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The Venture alchemists: How Big Tech Turned Profits Into Power
[Hardback - 2024]
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Category: Business
Publisher: Columbia University Press | ISBN: 9780231210263 | Pages: 496
Shipping Weight: .946 | Dimensions: null

We once idolized tech entrepreneurs for creating innovations that seemed like modern miracles. Yet our faith has been shattered. We now blame them for spreading lies, breaking laws, and causing chaos. Yesterday’s Silicon Valley darlings have become today’s Big Tech villains. Which is it? Are they superheroes or scoundrels? Or is it more complicated, some blend of both? In The Venture Alchemists, Rob Lalka demystifies how tech entrepreneurs built empires that made trillions. Meta started as a cruel Halloween prank, Alphabet began as a master’s thesis that warned against corporate deception, and Palantir came from a campus controversy over hateful speech. These largely forgotten origin stories show how ordinary fears and youthful ambitions shaped their ventures-making each tech tale relatable, both wonderfully and tragically human. Readers learn about the adversities tech entrepreneurs overcame, the troubling tradeoffs they made, and the tremendous power they now wield. Using leaked documents and previously unpublished archival material, Lalka takes readers inside Big Tech’s worst exploitations and abuses, alongside many good intentions and moral compromises. But this story remains unfinished, and The Venture Alchemists ultimately offers hope from the people who, decades ago, warned about the risks of the emerging Internet. Their insights illuminate a path toward more responsible innovations, so that technologies aren’t dangerous weapons but valuable tools that ensure progress, improve society, and enhance our daily lives.

Rob Lalka is a professor of practice and the Executive Director of the Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship at Tulane University s A.B. Freeman School of Business. He is the co-founder of Medora Ventures, a consulting firm in purpose-driven ventures.

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