The New New Thing is story of Jim Clark, the man who redefined American business by changing the rules of the game. A maverick and anarchist by heart, he was well suited to grab the opportunity presented by advancements in computer science. Clark’s enterprises were pivotal in fuelling the internet boom of 90’s as he reshaped the American business model.
I am a die hard fan of Michael Lewis’s ability to ferret out stories from unexpected corners. Lewis’s books are based on ‘Big Events’, but they are not just chronological accounts. Instead, they are mix of biography and clear elucidation of turning points in history, be it Wall Street or sports. – His protagonists are always impressive to read about – outsiders who defied odds and stood firm in their belief against common wisdom.
Having said that, The New New Thing is so far my least favourite among his works. It is a semi-biography of Jim Clark, founder of three billion dollar enterprises. The book is also a commentary about the beginning of Silicon Valley and the big role played by Clark’s ambition in its making. Jim Clark is an interesting personality, raised poor and fatherless, he went on to complete Ph. D. in computer science. Frustrated in his teaching job and after two messy marriages, Clark’s life suddenly took a U-turn when he founded Silicon Graphics. An anarchist at heart, Clark was not interested much in past as he was in future. So he moved on and founded Netscape. Netscape’s IPO was a milestone in the dotcom boom and made Clark a billionaire. He moved on again and started Healtheon, another billion-dollar enterprise.
The biggest problem I had with the book was – it felt dated. It was published at the height of dot com boom. Though Lewis abstains from glorifying it, I felt there is some amount of hero-worshiping unlike his other books. Jim Clark is a charismatic though not always likable personality. I could not help noticing that Clark’s every new enterprise was less profitable than previous one yet made him richer with mind boggling valuations. Silicon Graphics was a solid and profitable company with a strong product line. Netscape was pioneer in making web accessible but it was much less profitable and I am not sure if Healtheon ever justified its billion-dollar tag or delivered on its original vision.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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My other reviews of Michael Lewis’s books –