Sarah Lacy’s new book is an interesting read. Coming out at the end of a 40 week road pound talking with entrepreneurs in different ’emerging’ countries, “the book began as a study in one thing: greed-based entrepreneurship in places emerging out of chaos and giving rise to enormous greenfield opportunities the Western world no longer has.“
That’s an interesting premise to base it upon given that US markets would be more inclined to read about how the US economy would re-invent itself as the centre point of business and, the focal point of innovation. Innovation forms a large context, a permanent backdrop to the book. However, innovation, and more importantly, the drive to innovate, finds resonance and acceptance in the somewhat less talked about and (sometimes) less glamorous places – Israel, China, Brazil, Rwanda and India. And yet it unabashedly states that there “are even more countries rising up that this book didn’t explore—like Russia, Mexico, Turkey, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. As more of these economies achieve stability and seek to follow in China and India’s footsteps, they’re increasingly turning to other emerging markets for help, not the West.”
The book provides its own summary later towards the end – “We used to assume that sophisticated Silicon Valley venture capitalists would be the dominant investors as high-growth entrepreneurship spread to the world, but just a decade or so in, that’s not the case, even in our own country. In a world where technology has made talent and money this fungible, the incumbent advantage is almost gone.” And, the recurring theme amongst the entrepreneurs in this chaotic world order seems to be that “The more disenfranchised a person is, the more incentive he or she has to upend the established order. The American dream is the very idea that having nothing allows you to take enough risk that you can achieve anything.“
““Entrepreneur” is a fashionable mantle nearly everyone wraps themselves in these days, but this is what a conversation with a great entrepreneur is like. It’s not about technology or features or acronyms—it’s a way of thinking and problem solving, coupled with the internal compass to believe in the idea and the confidence and determination to carry it out.“
Sarah makes it a point to hammer home some known truths like “Indeed, the more big, publicly traded tech companies have talked about innovation, the more they’ve just bought it rather than invented it.” and, “While companies talk about buying innovation, they have a shoddy track record of incorporating and investing in what they buy.“
Amongst the observations of the economies I found the one on India to be veering a bit towards predictable lines. However, the quote “Great companies often fail when they take their success for granted. And so, too, can great societies.” fits in so shockingly that it might actually be something that needs to be absorbed and understood in all its ghastly explanation. Add to it the fact that “Indian entrepreneurship at its core is creative but not disciplined.” and you have a situation that is perhaps to aptly described by Edward Luce – “India finds itself higher up the ladder than one would expect it to be. It is just that most of its people are still sitting at the bottom,”
“Just as a hot meal, clean water, or a U.S. dollar can take on a meaning the rich can’t understand in a poor neighborhood, so too can basic technologies that connect people to one another.” – that and the fact that entrepreneurship, irrespective of the fact that it is indeed driven by greed, is fuelled by the need to change what is provides a different way of looking at the businesses (eg. redbus.in etc) that emerges in order to provide a different experience. The subtext of the book is about “How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos“. That’s precisely what it is. A fairly rapid if not a free fall insight into various businesses. Written in the form of an easy-observation-narrative pieces the book is quick read but has enough points to ensure that there is a need to revisit and re-read.