In retrospect, the way author Randall E. Stross gained intimate access to one of the country's leading venture capital firms is quite fitting.
"It all started in a gym. My third grader and one of the Benchmark Capital partners' third graders were on a basketball team together, and the two dads were co-coaches. That's how I got my introduction. And like an entrepreneur, I couldn't have gotten in without an introduction," says Stross about his entrÃ©e into a world where the practitioners deliberately shroud their activities.
For two years, Stross-who teaches business history at San Jose State University in San Jose, California-roamed the halls of Benchmark Capital freely, and the result is the entertaining and informative eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work (Crown Business). The book explores how Kevin Harvey, Andy Rachleff, Bruce Dunlevie (below, front row, l. to r.), Dave Beirne, Bill Gurley and Bob Kagle (back row, l. to r.) successfully backed companies like eBay and missed the boat on others, such as Priceline.com.
The book takes readers on a tour through the often complex-and sometimes surprisingly simple-world of venture funding. "[It's simple] in that decisions don't involve number crunching, and valuations of companies are kind of informal," says Stross. "However, it's more complex than popular imagery suggests because there are usually daily consultations with CEOs at many of the portfolio companies."
Entrepreneurs looking to score their first venture deals will find the book especially engaging. "What I hope people get from the book is a sense of venture capitalists that's more detailed than the caricature label," says Stross. "For entrepreneurs who don't have experience working with venture capitalists, the book offers an in-depth portrait that fleshes out venture capitalists and what they do, and ideally makes the process of seeking [investments] less intimidating."
- Randall E. Stross, www.randallstross.com.