The ultimate primer on venture capital and silicon valley

It’s Covid-lockdown-time and (quite a few) people have a little bit more time to read and think about things. I finally came around to work further on this list which is essentially the reading list for my book on the ethics of venture capital so far (see my other Medium posts for more on that topic). It will be updated on an ongoing basis and I very much value suggestions (find me on Twitter).

I am going through different genres here (that’s the different subheadings): from history and (high quality) journalism to VCs’ own writing, Techlash literature, Memoirs and ultimately a long list of economics papers. The only thing you might be missing is guidebooks à la ‘How to get into venture capital’.

Where possible, I am providing a link to the publisher behind the title. My favourites are marked with an *. Enjoy.

History of Silicon Valley and Venture Capital

Ante, Spencer E. 2008. Creative Capital: Georges Doriot and the Birth of Venture Capital. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Arthur, W. B. The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. London: Penguin, 2010.

Becker, Ralf, and Thomas Hellmann. “The Genesis of Venture Capital — Lessons from the German Experience.” CESifo Working Paper, 2003.

Berlin, Leslie. Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc, 2018.

Colin, Nicolas. “A Brief History of the World (of Venture Capital).” The Family on Medium, 2016.

Fischer, Adam. Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley, as Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom. London: Twelve, 2018.

Gompers, Paul, and Josh Lerner. “The Venture Capital Revolution.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 15, no. 2 (2001): 145–68.

Isaacson, Walter. The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc, 2015.

Lécuyer, Christophe. 2006. Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930–1970. Boston, MA: MIT Press.

*Nicholas, Tom. VC: An American History. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 2019.

*O’Mara, Margaret. The Code — Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America. New York: Penguin Random House, 2019.

Perez, Carlota. Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages. New York: E. Elgar Pub, 2002.

Journalistic writing (selection)

Gupta, Udayan. Done Deals: Venture Capitalists Tell Their Stories. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2000.

Kaplan, David. The Silicon Boys — And Their Valley of Dreams. New York: William Morrow, 1999.

Lewis, Michael. The New New Thing — A Silicon Valley Story. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2014.

Mulcahy, Diane. 2013. “Six Myths about Venture Capital.” Harvard Business Review.

O’Reilly, Tim. “The Fundamental Problem with Silicon Valley’s Favorite Growth Strategy.” Quartz, 2019.

Rivlin, Gary. Becoming a Venture Capitalist. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc, 2019.

Romans, Andrew. 2013. The Entrepreneurial Bible to Venture Capital: Inside Secrets from the Leaders in the Startup Game. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Shah, Tarang, and Sheetal Shah. Venture Capitalists at Work. New York: Apress, 2011.

Stross, Randall E. EBoys. New York: Crown Business, 2000.

Wolfe, Alexandra. Valley of the Gods: A Silicon Valley Story. 2017.

Zider, Bob. “How Venture Capital Works.” Harvard Business Review. 1998.

VCs writing about themselves

Doerr, John. Measure What Matters: OKRs — The Simple Idea That Drives 10x Growth. London and New York: Penguin, 2018.

Draper, William. The Startup Game — Inside the Partnership between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs. New York: St Martin’s Green, 2011.

Feld, Brad, and Jason Mendelson. 2013. Venture Deals: Be Smarter than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. London: Wiley.

Horowitz, Ben. 2014. The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. New York: Harper Business.

Hoffman, Reid. Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies. New York: HarperCollins, 2018.

*Janeway, William H. 2012. Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy: Markets, Speculation and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

*Kupor, Scott. Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital — and How to Get It. New York: Virgin Books, 2019.


Bridle, James. New Dark Age — Technology and the End of the Future. London; New York: Verso, 2019.

Carreyrou, John. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. New York: Picador, 2018.

*Chang, Emily. Brotopia — Breaking up the Boy’s Club of Silicon Valley. New York: Penguin, 2018.

*Foroohar, Rana. Dont Be Evil — The Case Against Big Tech. London: Allen Lane, 2019.

Galloway, Scott. The Four — The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. New York: Random House, 2017.

*Greene, Lucie. Silicon States — The Power and Politics of Big Tech and What It Means for Our Future. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2018.

Issac, Mike. Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber. New York: Norton and Company, 2019.

McNamee, Roger. Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe. New York: Harper Collins, 2019.

Prassl, Jeremias. Humans as a Service — The Promise and Perils of Work in the Gig Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Ravenelle, Alexandrea J. Hustle and Gig — Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy. Oakland: University of California Press, 2019.

Rosenblat, Alex. Uberland — How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work. Oakland: University of California Press, 2019.

Taplin, Jonathan. Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and What It Means For All Of Us. London: Macmillan, 2017.

Zuboff, Shoshana. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York: Profile Books, 2018.


Fowler, Susan. Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber. London: Penguin, 2020.

Frier, Sarah. No Filter: The Insider Story of Instagram. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc, 2020.

Komisar, Randy. The Monk and the Riddle. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, n.d.

*Lui, Wendy. Abolish Silicon Valley. London: Repeater Books, 2020.

Martinez, Antonio Garcia. Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine. New York: Harper, 2016.

Pao, Ellen. Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change. New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2017.

Wiener, Anna. Uncanny Valley — A Memoir. New York: MCD, 2020.

‘New Silicon Valleys’

Bayrasli, Elmira. From the Other Side of the World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places. New York: Publicaffairs, 2015.

Feld, Brad. Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Hwang, Victor, and Greg Horowitt. The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley. New York: Regenwald, 2012.

Lazarow, Alex. Out-Innovate: How Global Entrepreneurs — from Delhi to Detroit — Are Rewriting the Rules of Silicon Valley. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2020.

Lee, Kai-Fu. AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.

Schroeder, Christopher. Startup Rising. New York: Griffin, 2014.

Economics scholarship

Economic Impact

Gornall, Will, and Ilya Strebulaev. “The Economic Impact of Venture Capital: Evidence from Public Companies.” Working Papers, 2015.

Dutta, Supradeep, Timothy B Folta, Vikas Aggarwal, Tim Cason, Gary Dushnitsky, Dan Elfenbein, David Hsu, et al. “A Comparison of the Effect of Angels and Venture Capitalists on Innovation and Value Creation.” Journal of Business Venturing 31 (2016): 39–54.

Ewens, Michael, Ramana Nanda, Matthew Rhodes-Kropf, Shai Bernstein, Tony Cookson, Marco Da Rin, Lora Dimitrova, et al. “Cost of Experimentation and the Evolution of Venture Capital.” NBER Working Paper Series, 2018.

Ferrary, Michel, and Mark Granovetter. “The Role of Venture Capital Firms in Silicon Valley’s Complex Innovation Network.” Economy and Society 38, no. 2 (2009): 326–59.

Haines, Julia Katherine. “Meaningful Innovation: Ethnographic Potential in the Startup and Venture Capital Spheres.” Proceedings of the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC), 2016, 90–115.

Kortum, Samuel, and Josh Lerner. “Assessing the Contribution of Venture Capital to Innovation.” RAND Journal of Economics 31, no. 4 (2000): 674–92.

Samila, Sampsa, and Olav Sorenson. “Venture Capital, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth.” The Review of Economics and Statistics 93, no. 1 (2011): 338–49.

Behaviour and decision making

Andres, Rene. “Venture Capitalists’ Decision-Making in Later-Stage Ventures.” Universität Trier, 2018.

Bottazzi, Laura, Marco Da Rin, and Thomas F. Hellmann. “The Importance of Trust for Investment: Evidence Form Venture Capital.” Review of Financial Studies 29, no. 9 (2016): 2283–2318.

Brunner, Frances. “A Case Study of Qualitative Factors in Making Venture Capital Investment Decisions.” Texas State University, 2017.

Espenlaub, Susanne, Arif Khurshed, and Abdulkadir Mohamed. “The Exit Behavior of Venture Capital Firms.” MBS Working Paper, 2008.

Fried, Vance H., Robert D. Hisrich, and Amy Polonchek. “Research Note : Venture Capitalists ’ Investment Criteria: A Replication.” Journal of Small Business Finance 3, no. 1 (1993): 37–42.

Gompers, Paul A., Will Gornall, Steven N. Kaplan, and Ilya A. Strebulaev. “How Do Venture Capitalists Make Decisions?” NBER Working Paper, 2016.

Hsu, David H. “Experienced Entrepreneurial Founders, Organizational Capital, and Venture Capital Funding.” Research Policy 36, no. 5 (2007): 722–41.

Janeway, William H. 2012. Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy: Markets, Speculation and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kaplan, Steven N., and Per Stromberg. “Venture Capitalists as Principals Contracting, Screening, and, Monitoring.” NBER Working Paper, no. 8202 (2001).

Kaplan, Steven N, Berk A Sensoy, and P Omberg. “Should Investors Bet on the Jockey or the Horse ? Evidence from the Evolution of Firms from Early.” Journal of Finance LXIV, no. 4 (2009): 75–115.

Khanna, Poonam, Lemaro Thompson, and Michael McDonald. “Research on Venture Capital Firms’ Investment Behaviour: A Review.” University of Texas at San Antonio Working Paper Series, 2015.

Macmillan, Ian C, Robin Siegel, and P N Subba Narasimha. “Criteria Used by VCs to Evaluate New Venture Proposals.” Journal of Business Venturing 128 (1985): 119–28.

Mitteness, Cheryl R., Melissa S. Baucus, and Richard Sudek. “Horse vs. Jockey? How Stage of Funding Process and Industry Experience Affect the Evaluations of Angel Investors.” Venture Capital 14, no. 4 (2012): 241–67.

Shepherd, Dean A. “Venture Capitalists’ Assessment of New Venture Survival.” Management Science 45, no. 5 (1999): 621–32.

Terjesen, Siri, Pankaj C. Patel, James O. Fiet, and Rodney D’Souza. “Normative Rationality in Venture Capital Financing.” Technovation 33, no. 8–9 (2013): 255–64.

Balen, Timo van, Murat Tarakci, and Ashish Sood. “Do Disruptive Visions Pay Off? The Impact of Disruptive Entrepreneurial Visions on Venture Funding.” Journal of Management Studies 56, no. 2 (2019): 303–42.

Valuation and value-add

Amornsiripanitch, Natee, Paul A. Gompers, and Yuhai Xuan. “More than Money: Venture Capitalists on Boards.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2015.

Bernstein, Shai, Xavier Giroud, and Richard Townsend. “The Impact of Venture Capital Monitoring.” Journal of Finance71, no. 4 (2016): 1591–1622.

Busenitz, Lowell W., James O. Fiet, and Douglas D. Moesel. “Reconsidering the Venture Capitalists’ ‘Value Added’ Proposition: An Interorganizational Learning Perspective.” Journal of Business Venturing 19, no. 6 (2004): 787–807.

Carver, Lorenzo. Venture Capital Valuation. London, New York: Wiley, 2011.

Cumming, Douglas, Grant Fleming, and Jo Ann Suchard. Venture Capitalist Value-Added Activities, Fundraising and Drawdowns. Journal of Banking and Finance. Vol. 29, 2005.

Gornall Ilya Strebulaev, William A, Nicholas Crain, Michael Ewens, Joe Grundfest, Sabrina Howell, Steve Kaplan, Arthur Korteweg, et al. “Squaring Venture Capital Valuations with Reality.” NBER Working Paper Series, 2017.

Kaiser, Kevin, and Christian Westarp. “Value Creation in the Private Equity and Venture Capital Industry.” INSEAD Working Paper Series, 2010.

Pratch, Leslie. “Value-Added Investing: A Framework for Early Stage Venture Capital Firms.” Journal of Private Equity8, no. 3 (2005): 13–29.

Teten, David, Adham AbbdelFattah, Koen Bremer, and Gyorg Buslig. “The Lower-Risk Startup: How Venture Capitalists Increase the Odds of Startup Success.” The Journal of Private Equity, 2013, 7–19.

Industry design and development

Axelson, Ulf, and Milan Martinovic. “European Venture Capital: Myths and Facts,” LSE Working Paper, 2015.

Cohen, Susan, and Yael V. Hochberg. “Accelerating Startups: The Seed Accelerator Phenomenon.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2014.

Cohen, Susan, Daniel C. Fehder, Yael V. Hochberg, and Fiona Murray. “The Design of Startup Accelerators.” Research Policy, no. March (2019): 1–17.

Elango, B., Vance H Fried, Robert D Hisrich, and Amy Polonchek. “How Venture Capital Funds Differ.” Journal of Business Venturing 10, no. 2 (1995): 157–70.

Ewens, Michael, and Matthew Rhodes-kropf. “Is a VC Partnership Greater Than the Sum of Its Partners ? Is a VC Partnership Greater Than the Sum of Its.” Journal of Finance 70, no. 3 (2015): 1081–1113.

Gompers, Paul, and Josh Lerner. “The Venture Capital Revolution.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 15, no. 2 (2001): 145–68.

Gompers, Paul. The Venture Capital Cycle. Edited by MIT Press. Boston, MA, 2006.

Kaplan, Steven N., and Josh Lerner. “It Ain’t Broke: The Past, Present, and Future of Venture Capital.” Journal of Applied Corporate Finance 22, no. 2 (2010): 36–47.

Kortum, Samuel, and Josh Lerner. “Assessing the Contribution of Venture Capital to Innovation.” RAND Journal of Economics 31, no. 4 (2000): 674–92.

Nanda, Ramana, Sampsa Samila, and Olav Sorenson. “The Persistent Effect of Initial Success: Evidence from Venture Capital.” HBS Working Paper Series, 2019.

Rhodes-Kropf, Matthew, and Ramana Nanda. “Investment Cycles and Startup Innovation.” Journal of Financial Economics 110 (2012): 403–18.

Sapienza, Harry J., Sophie Manigart, and Wim Vermeir. “Venture Capitalist Governance and Value Added in Four Countries.” Journal of Business Venturing 11, no. 6 (1996): 439–69.

Writing on the ethics of venture capital @Cambridge_Uni; visiting Stanford and NYU; former: PhD on homelessness at Cambridge, MSc at LSE, BA at ZU