The Silicon Valley Cartel

Andy Kessler’s Running Money is a well written set of memoirs from a technology fund manager. Together with his partner-in-crime Fred Kittler, Kessler managed to survive the highs and lows of the technology industry in the late 1990’s, he tells the story in a very articulate way that is as powerful as Robert X Cringely’s book Accidential Empires. The expansion of the tech sector is told using the industrial revolution as an analogy.

 

One of the first things that strikes you is that the tech sector actually revolves around a relatively small group of peopleIn addition to writing his memoirs Kessler tries to make sense of it all and proves very illuminating to readers; in this respect it is far better than The New New Thing by Michael Lewis. In addition, the book looks beyond the technology sector to put a positive spin on the huge US deficit. Kessler explains that America is now an IP economy and assumes that the developing world will follow on behind as a wave sweeps across national borders moving the economic status through hunter gatherer, agriculture/extractive, industrial, service and intellectual property economies. In some respects the US with its IP economy is following Europe; what is the Swiss banking system, LVMH’s luxury brands and the continents big pharmaceutical firms if not part of an IP ecosystem?

I would recommend anybody to read Kessler’s book. I thought I would end however on some of the differences in viewpoint I have with his writing. Where some of Kessler’s writing differs from my own perspective is when he outlines his analysis of the current state of affairs and some of his future vision:

  • Kessler considers markets to be a perfect instrument in the long term; which I am not convinced about at all. Think the great depression, the S&L debacle of the 1980s for instance, markets can break and require occasional interference
  • The neat model of China being an industrial workshop for US intellectual property is simplistic. China is fast moving into building its own brands from mobile handsets to luxury watches (the first Chinese astronaut went into space with a relative expensive Chinese brand of chronograph. China and India has a huge film industry. It isn’t only China either, Japan is now a source of numerous fashion trends, hot movies in Korea have their scripts optioned by Hollywood, some of the best advertising creative teams come from South America and India)

  • Kessler talks about the entertainment industry as being part of this US IP powerhouse but this fails to see the many flaws and mismanagment in the music, media and film industries that make Worldcom seem well managed. The RIAA and MPAA have hid behind piracy to hide a deeper malaise highlighted in Michael Wolf’s Autumn of the Moguls
  • Kessler doesn’t talk about what the inevitable post-intellectual property economy looks like