Last Updated Jul 26, 2009 7:27 PM EDT
The story begins in 1988. John Iremonger, then a leading publisher with Allen & Unwin had approached Edna Carew, who was then the doyen of the Australian financial writers about writing a book on venture capital. Edna, who has one of the shrewdest noses for potential book sales and probably sensing the depths the Australian VC industry would fall in the early 1990s politely declined but kindly recommended me. I had known Edna for some five years. She was the editor of JASSA which was the quarterly magazine of the Securities Institute of Australia and I had written several articles on venture capital.
John rang me and suggested we meet the next day for lunch in his favourite trattoria. The initial meeting between a prospective author and a successful publisher is one sided in that the publisher has met hundreds of authors while in many cases it will be the first time the author has met a publisher. This situation is magnified if you are meeting for the first time over lunch. Prior to the meeting I was desperately thinking of how I could differentiate myself from the many authors that John had met.
We sat down and I started trying to work out John's dominant core emotions. He spoke quietly, was well dressed in smart casual clothes, and avoided eye contact. I concluded his dominant desire was to create (in Humm terms John was an Artist). Such people are very imaginative and individualistic. And as we like those who are like ourselves I needed to do something different over lunch.
John asked me to choose the wine and the answer came in a flash. I decided that the best way of differentiating myself from the normal impecunious author would be to choose the most expensive wine on the menu -- a $500 10-year-old cabernet sauvignon. I said to John that nothing else on the wine list was drinkable but as he probably did not have the expense allowance to cover such a purchase, to let me pay for the wine on my credit card and pulled out my Gold American Express. We looked at each other for about three minutes in total silence, but this reversal of roles was too much for John and he said (I must confess through somewhat gritted teeth) that no, the publisher always picked up the tab. I knew then that Allen & Unwin would publish the book if only to help defray the costs of the lunch.
Subsequently when the first edition was finally published in late 1989 I took John to lunch at my club. This time the lunch was on me and we celebrated with another bottle of very expensive red. John said he had dined out on the story for months; no prospective author had ever used that approach. Normally the choice was either the house red or a carafe.
Was it worth it? Enterprise and Venture Captial is now in its fifth edition. I tell people that I have earned $25,000 in royalties, around $250,000 in speaking fees, and $28 million in fund management fees from the book. Our first cornerstone institutional investor said that the book was critical to the decision to fund us. Was it worth it? You bet!