Garcia Martinez, Antonio. Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley. Harper, 2016.
Wall Street quant turned ads technology guru, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Facebook middle manager, Antonio Garcia Martinez presents a 500-page diary of a volatile 6 years of his life, from 2007-13. While too long by 100+ pages, his memoir is an entertaining and useful guidebook for working and succeeding in the new economy.
Garcia Martinez begins his story in 2007 when he leaves Stanford’s PhD program in Physics to price credit derivatives for Goldman Sachs. A year later he moves back to California, reinventing himself as an expert in advertising technology at Adchemy, a start-up that creates internet ads software and generates lists of potential customers for businesses. By 2010, Adchemy is sputtering and Garcia Martinez partners with two talented co-workers to apply to the start-up bootcamp Y Combinator. Their internet ads start-up, AdGrok, is funded by Y Combinator, but eventually sold to Twitter. Garcia Martinez abandons his partners to work at Facebook, generating revenue from user information for the Facebook Ads system. In 2012, Facebook’s IPO earns Garcia Martinez $4,000,000, but before he can collect it all, he loses a power struggle and is fired. In 2013, he rejoins his partners at Twitter.
Chaos Monkeys describes the brave new world of technology, where employees are replaced by computers and companies pay heavily for consumers attention. Garcia Martinez is at his best when he is illustrating the ways that technology is changing industries like finance and advertising, or when he is explaining complex concepts like derivatives, ads technology, venture funding or corporate buyouts. His detailed descriptions about company identity, engineering culture, and decision making at Facebook are fascinating. Chapters about the Y Combinator network and process are vital for start-ups. His portrayals of coworkers like Sheryl Sandberg and venture capitalists like Paul Graham are frank and detailed.
A self-described ruthless little shit, Garcia Martinez is weak when relating the personal aspects of his story. His drunken encounter with police is petty. He calls his partners at AdGrok, “the boys.” He complains that his $4 million IPO gain is a pittance for San Francisco natives. He is “snookered into fatherhood” when he sires two children with a derivatives trader, but pays his way out rather than compromise his freedom. Yet despite it all, Garcia Martinez’s bold and honest insights are recommended for anyone wanting to work in an industry disrupted by technology.
© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
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