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Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley's Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime

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An unforgettable story of four women who, through grit and ingenuity, became stars in the cutthroat, high-stakes, male dominated world of venture capital in Silicon Valley, and helped build some of the foremost companies of our time. In Alpha Girls, award-winning journalist Julian Guthrie takes readers behind the closed doors of venture capital, an industry that transf An unforgettable story of four women who, through grit and ingenuity, became stars in the cutthroat, high-stakes, male dominated world of venture capital in Silicon Valley, and helped build some of the foremost companies of our time. In Alpha Girls, award-winning journalist Julian Guthrie takes readers behind the closed doors of venture capital, an industry that transforms economies and shapes how we live. We follow the lives and careers of four women who were largely written out of history - until now. Magdalena Yesil, who arrived in America from Turkey with $43 to her name, would go on to receive her electrical engineering degree from Stanford, found some of the first companies to commercialize internet access, and help Marc Benioff build Salesforce. Mary Jane Elmore went from the corn fields of Indiana to Stanford and on to the storied venture capital firm IVP - where she was one of the first women in the U.S. to make partner - only to be pulled back from the glass ceiling by expectations at home. Theresia Gouw, an overachieving first-generation Asian American from a working-class town, dominated the foosball tables at Brown (she would later reluctantly let Sergey Brin win to help Accel Partners court Google), before she helped land and build companies including Facebook, Trulia, Imperva, and ForeScout. Sonja Hoel, a Southerner who became the first woman investing partner at white-glove Menlo Ventures, invested in McAfee, Hotmail, Acme Packet, and F5 Networks. As her star was still rising at Menlo, a personal crisis would turn her into an activist overnight, inspiring her to found an all-women's investment group and a national nonprofit for girls. These women, juggling work and family, shaped the tech landscape we know today while overcoming unequal pay, actual punches, betrayals, and the sexist attitudes prevalent in Silicon Valley and in male-dominated industries everywhere. Despite the setbacks, they would rise again to rewrite the rules for an industry they love. In Alpha Girls, Guthrie reveals their untold stories.


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An unforgettable story of four women who, through grit and ingenuity, became stars in the cutthroat, high-stakes, male dominated world of venture capital in Silicon Valley, and helped build some of the foremost companies of our time. In Alpha Girls, award-winning journalist Julian Guthrie takes readers behind the closed doors of venture capital, an industry that transf An unforgettable story of four women who, through grit and ingenuity, became stars in the cutthroat, high-stakes, male dominated world of venture capital in Silicon Valley, and helped build some of the foremost companies of our time. In Alpha Girls, award-winning journalist Julian Guthrie takes readers behind the closed doors of venture capital, an industry that transforms economies and shapes how we live. We follow the lives and careers of four women who were largely written out of history - until now. Magdalena Yesil, who arrived in America from Turkey with $43 to her name, would go on to receive her electrical engineering degree from Stanford, found some of the first companies to commercialize internet access, and help Marc Benioff build Salesforce. Mary Jane Elmore went from the corn fields of Indiana to Stanford and on to the storied venture capital firm IVP - where she was one of the first women in the U.S. to make partner - only to be pulled back from the glass ceiling by expectations at home. Theresia Gouw, an overachieving first-generation Asian American from a working-class town, dominated the foosball tables at Brown (she would later reluctantly let Sergey Brin win to help Accel Partners court Google), before she helped land and build companies including Facebook, Trulia, Imperva, and ForeScout. Sonja Hoel, a Southerner who became the first woman investing partner at white-glove Menlo Ventures, invested in McAfee, Hotmail, Acme Packet, and F5 Networks. As her star was still rising at Menlo, a personal crisis would turn her into an activist overnight, inspiring her to found an all-women's investment group and a national nonprofit for girls. These women, juggling work and family, shaped the tech landscape we know today while overcoming unequal pay, actual punches, betrayals, and the sexist attitudes prevalent in Silicon Valley and in male-dominated industries everywhere. Despite the setbacks, they would rise again to rewrite the rules for an industry they love. In Alpha Girls, Guthrie reveals their untold stories.

30 review for Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley's Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest DNF @ p.176 This is a tough review to write because I did like the beginning of the book. I just felt like it was too long and the subject matter was a little too... uninteresting. Part of that is also on me because I misunderstood what the book was about. The subheading-- "the women upstarts who took on Silicon Valley's male culture and made the deals of a lifetime"-- made me think it was going to be about women in tech, engineers and cr Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest DNF @ p.176 This is a tough review to write because I did like the beginning of the book. I just felt like it was too long and the subject matter was a little too... uninteresting. Part of that is also on me because I misunderstood what the book was about. The subheading-- "the women upstarts who took on Silicon Valley's male culture and made the deals of a lifetime"-- made me think it was going to be about women in tech, engineers and creators and CEOs who ended up in Fortune 500 companies. But no. This book is about four venture capitalists who are women who ended up making bank by investing in said Fortune 500 companies at the right time and place, which is slightly less impressive, imo. With rich people, I think there is a temptation to paint their stories as a sort of "rags to riches" fairytale that seems easy because we want it to be easy, because most of us think that we would like to be rich. The problem is that even if you have the skills and the know-how, you aren't going to be rich if you don't also have luck (and privilege). The women in this book-- Magdalena Yesil, Mary Jane Hanna, Theresia Gouw, and Sonja Hoel-- had luck, and some of them had privilege, even though a lot of them started out in lower middle income situations; they were in families who mostly supported their endeavors and provided them with the right schooling and intellectual tools to get to the positions that they currently hold. There is nothing wrong with having privilege, but it is important to acknowledge it, and understand that success often walks hand in hand with privilege, and that going to the right schools and learning the right things and meeting the right people are integral aspects of success. Likewise, even though this book is painted as a "girl power!" effort, most of the women in this book don't seem to identify as feminists and some of them even seemed almost anti-feminist. (There was one woman mentioned in here, a CEO, I think (not one of the 4 VCs), who said that she didn't speak at women-only conferences, like that was something to pat herself on the back over or that women-only conferences were somehow lesser. That kind of stuck in my craw a bit. I also didn't really like how, in order to be successful, most of these women seemed to feel the need to dress and act in a masculine way. I get why they felt the need to do that, but at the same time it wasn't a very empowering message. It kind of gives off a "it's a man's world, baby, and you either gotta play the game or go home" vibe. Ugh. My favorite part of the book was about these women's unique upbringings, and how they got into the business world. However it quickly became cyclical and repetitive. There are only so many permutations of "and then they closed the deal and made tons of money!" one can stand before one starts to feel kind of bored. I've had this similar complaint about a couple of other nonfiction books I've read recently where the concept was interesting, but not enough to merit an entire book, and it started to feel like a very padded out Forbes or Bloomberg article. I think that unless you're a high up in a tech company or an aspiring venture capitalist, this book probably won't be for you. I work in the tech world and was looking for something affirmative, and this book really wasn't it. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  1.5 to 2 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook....narrated by Kim Mai Guest, and Julian Guthrie Menlo park… Sand Hill Road...country club communities - in the heart of Silicon Valley was mostly ruled by men. Less than 2% of start ups were started by women. Today a whole new bred of women are giving rise to advance levels of technology and business here in Silicon Valley. It took awhile for this book to get juicy-good. When it did...it was definitely *juicy-interesting*. I live here in Silicon Valley... along with the Apple, Google, Audiobook....narrated by Kim Mai Guest, and Julian Guthrie Menlo park… Sand Hill Road...country club communities - in the heart of Silicon Valley was mostly ruled by men. Less than 2% of start ups were started by women. Today a whole new bred of women are giving rise to advance levels of technology and business here in Silicon Valley. It took awhile for this book to get juicy-good. When it did...it was definitely *juicy-interesting*. I live here in Silicon Valley... along with the Apple, Google, ( a new Google-City is in the works now), Facebook, eBay, Hewitt Packard, Salesforce, Goodreads, along with our own Airbnb business). I’m fairly knowledgeable about the streets in Silicon Valley, many of the restaurants, small businesses, temples & churches, the public transportation system, the different private and public schools, the housing shortage conditions, and the economic and social culture. However.... I was not knowledgeable to the inside scoop about any of the four women that Julian Guthrie focuses on who work in a predominately male dominated environment. Silicon Valley, in the South Bay, of the SFBay area, is the most diverse technological Capital area of the world. Living in this high tech area, I assumed doors were open to women....with the Boy’s Club changing…’a little’.... but when I got the detailed stories of Magdalena Yesil, Mary Jane Elmore, Theresia Gouw, and Sonja Hoel Perkins... I realized how little I really knew. It was not enough for these women to be educated and capable to match any man in the Technology field...but they had to break down ‘male-stone’ walls. The women’s background stories and accomplishments are amazing. Magdalena - A Turkish immigrant came to the United States with $43. Her rap sheet today is mind boggling.... from investor to a multi million dollar company, to several successful start up’s, to being an author, etc. Mary Jane, joined the venture capital firm of ‘Institutional Venture Partners’, ( VIP), in Menlo Park. She has math and business degrees from Purdue and Stanford. Theresia Gouw, educated at Brown and Stanford, Asian-American, entrepreneur, and venture capital investor, was named one of 40 most influential minds in tech by Time Magazine. Sonja Hoel, a venture capitalist, was co-founder of Broadway Angels. Each of these women stories are heroic - treacherous - and impressive. Julian’s writing - with intimate storytelling shares the flavor about what’s going on right now in the tech industry in Silicon Valley . She’s an inspiring women- journalist-author in her own right! Power to Women 💪

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura Skladzinski

    This book sounded so good, but ended up being rather disappointing. I found it difficult to keep track of which Alpha Girl was which because of how the narrative jumped around. It felt like I was just starting to get to know / remember one woman when the chapter would end and the perspective would jump around, which was frustrating. However, it was interesting to see how many different approaches there were for women to be successful - not just one way to do it. And, there were a lot of great qu This book sounded so good, but ended up being rather disappointing. I found it difficult to keep track of which Alpha Girl was which because of how the narrative jumped around. It felt like I was just starting to get to know / remember one woman when the chapter would end and the perspective would jump around, which was frustrating. However, it was interesting to see how many different approaches there were for women to be successful - not just one way to do it. And, there were a lot of great quotes that I ended up highlighting / saving for inspiration.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Eisenberg

    **PREFACE: I have a feeling that I may be one of the few people with strong opinions about this book that actually read this book. This has happened to me before (see, e.g., Sheryl Sandberg _Option B_, where I'm pretty convinced that almost no one who commented on the book actually read it). I enjoy reading, so I read a lot. I did read this book. And I have very mixed feelings. 2.5 stars** I wanted to love this book. It has so much buzz and so much potential. And I did like, not love, the second **PREFACE: I have a feeling that I may be one of the few people with strong opinions about this book that actually read this book. This has happened to me before (see, e.g., Sheryl Sandberg _Option B_, where I'm pretty convinced that almost no one who commented on the book actually read it). I enjoy reading, so I read a lot. I did read this book. And I have very mixed feelings. 2.5 stars** I wanted to love this book. It has so much buzz and so much potential. And I did like, not love, the second half. Although I applaud the author for focussing on successful women -- such a rarity! and worth supporting -- certain aspects of this book, and these women, in my mind, fell short: 1. The author claims that she selected her four main characters because they are so distinct. That said, like other reviewers have observed, it often was extremely difficult to tell the four of them apart as they progressed along their careers. Their jobs and challenges seemed interchangeable. This may be a reflection on me, not on the author. 2. Only one of the women EVER seemed to recognize the role that privilege and luck had in their success, only one of them (the same one) seemed like a truly kind person. The other 3 seem as self-absorbed and entitled as the men with whom they work. This is not a crime or a criticism of the women -- I just don't see how they made the world any better for other women, including each other. (Again, not their job, but this maybe could be pointed out.) In fact, only one of the women ever even calls herself a feminist, even though it's certain that without feminism, they never would have had any opportunities they were given. 3. The author set up this book as if describing women who changed the landscape and paved the way for other women. I want to be very clear that these women DO NOT CHANGE THE LANDSCAPE OR PAVE THE WAY FOR OTHER WOMEN. Do these women deserve to be known? I'd say: they do the same way men whose sole accomplishment was making a lot of money deserve to be known. I am not sure if any of them qualify for such attention -- other than, perhaps, to call attention to the fact that there is a small group of mostly white men in Silicon Valley who make billions of dollars in a job that seems really, really, really, like not a lot of work at all. And that maybe we should tax these people more so that our public schools can be better. This is not anything close to the message of this book! 4. Some of the women's portfolio companies did VERY bad things that were celebrated because those bad things made the venture capitalists a ton of money (this book assumes that making VCs a lot of money is a worthy goal, yet never explains why that is the case). One example that the author celebrates at least three times throughout the book is the start-up who figured out how to be profitable by moving its entire operations center out of California into the Philippines. The author expects the reader to join her in celebrating profitability, enabling the company to go public and the VCs to make billions of dollars ... but I kept thinking: HOW ABOUT THOSE 5000 PEOPLE IN CALIFORNIA WHO LOST THEIR JOBS? Not once did the author mention the thousands of people who suffered financially by this off-shoring of American jobs to Asia. There was no comment like, "Although there were trade-offs," or "The CEO struggled with this decision given all the jobs that would be lost," or "Although the news media was mixed due to the mass terminations caused by this move." NONE of that. It was as if operations centers were merely buildings that can be dug up from Menlo Park and deposited in the Philippines. Meanwhile, I couldn't help wondering if any of those fired workers were able to benefit at all from the IPOs that made the passive investors so rich. I think it is fair to say that they did not. Why are we supposed to be happy about this? 5. The author seems to take part of the same worship of rich people that leads to so many problems in our culture. Because these women made millions and/or billions of dollars, these women must have deserved it. These women must be so smart! Yet nothing in the details of the book demonstrates anything exceptionally smart that these women -- just like their male counterparts -- actually did. They, like their male partners, used other people's money to make investments that turned out to be profitable. If the investments were not profitable, they faced no negative consequences. But if they were profitable, the investors were considered geniuses. Only one of the women stood out for her skills, but those skills seemed more like sales skills -- she was very assertive and courageous with picking up the phone and calling potential clients/portfolio company leaders, and she chased down the deal until she closed it. Of course, she had private jets and a team of assistants at her disposal to help. But she did show good sales skills (FYI normal people with these sales skills get bonuses of $500 or $50,000, depending on the job. She made like $100,000,000 from her good sales skills.) 6. None of these women EVER did anything to help other women achieve their levels of success. In fact, as far as we the reader can tell, they only hired men to work for them, and only mentored men at their firms. One or two of them did make an investment here or there in a company founded by a woman, but their big wins, and their most important portfolio companies, were run and managed by men. Having broken through a very very difficult glass ceiling, it's like they closed the door behind them. 7. Only one of them ever called herself a feminist -- and that only was after she was screwed over by men (welcome to the club). The rest insist that any woman would have achieved their success if they deserved it and/or tried harder. They even repeated the long-discredited sexist myth that women do not hold jobs like venture capital partners because women don't want those jobs. 8. When the women decided to help other women, they formed an organization that has no capacity to help other women achieve their success. Assuming -- incorrectly -- that women do not become venture capitalists because they do not want to be venture capitalists, they reframed the problem -- lack of women in VC -- as the solution. In other words, they (without any basis for this conclusion, research, common sense, or otherwise) believed the giving visibility to already-successful female VCs would help other female VCs break into the field. They did not explain how that would happen. All their organizations did was help already-successful women become even more successful. These organizations did nothing, and continue to do nothing, to help women who are not yet successful become successful. 9. The fact that these women did not help other women would not bother me had the author not done the following: (1) the author operated on a presumption that these women were revolutionary, meaning that these women sparked change for others, not just for themselves; and (2) The author claimed that these women did give back to other women. Both of these assumptions are false. 10. Although it also is a valid question whether these four women had/have a moral responsibility to help other women, the author seems to assume that they do (and that they did). Men in VC don't seem to embrace that moral principle, and I don't think that these women did either. 11. VENTURE CAPITALISTS HAVE VERY EASY JOBS. Their income was shown to be very passive. This is not a surprise. Did the author have any opinions about this? Should she have? Did the women realize how different their lives are from the lives of literally everyone else who is not a VC? Should they have? Does this matter? Although none of these questions are addressed in any way whatsoever, I did appreciate that at least the author did show how easy VCs have it (even though this was described as if that's normal or occurs elsewhere). The fact that this paragraph is so long should indicate my mixed feelings and confusion about this. Like: does anyone else notice that these people are making billions of dollars by doing almost nothing? 12. In all cases but one, these women ultimately were betrayed and/or backstabbed by junior men at their firms, many/most/all? of whom they presumably hired and mentored. It made me wonder: did these women wish that they would have hired some women in addition to men? Would women have acted better? I actually asked these questions to the women featured in the book when I had the opportunity to attend a live panel. But I received no answers. At the end of the day, these four women seem to continue to insist that their success was deserved and earned, and that they lack any obligation to the future generation of women to have a chance at that success as well. Although they are entitled to that opinion, I don't find it inspiring. Additionally, insisting that sexism does not hold the vast majority of women back fails to recognize the courageous risks and sacrifices, and the costs paid by the women who came before these women -- the women who actually did spark change in our culture beyond their own financial success. TL/DR: we need a book about female profit-centered venture capitalists who leave a trail of lost jobs and dashed hopes along their road towards billionaire-dom about as much as we need a book about male VCs who do the same. If you are one of the millions of Americans who value success as dollars made over all else, this book is for you. Perhaps, as a possibly self-righteous, old-fashioned feminist who revels in stories about people whose passions extend far beyond their personal stature (see, e.g., Elizabeth Warren, _This Fight Is Our Fight_, Ellen Pao, _Reset_), I am not the target audience.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This book grew on me as my initial impressions were not good — first, the title itself Alpha Girls (but the author later explains why she she chose that title) and then the physical descriptions of the women and their clothes which I thought was kind of bizarre. But, the stories are similar in many ways and yet distinct. I liked Guthrie’s intro of women rebels: “tempered radicals“ who learn to play the game to perfection-whatever the game is-before trying to change the rules i.e. Maggie Thatcher This book grew on me as my initial impressions were not good — first, the title itself Alpha Girls (but the author later explains why she she chose that title) and then the physical descriptions of the women and their clothes which I thought was kind of bizarre. But, the stories are similar in many ways and yet distinct. I liked Guthrie’s intro of women rebels: “tempered radicals“ who learn to play the game to perfection-whatever the game is-before trying to change the rules i.e. Maggie Thatcher or Georgia O’Keeffe. Particularly interesting was the balance of home and work life — their husbands all worked, and the women all took on the lion’s share of childcare. I really like the way they support and try to promote other women Interesting MJ parts: Kurtzig (1st woman to take a tech company public): “If you look for sexism, you’ll never get where you want to go… You can’t play the game if you’re not in it." -Following recruiters on their way to the bathroom to make a case for why she should be interviewed Interesting Theresia parts: Didn’t let sexism bother her; would happily get the coffee If you try to be the best, you’re going to drive yourself crazy just be your best. Her noting that the woman who dropped out of VC felt as if they didn’t belong and had no support Really despicable how she was not able to take a sabbatical Interesting Sonja parts: She had breast cancer and adopted a baby and nobody visited her Men versus women regarding money. Men could be unapologetic in their pursuit of it, while women were steered away from the relentless drive for wealth. Men’s philanthropy advances themselves while women used it to advance others. In other words, money was complex for women, one more thing to skillfully navigate Interesting Magdalena parts: Regretted staying home with son and missing Salesforce IPO You saw an opportunity and you took it. You must decide in life what is right for you. You don’t have to obey all the rules. General advice Work really hard your first 10 years; save money; get your work travel in; if possible, become a partner before you have children. Don’t take one on one meetings with men at night but do you attend association events and get-togethers. And most important, know that the person you marry will influence your career more than anything else.

  6. 4 out of 5

    KLM

    Interesting book about these women venture capitalist pioneers. We never hear about women VC's and their successes. I'm happy to know their stories and appreciate the author researching and reporting the stories. The authors note at end should be the beginning in my opinion. On the other hand, I am not a fan of the story telling style - bouncing between four women's stories. Why not just tell one whole story followed by the next? At least until they come together... Interesting book about these women venture capitalist pioneers. We never hear about women VC's and their successes. I'm happy to know their stories and appreciate the author researching and reporting the stories. The authors note at end should be the beginning in my opinion. On the other hand, I am not a fan of the story telling style - bouncing between four women's stories. Why not just tell one whole story followed by the next? At least until they come together...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I would watch a show based on this book. It was a fun and inspiring and sensationalist read. Almost makes me want to get into VC. "Sonja wondered if her efforts to gain approval from her male colleagues had been misguided. She concluded that she did what was right to stay in the game and succeed and now to pave the way for other women to enter the field." "..Magdalena had discovered the joy of the unknowable, the scary yet exhilarating notion that she could not rely on her brain alone with absolut I would watch a show based on this book. It was a fun and inspiring and sensationalist read. Almost makes me want to get into VC. "Sonja wondered if her efforts to gain approval from her male colleagues had been misguided. She concluded that she did what was right to stay in the game and succeed and now to pave the way for other women to enter the field." "..Magdalena had discovered the joy of the unknowable, the scary yet exhilarating notion that she could not rely on her brain alone with absolute certainty. The inscrutable had always been reassuring even if it was beyond her perception and her sense of reality. One of the few times she hadn't embraced the unknowable...she had set unreasonable, perfectionist standards for herself. That decision made out of fear had been a mistake. It had gone against the grain of who she was: an explorer, an adventurer, a risk-taker."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Downey

    I used to work at a software company with a woman CEO, and yet every other exec was a man. Women have always been underrepresented in tech, but consistently provide higher returns. If the men shooting them down DID care more about money than ego, they would wake up and work with them. I found this book through the Amazon Vine program and so my copy had some leftover grammar and editing errors left in. Either way, it still reads a bit much like a fawning Wikipedia page (hence, 3 stars). I WAS inte I used to work at a software company with a woman CEO, and yet every other exec was a man. Women have always been underrepresented in tech, but consistently provide higher returns. If the men shooting them down DID care more about money than ego, they would wake up and work with them. I found this book through the Amazon Vine program and so my copy had some leftover grammar and editing errors left in. Either way, it still reads a bit much like a fawning Wikipedia page (hence, 3 stars). I WAS interested to learn so much about the history behind so many household name internet companies. In following along with the four successful and talented women, you inevitably encounter some sexist and demeaning situations. From the easygoing, shrug-it-off description, I thought the author was a man. But by the end of the book, I was gratified by the no-nonsense tone of relating male-dominated world.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

    I wanted to like this book more; I spent a decade in Silicon Valley myself. I guess I expected more discussion of gender inequality in tech, but this book turned out to be a collection of four mini-biographies, woven together. As others have mentioned, it was easy to lose track as the narrative jumped from person to person. More importantly, it was never clear exactly how these four women were chosen. Until the last chapter, I found it difficult to empathize with the individuals profiled (read: I wanted to like this book more; I spent a decade in Silicon Valley myself. I guess I expected more discussion of gender inequality in tech, but this book turned out to be a collection of four mini-biographies, woven together. As others have mentioned, it was easy to lose track as the narrative jumped from person to person. More importantly, it was never clear exactly how these four women were chosen. Until the last chapter, I found it difficult to empathize with the individuals profiled (read: hard-charging ultra-rich VCs who happen to be women) as they take lavish vacations and fly private jets while battling personal crises. Perhaps this is a symptom of a bigger problem ("likability" vs "successful" women), but the book barely mentions the issue. Ultimately, the book fails at the task of answering the initial question "Why should I care about these VCs?"

  10. 4 out of 5

    Csparrenberger

    This book offers a view of a profession that not many people know about. I found the interaction between the venture capital list and the corporate founders to be most interesting this is a great insider look at how ideas become companies. It was also interesting to follow the careers of the women profiled.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I really enjoyed this well written and thoroughly researched book on the topic of the women in Silicon Valley venture capital firms. At a time when virtually all companies in the area were male dominated, and VC firms even more so, a handful of intelligent, driven and focused women made inroads into VC firms in the 1980's and 1990's and battled their way to the status of partners, facing systemic sex discrimination, harassment, and all the other challenges of raising a family and maintaining a m I really enjoyed this well written and thoroughly researched book on the topic of the women in Silicon Valley venture capital firms. At a time when virtually all companies in the area were male dominated, and VC firms even more so, a handful of intelligent, driven and focused women made inroads into VC firms in the 1980's and 1990's and battled their way to the status of partners, facing systemic sex discrimination, harassment, and all the other challenges of raising a family and maintaining a marriage. Each of these women is focused on in alternating chapters over a space of many years. I was really able to relate to the challenges and accomplishments of these women since my own career started at a once well known Silicon Valley technology company in 1973. The only women in non-administrative roles were in HR and accounting. There were no female engineers nor female managers in a company was thousands of employees worldwide. Through sheer grit, determination and hard work, with the assist of a couple of prescient mentors, I was able to break into the ranks of management by the late 1970's as the youngest and only female Product Manager. My career continued to progress, but I never left behind the constant challenge of discrimination and frequent assertions that I was an impostor, nor did I experience pay equity for most of my career. The challenges for women in technology throughout Silicon Valley and in JV firms still exist, but the women profiled in this excellent book paved the way for others to follow.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    The stories of these women is one I will never forget. They are names I have never heard of and I have lived in Silicon Valley for over 10 years. While the writing is the reason I am giving the book 3 stars, that shouldn’t take away from the lives these women have led. Their stories have inspired me to dream bigger and push harder for what is right.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

    Very interesting to follow the lives of multiple women of different backgrounds and personalities through the decades.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)

    Alpha Girls is a comprehensive and intriguing look into the lives of four incredible women. Magdalena Yesil who arrived in the USA with $43 in her pocket and through grit and determination would go on to help Marc Bentoff build Salesforce. Mary Jane Elmore came from country Indiana and became one of the first women in the US to make partner at a Venture Capital firm. Theresia Gouw who was an over achiever since childhood and from working class roots helped build companies such as Facebook, Trulla, Alpha Girls is a comprehensive and intriguing look into the lives of four incredible women. Magdalena Yesil who arrived in the USA with $43 in her pocket and through grit and determination would go on to help Marc Bentoff build Salesforce. Mary Jane Elmore came from country Indiana and became one of the first women in the US to make partner at a Venture Capital firm. Theresia Gouw who was an over achiever since childhood and from working class roots helped build companies such as Facebook, Trulla, Imperva and ForeScout. Sonja Hoel the first female investing partner at Menlo Ventures who had the knack for investing in global companies such as McAfee, Hotmail and F5 Networks. Pretty cool women, right? When I’m not reading and writing, I have a full time job in the finance industry and I’ve also held roles in marketing for various agencies over the years working in male dominated environments throughout. Throughout my career I’ve arrived at meetings where men think i’m there to take the coffee order, or minutes of a meeting when infact i’m there to terminate their contract. I’ve worked for marketing agencies where survival meant being ‘one of the boys’. I’ve been given inappropriate gifts from previous bosses as a temp contractor. Once, I was told I was being too emotional about the loss of a marketing contract, yet when my team leader threw a public wobbly and flipped his table a couple of hours later, he was ‘letting off steam’. To be fair, I haven’t suffered as much as others and as I reflect over my adult career, it’s been pretty good and I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am today. Even more so after reading the inspiring Alpha Girls. Duffy’s thoughts on Alpha Girls Alpha Girls is a detailed account of the lives and careers of four incredible women. What I love about this book, and what makes it different from other ‘women who made it in business’ books is that their careers take centre stage. Yes, the book follows the personal lives of all of these women too. But, without the personal aspect it would be an incredibly dry tome and four VERY long CV’s! Yet, somehow author Julian Guthrie manages to make the careers and deals these women made the priority, and an interesting one at that. These women were hitting their adult careers at an incredible moment in time. The birth of Silicon Valley. They navigated a male dominated and emerging industry in different ways, however they all came out on top. All while managing children, families, serious illness and culture conflicts. I’m a great believer, like these women, that to become equal, and remove sexism from the workplace, women can’t close ranks. We need to take everyone on the journey and be inclusive if culture change has a chance of shifting. Alpha Girls explores the shift over the years, demonstrating how far we’ve come and where we need to get to. I do have one tiny gripe about this book. Why ‘Girls’ in the title? These are stories of strong young women and the word girl seemed a bit off to me. Although I hate terms such as ‘business chick’ or ‘lady boss’. Those terms make me vomit a little bit in my mouth, so it’s a personal thing and I’ll see past it as the content is so strong and engaging. Alpha Girls is a must read for any woman striving for and surviving a career in a male dominated industry, but it’s also a interesting read for anyone in business who wants to read the stories of four people who made deals of a lifetime, building some of the foremost companies of our time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Great book I was introduced to for a women in business book club at work. I loved the truth in the ladies stories. Everything is so relevant, as it tracks the women through ~2018. Thank you for writing this book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Therese Wiese

    Loved this book. I was not familiar with the four women highlighted, but their experiences and observations were totally relatable to many of my own experiences In business. In other hands, this book could have been pretty dry. The author did a good job at really providing insight.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Remember your favorite books that kept you up until 3:00AM because you just couldn’t put them down? Alpha Girls is one of those 3 AM books for me! Julian Guthrie endears her characters to the reader; I had to stay up to finish the book and find out how their lives evolved. The women of Alpha Girls are role models for females, and the book has significant messages for men as well. Alpha Girls is one of those rare books that truly inspired me. Without a doubt, women in the venture capital world are Remember your favorite books that kept you up until 3:00AM because you just couldn’t put them down? Alpha Girls is one of those 3 AM books for me! Julian Guthrie endears her characters to the reader; I had to stay up to finish the book and find out how their lives evolved. The women of Alpha Girls are role models for females, and the book has significant messages for men as well. Alpha Girls is one of those rare books that truly inspired me. Without a doubt, women in the venture capital world are inspiring, but an additional stimulating aspect of Alpha Girls was the creative, inventive environment of the dot.com era. I hope you move Alpha Girls to the top of your “must read” list.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie Janson

    The content of this book is so interesting, it follows the stories of a handful of woman VCs in the Sillicon Valley. However the writing is so jumbled and bland I found it extraordinarily hard to get through. Also referring to these women as “Alpha Girls” and talking about their retreats at spas as opposed to the men’s retreats at cigar shops (etc) just feels a little belittling considering their successes and ages. I feel like it may have been intended to be a book showcasing women empowerment The content of this book is so interesting, it follows the stories of a handful of woman VCs in the Sillicon Valley. However the writing is so jumbled and bland I found it extraordinarily hard to get through. Also referring to these women as “Alpha Girls” and talking about their retreats at spas as opposed to the men’s retreats at cigar shops (etc) just feels a little belittling considering their successes and ages. I feel like it may have been intended to be a book showcasing women empowerment in the valley but then tried to avoid conversations around feminism... not a huge fan of the way this was done though the stories of the women are powerful and important!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Szofer

    While I firmly believe we need to tell way more stories of female power and success, and this book certainly does that, the actual prose is hard to follow. It jumps around a lot without giving you any real sense of the characters or any reason to be attached to them in particular. There were certainly interesting anecdotes and it's important to see stories of women like this to provide role models for girls. But as a book, it could have been done better. While I firmly believe we need to tell way more stories of female power and success, and this book certainly does that, the actual prose is hard to follow. It jumps around a lot without giving you any real sense of the characters or any reason to be attached to them in particular. There were certainly interesting anecdotes and it's important to see stories of women like this to provide role models for girls. But as a book, it could have been done better.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shru

    Topical and super relatable for me. Loved it!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Yanitsa Ilieva

    Definitely a learning material for me listening to all those successful women stories! Inspiring

  22. 5 out of 5

    Priyadarshi Ranjan

    Great read. Very well written. Recommended for all.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Because we work with start-up companies and venture capitalist firms everyday, it was insightful to learn more about what our clients do through Julian Guthrie’s 2019 book which tells the story of 4 successful women entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. How do they change the world? VCs invest in the ideas of entrepreneurs. Successful start-ups shape and change how we live, from the way we communicate to the technology we use, from the cars we drive to the breakthrough medical treatments we may Because we work with start-up companies and venture capitalist firms everyday, it was insightful to learn more about what our clients do through Julian Guthrie’s 2019 book which tells the story of 4 successful women entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. How do they change the world? VCs invest in the ideas of entrepreneurs. Successful start-ups shape and change how we live, from the way we communicate to the technology we use, from the cars we drive to the breakthrough medical treatments we may one day need. “For the few women in the game, being liked meant learning to be assertive without being aggressive, to be heard without being loud, and to like money without being seen as greedy.” At a young age, Theresia Guow, moved with her family to the US to escape the persecution of the Indonesian Chinese. She started her career as a venture capitalist, helping to build companies like Facebook, co-founding her own female-led VC firm and eventually becoming the richest female venture capitalist in America. MJ Elmore: A girl from Indiana, who went on to study at Stanford, overcame the sexist attitudes in the Valley, becoming one of the first women in the US to make partner of a VC firm. Magdalena Yesil: One of the first investors in Salesforce and went on to be one of its founding Board members, serving on the Board from Salesforce’s inception up to its post-IPO. Sonja Hoel: One of the youngest partners ever at Menlo Ventures, and the first woman at that. She invested in Hotmail, McAfee and many tech companies, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars. Their successes didn’t happen overnight. Often the only woman in the room, these women had to battle for equal opportunities, their careers, marriages, families, children, and health. It is inspiring how these women succeeded despite the many obstacles and glass ceilings placed by ex-husbands and ex-colleagues. At the end of the day, each woman realises that she had to put her own priorities first, and she had to set her own rules. Melinda Gates: “I’ve always been a big believer in disruptive innovation. But if we want more innovation and better products, we’ve got to put more money behind women and minorities.” “She’d spent enough time in the tech industry to know that successful women disturbed the natural male hierarchy. The ones who attacked the females on the leader’s board were the male players who were struggling to make the cut, who thought they could raise themselves up by taking the women ahead of them down. These poorer performers were not threatened by losing to successful male games; that was the natural order. But losing to a woman was embarrassing in some way. It made them feel socially inferior. At the end of the day, Theresia realised manslaying was a problem in the minds of men; it was their problem, not hers.” “Magdalena smiled, remembering something her father had said to her on that wonderful day when the doors of her elementary school opened and the chocolate beckoned. When she and her father were out of earshot of the Catholic nuns, Magdalena was about to explain her actions when her father stopped her. He knelt and said, “You saw an opportunity and you took it. You must decide in life what is right for you. You don’t have to obey all the rules.” Magdalena, and many women in tech and venture capital, had lived by this credo. “What I enjoy is what I don’t know.” “All the Alpha Girls in their own way had adopted the unknowable. That was the only way they could survive and thrive in the competitive, high-stakes world. They had arrived at Silicon Valley as young women, seeking opportunity from uncertainty. Always outnumbered as women in a man’s world, they tallied victories more numerous and greater than they’d ever imagined. They had sacrificed and suffered setbacks, but they had never given up. The Alpha Girls had created their own paths, had made their own history.” Many thanks to @definitelybooks for this review copy!

  24. 4 out of 5

    leisy

    really enjoyed this book and was happy that I understood all the business language after taking a class of intro to business "evertytime she turned, she felt as if society were telling her she needed to be less of a succes at work to be more of a succes at home" • the first investor and board member of Tesla was a woman, Laurie Yoler • Margaret Thatcher took elocution lessons to deepen her voice, to better be heard • Magdalena Yesil, originally from Turkey, was the first woman who got a master deg really enjoyed this book and was happy that I understood all the business language after taking a class of intro to business "evertytime she turned, she felt as if society were telling her she needed to be less of a succes at work to be more of a succes at home" • the first investor and board member of Tesla was a woman, Laurie Yoler • Margaret Thatcher took elocution lessons to deepen her voice, to better be heard • Magdalena Yesil, originally from Turkey, was the first woman who got a master degree in both electrical engineering and industrial engineering at Stanford in the 1980-1994. While in school, got accepted to work for Apple when no one knew about this company. Later became a general partner at Menlo Ventures with a share of 8% (even though she wad offered 6% at first). • Sandy Kurtzig was the first woman who made a tech company public • After getting addmited to Brown University and graduating at the top of her class, Theresia Gouw got accapted to both Harvard and Stanford. She chose Stanford. • A decade out of college, four years at Bain, two years of graduate school and three years at a start-up, Theresia was still mistaken for an assistant or an intern, being asked for coffee, for directions to the batchroom, for the time of a meeting. She soon became an investing partner at Accel, becoming the first woman with the title in the firm's 17 years history later she invested in a fast-growing company PeopleSupport that in a year got a revenue of $6 million (2000) in comparison with $500 000 (1999) • in the late 90's Varsha Rao & Mariam Naficy founded an e-commerce company, an online cosmetics giant Eve, that was later sold for $110 millions. Rao's father told her stories of going without shoes as a child because the family could afford them. Naficy's family had fled Iran during the revolution with 2 suitcases. • Sonja Perkins invested $3 million in a phone services company Priority Call Management that was acquired after 4 years for $162 million. after every board meeting, she would call the founder of the start-up to ask him how he felt. she asked because she cared and wanted to better understand his thinking on business decisions. she was a rare individual who went beyond the numbers and strategies on a whiteboard. she was interested in his emotional state and how it related to the future of the business • Sonja found out she got breast cancer. this happened a few months after she decided to adopt a baby. after 6 months of chemotherapy she returned to work. she still had 30 days of radiation ahead after returning, she convinsed her partners to invest in Uber $26 million • in 2011, the year after she returned from battling cancer and adopting a child, she was named Menlo's Investor of the Year reading about these women who worked so hard in the Silicon Valley while being here is surreal

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bullock

    I figured I would love this book, and I did. It follows the careers of four women who dreamed of a career in Silicon Valley VC (venture capital), and made it a reality. At different firms, they knew what they wanted and persevered in spite of male bias, the old boy's club, and occasional unwanted advances. They demonstrated determination in the face of these obstacles and overcame them to become general partners in VC firms, having a say in and leading rounds of investing in young startup compan I figured I would love this book, and I did. It follows the careers of four women who dreamed of a career in Silicon Valley VC (venture capital), and made it a reality. At different firms, they knew what they wanted and persevered in spite of male bias, the old boy's club, and occasional unwanted advances. They demonstrated determination in the face of these obstacles and overcame them to become general partners in VC firms, having a say in and leading rounds of investing in young startup companies, many of whom are well known today. Often they were the only women general partners in these firms. They met their share of men behaving badly, but also met principled men who were great allies to women and never considered gender an issue. Unfortunately, at home they were also expected to take care of most, if not all, of those duties as well. Their husbands, who also had stressful careers, never offered to help. Eventually all divorced. Later on in their careers they joined forces to create an all-female VC to change the boys' club of Silicon Valley. As Melinda Gates saw it, tech can't change until VC funding for tech changes. Melinda became active in helping promote women in VC because she saw it as the start of the food chain. Giving startups run by women a chance to succeed with funding was, and is, crucial to making that change. I'm reminded what Warren Buffett once said when asked about the future of American business. He replied he was very optimistic. Why, the interviewer asked. Because we've gotten this far with just half the population having an opportunity to participate. As he sees it, as we continue to have women pursue opportunities now more open to them than in the past we'll be a much stronger economy in the future and we will all benefit. I wholeheartedly agree. Great book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Alpha Girls is the story of 4 women who are VCs in Silicon Valley. It discusses their entire careers, their motivations, their struggles, their successes, and their failures. The story follows a near-chronological order and the stories of each of the women have nice parallels to each other. It was an interesting look into the venture capital world and the meetings behind the funding of some of the most successful tech companies to come out of the valley. The book is well-written, with decent org Alpha Girls is the story of 4 women who are VCs in Silicon Valley. It discusses their entire careers, their motivations, their struggles, their successes, and their failures. The story follows a near-chronological order and the stories of each of the women have nice parallels to each other. It was an interesting look into the venture capital world and the meetings behind the funding of some of the most successful tech companies to come out of the valley. The book is well-written, with decent organization and balance. Unfortunately, the way the story jumps between each woman, it was hard to keep track of 4 story lines simultaneously, especially in the audio book format. I do have a ton of issues with the silicon valley tech/finance culture that the author seems to admire. She tried to include parts about how each woman balanced family life and their work, but with the exception of one of them wanting to be home for breakfast with her kids every morning, it didn't seem very balanced to me. None of the women seemed to have happy marriages or a personal life at all. Indeed, one of them gets diagnosed with cancer, adopted a newborn baby at almost the same time, goes through cancer treatment, and falls down and fractures multiple ribs, all while her husband is on a sailing trip in Europe... and it isn't until a few chapters later that the book mentions their failing marriage as if she just realized it isn't working. There's another instance where one says she regrets not going to the NYSE for the Salesforce IPO because her kid was home sick. She said something to the effect of: "No man would ever have stayed back home like I did. My kid was better in a few days, but an IPO only ever happens once for a company." I'm sorry, I work with a ton of men who definitely stay home to be with their sick kids. If your only regret is putting family above your job one time, that is a huge personality red flag to me. This book seems to push feminism down your throat saying "SEE, WOMEN CAN BE SUCCESSFUL IN TRADITIONALLY MALE DOMINATED JOBS TOO" which is entirely true. However, I personally think this story encourages the culture that keeps women and minorities out of the field in the first place. As someone in the silicon valley tech industry, I dislike the culture even more after reading this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    There have been a number of books about the success stories of Silicon Valley. Almost none of these are about women. We need to hear more about those women who have jumped into SV and fought against the male majority. This book, Alpha Girls, is an attempt to do so. It contains the detailed stories of four women who persisted against all obstacles in Silicon Valley. But I have some problems with the execution: - The story of each women is chopped up and told little by little in each chapter. This There have been a number of books about the success stories of Silicon Valley. Almost none of these are about women. We need to hear more about those women who have jumped into SV and fought against the male majority. This book, Alpha Girls, is an attempt to do so. It contains the detailed stories of four women who persisted against all obstacles in Silicon Valley. But I have some problems with the execution: - The story of each women is chopped up and told little by little in each chapter. This made the reading experience choppy and confusing. I would have much preferred to have each story told in its entirety, then have a section at the end that connects the stories and provides lessons learned. - Few dates are given so it is hard to have the period context. Some are coming to SV in the 1970's and some in the 1990's, and the reader really has to dig to find out the time period. - Way too much insider jargon. I understand that if you are writing a definitive history, then every company small to large has to be mentioned but I think that the reader's take-away experience needed more consideration. Why tell the reader something if it means nothing to them and the story and they will forget it by the next day? What is the big picture and the main take-aways? I attended a book discussion on this book and it was the consensus that they found venture capitalists totally confusing. So more information was probably needed about this profession; otherwise you lose your reader. I wish I could recommend this book for all readers. I think people who worked in Silicon Valley or a tech startup would get the most from this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie_blu

    Guthrie highlights four women who succeeded in Silicon Valley during the heyday of venture capitalism, IT, and the internet's birth. All of the women were extremely intelligent, skilled, and driven. And all four had to deal with the worst of "toxic masculinity." They handled it in various ways, but mainly by becoming more like the "boys" and developing a thick skin (and working twice as hard for half the credit). In addition, even with all of the adjustments the women made, they were still viewe Guthrie highlights four women who succeeded in Silicon Valley during the heyday of venture capitalism, IT, and the internet's birth. All of the women were extremely intelligent, skilled, and driven. And all four had to deal with the worst of "toxic masculinity." They handled it in various ways, but mainly by becoming more like the "boys" and developing a thick skin (and working twice as hard for half the credit). In addition, even with all of the adjustments the women made, they were still viewed as less than the men in most instances. Pointing out how women are systematically excluded from IT was and is an important endeavor, especially today when so little has changed. However, Guthrie chose to relate the stories of these women and Silicon Valley in a format that I found unnecessarily burdensome. By constantly jumping back and forth among the women and timeframes, it was harder to become immersed and invested in their lives. The women found a way to succeed in Silicon Valley through guts, intelligence, and perseverance. All of them paid a price for their desire to succeed, some more than others. I applaud them for coming together after their long careers to set up businesses to focus on helping other women succeed in IT and in venture capital. But it is a black mark on IT and the men who run most of the companies that such women-centered businesses are needed, even today.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I couldn’t read more than the first chapter of this book, it was too infuriating to endure. The book clearly thinks of itself as feminist literature, but I should have realised from the title that it was yet again sensationalising female entrepreneurs, implying somewhat offensively that it’s incredible that a WOMAN of all people could do something like this, and simultaneously enforcing the narrative that one must be in business or finance to be successful. The women in this book are truly wonde I couldn’t read more than the first chapter of this book, it was too infuriating to endure. The book clearly thinks of itself as feminist literature, but I should have realised from the title that it was yet again sensationalising female entrepreneurs, implying somewhat offensively that it’s incredible that a WOMAN of all people could do something like this, and simultaneously enforcing the narrative that one must be in business or finance to be successful. The women in this book are truly wonderful and inspirational women, but the writer does them a disservice by telling the reader that they are exceptions to the rule - and that their main virtues are stereotypically male traits. Lines such as “she dressed like a woman and thought like a man” and “she wore pants - never skirts” just highlight how patriarchal this book is. It’s exactly narratives such as this which hide under the name of feminism that damage societal views on women, and continue the ridiculous idea that the new epitome of woman is one who exactly fits the mould of a man. I was so disappointed with this book, because I was really looking forward to reading these women’s stories, but the constant forcing of gender norms and patronising tone ruined it. I look forward to reading about these amazing women somewhere else.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

    An absolutely riveting read. You follow a small group of women as they grow and develop their careers in Silicon Valley and beyond. Though the women share a few path similarities (like having an engineering background), each woman follows a pretty unique path. Known names like Amazon, Steve Jobs/Apple, Elon Musk, Sephora, etc. show up throughout the book, reminding us that these companies were only created a short time ago and that women most definitely had an important hand in their development An absolutely riveting read. You follow a small group of women as they grow and develop their careers in Silicon Valley and beyond. Though the women share a few path similarities (like having an engineering background), each woman follows a pretty unique path. Known names like Amazon, Steve Jobs/Apple, Elon Musk, Sephora, etc. show up throughout the book, reminding us that these companies were only created a short time ago and that women most definitely had an important hand in their development and growth. We have come to view Silicon Valley as synonymous with a boys club, and though that may be true in many ways, this book challenges the idea that the only women involved were wives and girlfriends. Once again, the influence of women has been ignored or reduced, this time from the history of Silicon Valley. This book wants to challenge that history, bringing to light the many ways women have influenced the development of our modern world. My favorite part has to be how close to modern times the book comes, touching on the #MeToo movement, pay gap, lack of women CEOs, sexual assault, etc.

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