Learning Curve: A Novel of Silicon Valley

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Series: Silicon Valley Quartet, Book 1
Release Date: August 2013
Author: Michael S. Malone
ISBN Hardcover: 978-1-935460-99-2
($21.95 USD)
ISBN Paperback: 978-1-935460-62-6
($12.95 USD)
ISBN eBook: 978-1-935460-63-3
($5.95 USD)
LCCN: 2013937571
Edited by: Sharon Smith
Cover Artist: Craig Jennion
Pages: 176

Get an inside view of the breathless, winner-take-all world of high technology — Silicon Valley style — in this fast-paced corporate thriller.

Veteran businessman Dan Crowen is finally handed the reins of a large, successful tech firm, Validator Software — only to be ordered by its eccentric owner, Cosmo Validator, to take a step that could destroy the company.

Young entrepreneur Alison Prue is at the helm of Validator’s upstart rival, eTernity. When the venture capitalists funding eTernity decide it’s time to take the hot young startup public and go head-to-head against Validator, both Alison and Dan are caught up in a global tsunami of high-tech conspiracies.

Nothing’s as it seems in this high-stakes game of cat and mouse that will keep you guessing the whole way through.

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“Entertaining, informative, and filled with an insider’s knowledge of where the corporate bodies are buried (or should be). This is a high-speed novel that perfectly matches the fiery, kinetic lives of software entrepreneurs.  I liked it a lot.” —  Ron Hansen, author,  The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion

“Respected Silicon Valley journalist Mike Malone has turned his scalpel-like perceptions into a novel. The chase scenes are more cerebral than physical as the reader careens through the boardrooms and bedrooms of that valley and its south-of-Market start-ups in San Francisco. It all rings true. I found the book both fun and fascinating” Tom Perkins, legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist and author of Valley Boy

“Mike Malone captures the drama and the romance of Silicon Valley as only he could. His characters, while fictional, feel as if they walked right out of Sand Hill Road. In Cosmo Validator, in particular, he has created an iconic Valley character.” — Jeff Skoll, eBay founding president; chairman of Participant Media

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Dan Crowen, sitting on a stack of equipment boxes, straightened the eight pages of his speech by tapping the paper on his thigh for the fourth time. As he did, he noticed, in the lurid blue glow of the screen beside him, a tiny length of thread on his right sleeve. He picked it off, then smiled at himself: as if anyone will be able to see it.

But then again… He glanced up at the forty-foot-tall canvas screen, the bright red sans serif letters of “Validator Software” written backwards almost two stories above him. Beyond the screen he could hear the low rumble of five hundred conversations, punctuated by the squeaks of chairs and the rattle of male laughter.

“Mr. Crowen?”

Dan turned his head to see a skinny man dressed in black with a slash of black hair across his forehead. “Is it time already?” he asked.

“Yes sir. The hall’s almost full.” He held out a lavaliere microphone in one hand, battery pack in the other. “You know how to do this, right? Or do you need help?”

Dan took the apparatus. “No, I’ve got it.” He took the battery pack, its little LED glowing red, and reached back and clipped it to his belt—the ­expensive Brioni he’d bought in Savile Row on a business trip twenty years before. Dan was amused to suddenly realize that the inexplicably worn area on his belt—that he’d noticed just this morning—had come from two decades of television appearances and public speeches. Then he tucked the wire into his waistband and threaded it up behind the buttons of his shirt. Three buttons up, he pulled the wire out, made a stress loop in the clip behind the microphone, then attached it to his tie—his lucky red tie—a few inches below the half-Windsor knot.

“You’ve done this before,” said the technician. That’s what they always said. “May I?” the man asked, reaching into Dan’s jacket. He flicked the switch on the battery pack. The little light turned green.

Dan raised his eyebrows and pointed at the tiny black square on his tie. “Don’t worry,” said the man with emo hair. “You can talk. I’ve got the pot over there.” He pointed to where a heavy-set man sat a control panel. “It’s turned all the way down. As you step out on the stage, I’ll crank it back up.”

A heavy hand landed on Dan’s shoulder. “Ready, boss?”

Dan turned to look up into the wide, ferocious grin of his VP of sales, Tony D. “Hey, pal,” said Dan, holding out a hand to be gripped in Tony’s own. Salesmen always had intense, enveloping handshakes. It was their real calling card.

“Another year, another Homecoming game, eh Dan?” In the near darkness, Tony D.’s perpetually tanned face was a dark orange. But his white teeth almost glowed. “How many has it been?”

“Ten years,” said Dan. “We’ve been doing this for an even decade.”

“Holy shit,” said Tony D. He whistled. “That many, huh? I had no fucking idea. So where’s the champagne and the strippers? We should be celebrating.”

Dan nodded and chuckled. Good old Tony D. Outrageous as ever.

The room erupted with the loud click of a microphone like a pistol shot, then the enormous baritone voice of the announcer—a local sports reporter—intoned like the voice of God, “Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the 2010 World Wide Sales Meeting of—” the voice jumped a half-octave even as it swelled in volume. “…Validator Software Incorporated!”

The ballroom, holding every bit of its 1800-person limit, crackled and throbbed with applause and cheers. The backstage area was suddenly awash in color—Dan looked up to see digital fireworks, almost as large as the real thing, exploding around the Validator software above him.

Tony D.’s hand again slapped Dan’s shoulder. “Don’t worry Dan,” he shouted into his ear. “You know I give the best foreplay in the business.”