‘Chaos Monkeys’ and the paths of tech start-ups

Lee Merkle-Raymond
Posted by Lee Merkle-Raymond
Mid-cap Technology Banking

With popular movies like “The Social Network” and the HBO series “Silicon Valley,” some of the issues, challenges, and potentially outsized paydays of start-ups are known across the U.S. and the globe, and feel accessible to anyone.

Antonio Garcia Martinez (Photo: Helena Price)

(Photo: Helena Price)

One of the latest cultural entries to offer a peek into the fast-moving tech start-up world is Antonio Garcia Martinez’s book “Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley.” It provides an inside look at the journey of his ad server business:  from a start-up with two guys, to Y Combinator backing, orchestrating a complex sale of the company to Twitter and Facebook, and then reuiniting with the start-up colleagues for the next generation of ad server technologies.  The action peaks during a lawsuit that could crush the start-up and again as he negotiates with Facebook and Twitter, learning on the fly and from his VC mentors.

His story could only happen in Silicon Valley, and could be called “So You Think You Want to Start a Tech Company? Go West!”

Fittingly enough, Martinez is the featured speaker at the next New York Times Look West event (Sept. 13), which focuses on innovation leaders and artists in the West. The event is also sponsored by Bank of the West.

Under his hoodie, Martinez’s brain holds the workings of five years as a Physics PhD student at UC Berkeley, experience as a Goldman Sachs trader of credit spreads and derivatives, and the knowledge of innumerable classics absorbed while accompanying his mom during her job as a librarian.  He weaves his personal history with quick lessons on the Silicon Valley ecosystem: angel investing, venture capital, hacking, intellectual property rights, ad servers, and the development of targeted online marketing.

The book also made me appreciate the journey that many tech companies go through as they develop and mature. Not every tech company – even in Silicon Valley – goes through high-profile incubators or considers acquisition offers from well-known tech giants. There’s a broad range of tech company sizes and specialties (not to mention tech hubs outside Silicon Valley), and so many of them start with some great ideas and founders with similar brilliance and varied backgrounds as Martinez’s.

It’s important to remember that the start-up’s journey depicted in “Chaos Monkeys” is one path new tech companies can choose – and many start-ups do. Funding a business through venture capital, for example, is one way to grow. But many other sources of funding may work for different companies, especially as they mature and innovate in other realms of technology.

For all the start-ups that are on a similar path as the one depicted in “Chaos Monkeys,” I have a final thought: Once your company graduates from Y Combinator and generates revenues and cash flows, you’ll need a new guide through the financial markets and banking.  That’s when Bank of the West Technology Banking can help with the next chapter in the story.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and should not be attributed to Bank of the West or necessarily reflect the official position of the Bank.

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