Grumby  I’ve been reading Andy Kessler’s novel, Grumby, about a tech
entrepreneur in silicon valley. I’ve known Andy for a long time, since he was a
hot shot tech analyst at Morgan Stanley in the early 90s. He’s written a bunch
of books but to my knowledge this is his first novel.

It’s about a hacker who starts with a small idea,
essentially building a better version of Shazam, and then takes it to a whole
new level by hacking a toy and creating a sensation.

It’s your classic boom bust morality tale and I’ve witnessed
at close range many of the mistakes the entrepreneur makes, and have made of
few of them myself. If for no other reason, you should read Grumby so you are
less likely to make those mistakes yourself.

But the thing I liked most about Grumby was the way that
Andy wove so many of the important trends going on in technology today into the
story. The Grumby is smart because it collects information and knowledge from
its users. The Grumby is open so anyone can build apps for it. The Grumby is
manufactured in China but the software running on it comes from all over the

If you are highly technical, you may have to suspend belief
on many of the engineering feats they pull off. That is the beauty of a novel.
It is the story that matters, not the facts and figures.

And there’s even a cameo by this blog in the book. Which of
course I love.

If you work in the tech business and enjoy a good tall tale,
I think you’ll enjoy Grumby. I read it in my iPad over the course of a week,
mostly on planes. I think you could probably read it from cover to cover on a
cross country flight.


Comments (Archived):

  1. ShanaC

    What did the commentators do??? What happened? And were the grumbies cute and child friendly?A good story drives people nuts- everyone wants to be a part of it, and everyone wants to understand it, everyone wants to know the end (without spoiling it.)(It’s on my to buy list in hardcover, I don’t have a kindle)

  2. Eric Leebow

    Sounds good, the cover looks nice. Wondering why an eye for the cover, considering Shazam is a music app. Shouldn’t it be an ear?

    1. ShanaC

      Furbys…it looks like a closeup of a blue furby

      1. Eric Leebow

        Now that you say that, yes it does. It’s a clever cover.

      2. fredwilson

        nicely done

        1. ShanaC

          Those things were plenty annoying in middle school. I’m not sure I could handle networked furbies.

      3. johnmccarthy

        One of my first tasks in a startup was running a Furby give-away back in Christmas 1998 for a long-ago failed dot com. Thanks for the memory.

        1. ShanaC

          🙂 you’re welcome.

    2. fredwilson

      that’s just where he starts

  3. Guillermo Ramos

    Already gone to Amazon for it. Thanks for the tip.By the way which would be your top 20/50 books around VC? (could also make sense by category: top, technical, entrepreneurs, start-ups, history, etc)Why not building such a list from the Blog (I would personally would love it)? Google doesn´t help very much on this…

    1. ShanaC

      shouldn’t that exist already? a lot of the books were totally random, like plato’s republic, the bible…

    2. Eric Leebow

      A top list of books would be good. Read Mastering the VC Game by Jeff Bussgang, that’s a relatively new one.

      1. Bruce Colwin

        Not much more to Bussgang’s book than you can learn reading any VC blog.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Just started that today on a plane! But after an exhausting week of meetings didn’t get very far!What did you think?

      3. Guillermo Ramos

        I enjoyed Mastering the VC Game: good balance between technical & day to day business. I´m now with “The Godfather of Silicon Valley: Ron Conway and the Fall of the Dot-coms” a quite old one…

  4. sass

    We are so spoiled. Sitting in a hotel lobby with my netbook, I read your review of Grumby…. click the link to Amazon. One more click and it is on my netbook, Android phone and iPad, ready to read. Entire process less than 2 minutes including reading your post above. We are so spoiled! (I wonder if our kids really, I mean really, understand how powerfully different their world is than what was just a decade or so ago…). Thanks for the book tip. Sounds like a fun summer read.

    1. fredwilson

      one click and there it is really is a game changer for books

    2. marfi

      I do not think we’re spoiled. We just have the oppurtunity to carry our libraries in our pockets 🙂

  5. Satish Mummareddy

    Since its a slow comments day, I wanted to post something close to me. Please watch that video and pass along to teenagers.…Please drive safely. I grew up driving in India and had to make a lot changes over the last 8 years to become a safe driver.

  6. Pablo Chacin

    Another interesting novel about entrepreneurship is Cory Doctorow’s Makers. He also explores these trends of open source, open hardware and the like, but even more interestingly, the long term impact of crowd sourcing. It worth a reading.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks. i’ll add it to my iPad right now

      1. David Gillespie

        Let us know what you thought of it when you’ve read it. I finished it last month and really enjoyed it – you can imagine a lot of it actually happening.

    2. marfi

      It is not available for Kindle 🙁

  7. rich caccappolo

    Fred, I really enjoyed Grumby, too, and you are right, Andy does a great job of weaving in (and weaving together) many of the current, important trends in his novel. He also plays them out a little bit into the future (e.g., what happens when people access Google results in ways other than by reading them on a screen…). Readers will be able to recognize the trends in the story, but since reading it, I’ve been noticing the reverse, i.e., I’m starting to notice events or new applications that Andy “predicts” in Grumby. He mentions one in this post on his blog (…). We (or Andy) should create a site where Grumby fans can log these “sightings”…. Also, I’m sure Andy will appreciate your plug (and notice of his plug of avc) – word-of-mouth is the best (maybe only) way to sell books nowadays – and let me put one more in here: this is his first novel but his 5th book (I think) – they are all interesting, funny and thought-provoking. I have really enjoyed and heartily recommend them all.

    1. fredwilson

      and the ending is certainly provocative. i sure hope he’s wrong about that.

  8. Senith

    So Fred,Looks like the ipad is a constant travel companion! Is it in addition to your laptop and two phones?

    1. fredwilson

      yes, except my blackberry sort of died. it stalls out for hours and then gives me a java:outofmemory error. i’ve tried everything to fix it. so i am down to the google phone right now.

      1. Senith

        the normal support solution to the blackberry is “shut it down and restart it!”.I wonder what feature(s) will take the need to eliminate carrying the laptop too.

      2. Doug

        Are you using the Google phone as a hotspot, or do you pay for monthly service on all 3 devices?Does any solution compete with the BB for battery life and push email?I’m carrying a BB, Google phone, iPad, laptop and (less frequently now) an iTouch. I’m paying both AT&T and T-Mobile for service.I’m irradiated, broke, have no attention span and my back is killing me…

        1. fredwilson

          i have a big voice/data/text plan on my blackberryand a light one on my google phoneand my ipad is wifi only

  9. Donna Brewington White

    Just getting started on Bussgang’s “Mastering the VC Game” which I think I first heard about here at AVC. So, will add Grumby to the list. Thanks. I had a startup client in the technology-enabled toy category and had the opportunity to watch the company closely from beginning to end — so will perhaps relate.Now for the time to actually finish a book!

  10. marfi

    Fred, do you have a GoodReads account or something similar – where you can share, rate and comment on books that you read, want to read or just inspire you, it will be very useful and helpfull for the community.While speaking of GoodReads, here is my account there:

    1. fredwilson

      i do not. i just blog about them. i know that is not the samegotham gal is the book fiend in our family. she lists here current favorites on her sidebar

  11. acharoo

    Thanks for the recommendation. I personally love learning through stories, rather than reading didactic books. I don’t usually read novels, but, this one sounds like it’ll be good. Just bought it on Amazon.Cheers,Andre

  12. paramendra

    AVC blog cameo appearance in a novel? What’s next? Fred Wilson in a movie?

  13. Imran Ali

    Coincidentally, I wrote a talk recently on how “dotcom culture” is represented in other media ( like novels, TV and movies, from 1995 to date. Sounds like Grumby doesn’t fit the usual pattern of representation I found in other examples and is a bit more flattering to the entrepreneur 🙂

  14. Christian Louboutin

    its a very funny novel set in Silicon Valley (and Wall Street), about a hacker that creates the next great consumer electronics device (believe me, you’ll want one) and then the rollercoaster ride of getting screwed by VCs, hacked, the deluge of orders, Chinese manufacturing, privacy issues and going public amongst the chaos of competition and rivalries. the technology is its own character, eyes, ears, voice and face recognition, GPS, spy software and a wise-ass personality.

  15. Prokofy

    Oh! that sounds interesting. I was looking for an interesting new novel. This sounds like “Soul of the New Machine” which I read in one sitting.And it sounds like the i-Pad is a sort of Kindle, eh? That you use it like a Kindle. Does the ink look as good?