There is a forensic, thorough quality to the writing in ARC OF THE VALLEY: The Inside Story of Mint, Silicon Valley, Soaring Success and Selling Out which is understandable as author Anton Commissaris began his Silicon Valley career as a lawyer at the Valley’s foremost legal practice. Technical complexities are clearly outlined and never become dense ensuring that the book remains readable, even to those who may be unfamiliar with the world it describes. Silicon Valley is inhabited by the finest technical minds and brilliantly perceptive venture capitalists, some who suffer from a lack of empathy. Even the promised financial gains (and there are some huge numbers bounced around) appear secondary to a desire to not only manage, but control, through technological advance and innovation. Commissaris nicely balances objectivity with involvement as he details the rounds of funding, pitching and general hustling. The fairly short chapter structure maintains momentum during this stage and, overall, the book is nicely presented and neatly edited. There is also an open honesty about ARC OF THE VALLEY; the sub-heading tells the reader what to expect and Commissaris delivers, which is unusually refreshing in a book of this genre.
The inception of his personal finance start-up Mint, which began in founder Aaron Patzer’s apartment ,and the subsequent assemblage of focused and highly talented individuals to propel the product forward, makes for compelling reading. There is real, genuine drive and ‘Minty’ passion among the young team and their loyalty to Patzer, and his vision is unwavering. By the time Patzer successfully pitches Mint at the first TechCrunch launch event in 2007, ARC OF THE VALLEY is hard to put down, but there is a growing sense of foreboding, even at this nascent stage. However, the book is a touch too clinically detached in places and would have benefitted from a bit of emotional drama. This is slightly corrected by the arrival of the author’s niece, Rebecca, and the tension her fledgling relationship with Patzer creates, provided an interesting interlude. Aaron Patzer, despite the author’s best efforts at mitigation, is somewhat unlikeable (which is somewhat to be expected and does not affect the enjoyability of the book). He is a study in contrasts, veering between awkward vulnerability and ruthless self-belief. His single-minded brilliance in conceiving Mint is without question but, as the story progresses, he becomes increasingly hubristic and a weary inevitability as to the fate of Mint creeps in. Commissaris remains supportive, although he clearly begins to feel disillusioned. This unease is heightened once Mint is absorbed by Intuit (providers of personal finance software) who expect their employees to adhere to a rigid corporate ethos. It all becomes sadly predictable and rather ironic leaving the reader feeling sympathy for Commissaris, who exits with his integrity intact.
ARC OF THE VALLEY: The Inside Story of Mint, Silicon Valley, Soaring Success and Selling Out, is a fascinating and absorbing account of a start-up company, written in an engaging manner that ensures the book will have broad appeal.
~Rose Auburn for IndieReader