Liar's Poker meets The Social Network in an irreverent exposé of life inside the tech bubble, from industry provocateur Antonio García Martínez, a former Twitter advisor, Facebook product manager, and start-up founder/CEO.
The reality is, Silicon Valley capitalism is very simple:
Investors are people with more money than time.
Employees are people with more time than money.
Entrepreneurs are the seductive go-between.
Marketing is like sex: only losers pay for it.
Imagine a chimpanzee rampaging through a data center powering everything from Google to Facebook. Infrastructure engineers use a software version of this "chaos monkey" to test online services' robustness - their ability to survive random failure and correct mistakes before they actually occur. Tech entrepreneurs are society's chaos monkeys, disruptors testing and transforming every aspect of our lives from transportation (Uber) and lodging (AirBnB) to television (Netflix) and dating (Tinder).
One of Silicon Valley's most audacious chaos monkeys is Antonio García Martínez. After stints on Wall Street and as CEO of his own start-up, García Martínez joined Facebook's nascent advertising team, turning its users' data into profit for COO Sheryl Sandberg and chairman and CEO Mark "Zuck" Zuckerberg. Forced out in the wake of an internal product war over the future of the company's monetization strategy, García Martínez eventually landed at rival Twitter. He also fathered two children with a woman he barely knew, committed lewd acts and brewed illegal beer on the Facebook campus (accidentally flooding Zuckerberg's desk), lived on a sailboat, raced sport cars on the 101, and enthusiastically pursued the life of an overpaid Silicon Valley wastrel.
Now this gleeful contrarian unravels the chaotic evolution of social media and online marketing and reveals how it is invading our lives and shaping our future. Weighing in on everything from start-ups and credit derivatives to Big Brother, data tracking, social media monetization, and digital "privacy", García Martínez shares his scathing observations and outrageous antics, taking us on a humorous, subversive tour of the fascinatingly insular tech industry.
Chaos Monkeys lays bare the hijinks, trade secrets, and power plays of the visionaries, grunts, sociopaths, opportunists, accidental tourists, and money cowboys who are revolutionizing our world. The question is, will we survive?
Bonus content: an exclusive interview featuring Antonio García Martínez in conversation with journalist and author Steven Levy.
©2016 Antonio Garcia Martinez (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
Antonio Garcia Martinez has an axe to grind and grind it he does. Chaos Monkeys is vindictive, addictive, and sharp.
What's surprising is, along with the score settling, how much I learned about the tech world whose products I use every day. A thoughtful light is shone on the deals and analysis of Silicone Valley that you aren't going to see anywhere else. Despite the "disruptive," rumpled exterior, the business runs on the same greed and profit models as developers and Wall Street.
An entertaining and informative book to be heard with a salt cellar at the ready.
Say something about yourself!
If I ever met Antonio Garcia Martinez, I'd probably experience an untenable desire to punch him in the mouth. More on that later...
Chaos Monkeys, follows Antonio's journey from Goldman Saches, to Silicon Valley start up, to his own start up and finally to how he landed at FaceBook. Unlike Dan Lyons, outsider-in insanity experience during his his hire to HubSpot, AGM (Antonio Garcia Martinez) an insider's peek-behind-the-curtain into the world of venture capital, stock options, IPOs, acquisitions, and money ball at the big leagues. AGM manages to swing for the fences and mostly get there, but not without screwing his co-founders in a sell to Twitter, to only jump ship for FaceBook, gambling with two other people's fortunes more than his own and down talking just about any other person in the book,
If this sounds interesting, it can be but Antonio almost seems with at odds with the reader. I rarely find myself rolling my eyes at audiobooks but there's something mildly bile inducing after the hundredth, sorta-but-not-really clever cheeky reference to Roman history, Napoleon, to explain a board meeting or worn out of out analogy to investor courtship as dating. Antonio is just on this side of aware, to realize he's money grubbing, self assured asshole but the real problem is he's just unlikable even as a narrator. Down talking when asserting his isn't, asserting his roguish nature only to be a huge consumer of groupthink, and a nice heaping dose of neo-tech-religious snobbery.
Despite AGM being mostly devoid of redeemable traits, pension of hyper aggrandizing every mundane situation, and absurdist chapter intros that quote everything from Shakespeare to byzantine quotes. Antonio does give some interesting incite FaceBook's lingering ineptness to serve ads with even basic tracking even at the date of its IPO, to the gritty networking of selling a company off to the highest bidder and playing the system. I don't blame Antonio's cynicism for the industry but he's pretty much the walking embodiment of San Francisco Techie asshole, the people who garner scorn even he thinks he isn't. When a resident of Portland or Seattle or Denver complains about Californian Techies in their city, Antonio is who'd they point at.
It's also useful to get to know somehow who fundamentally views the world so transactionally something usually more associated with WallStreet than Tech. Perhaps it's his background from a stint as a quant at Goldman-Saches, a broker of unending evil that molded his fragile mind, but I'm sure there's plenty more just like him in the Valley without a history to point to. There's plenty more barbs I'm leaving out, although I feel it necessary to call out his usage of, "More on that later" oft-repeated, as well as abbreviating individuals to 3 letter acronyms like AGM, to dehumanize them or make them a product.
Occasionally he's even witty and funny. If you work in tech, you'll probably be able to slog your way to the end. Everyone else, read Dan Lyons' Disrupted.
This book has no narrative. It's just a series of sentences written by the author who's often trying to be too cool or clever. 3 chapters in and there's no story or information worth remembering. In 5 years of monthly books on audible, mostly in this genre, I've quit only two books: this and The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Brad Horowitz.
This is a very entertaining account of the current tech environment which makes 2010 seem like decades ago. A fast paced, irreverent narrator takes us on his personal tumblr through the jungle and it is delicious. It's also a deeply provocative lesson in how the powers that be are harnessing our info, or not, and it might shatter some preconceived notions about who is doing what and why. A must read for anyone appreciating a front-row seat to the madness that is Silicon Valley, incubators, and unicorns.
Antonio has wonderfully captured the embodiment of what it is like to work in Silicon Valley
Just finished reading this. Antonio has wonderfully captured the embodiment of what it is like to be an early stage startup employee, YC founder going through an acquihire and product manager running ads at FB while explaining the nuanced would of the behind the scenes would of digital advertising technology (adtech) that as he eloquently conveys turns attention into money. As someone with a similar path and having direct overlap with Antonio during my time at MoPub, I can attest that he does a balanced job of portraying the optimistic upside along with the disheartening downside of working at startups, acquisitions and political backstabbing that makes up the known but not public trust of life in the valley.
Imagine: a guy with pretty good, recent chops and very real, immersive experience (with actual deals reasonably described) in (1) Wall Street, (2) Silicon valley, and (3) the tech and legal stuff swirling around and through that. Give the fellow a tremendous facility with words and explanations, and just enough background in all sorts of literary and historical references to burnish (without becoming ponderous) these glib "fly on the wall" scene-by-scene descriptions. Thus girded, strap in for a ride through today's capitals of the sharpest action, with all the egos, fools and brainiacs hyperventilating through the scene on all sides. You are there: in the cockpit of a Silicon valley startup, blow by blow, fumblings and soaring adrenaline, lawyer jive and all. Stir in just enough humility so the whole thing stays pretty sweet and light, and doesn't descend into a (by now canonical for many such authors) Mussolini-esque travesty. If this is your cup of tea, toss this baby in the cart and burn through every delightful sentence. This guy is utterly who I would have been if I hadn't screwed around so much in my life. Now, granted, this is recent history, by a plenty smart guy, with the visionary pretense mercifully kept modest. Perhaps a wave of robotic AI change is already gestating in some labs nearby which will make all this fuzzy human-mediated stuff seem quaint in compressed time. In that case, we're all cooked anyway, so why not enjoy a good story? And the narrator just transparently floats into the words, with a sunny quality matching the author's (which is funny in itself given the hilarious scenes) so he seems to me like the actual seamless author. A good narrator (sorry Dan John Miller for this downmarket analogy) is like an excellent waiter: almost invisible but very competent and always just right.
Hits home honestly. As a silicon valley knowledge worker I found Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Martinez to be funny, savage and too-close-to-home depressing. The book is honest, brave and f-you-money frustrating. I listened to the audiobook. I expect I'll revisit to dig into some of the heavier material while skimming the cynicism and personal attacks.
The narration is excellent, and the story is compelling, even if a touch tedious at times (rarely). Even so, I burned through it in less than a week. Recommended if you care at all about the people and systems that build and run our digital lives.
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