­house, is an ex­pen­sive hobby in­deed.”

There are plenty more tales like that. Gar­cía coaxes lawyers into tak­ing po­ten­tially worth­less equity in­stead of pay. Af­ter aban­don­ing his AdGrok co-founders to take the Face­book job, Gar­cía gets fired at Face­book— and he winds up con­sult­ing f or Twit­ter on how best to beat Mark Zucker­berg & Co. Gar­cía tries to po­si­tion him­self as a kind of nerd an­ti­hero, but he un­der­mines him­self with misog­y­nis­tic re­marks, re­fer­ring to an at­trac­tive Asian co-worker as his “prize” and call­ing Bay Area women “soft and weak” with “self-re­gard­ing en­ti­tle­ment fem­i­nism.” He’s also fix­ated on set­tling grudges with for­mer co-work­ers. He’s quick to mock Face­book ex­ec­u­tives for go­ing into “lock­down” mode af­ter Google an­nounces its Google Plus so­cial net­work, but what else were they sup­posed to do?

He can be rude, but he’s shrewd, too. While Gar­cía is at Face­book, the com­pany com­mis­sions sev­eral fixes for its ad mon­e­ti­za­tion prob­lem, but once one takes off (mo­bile ads in its news feed), it pre­tends that had been the plan all along. “What was an im­prob­a­ble bo­nanza at the hands of the flail­ing half­blind be­comes the in­evitable coup of the as­sured vi­sion­ary,” he writes. “The world crowns you a ge­nius, and you start act­ing like one.” In other words, if Sil­i­con Val­ley is a jungle, some mon­key is al­ways go­ing to wind up king. <BW>


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