Rob Lalka - The Venture Alchemists (Ferry Building Store)

Rob Lalka

The Venture Alchemists
How Big Tech Turned Profits Into Power

Book Passage (SF Ferry Building)
Wed., May 29th, 2024 • 5:30pm PT

This event is free to attend and will be hosted in-person at Book Passage's SF Ferry Building Store. Please contact with questions regarding events.

We once idolized tech entrepreneurs for creating innovations that seemed like modern miracles. Yet our faith has been shattered. We now blame them for spreading lies, breaking laws, and causing chaos. Yesterday’s Silicon Valley darlings have become today’s Big Tech villains. Which is it? Are they superheroes or scoundrels? Or is it more complicated, some blend of both?

In The Venture Alchemists, Rob Lalka demystifies how tech entrepreneurs built empires that made trillions. Meta started as a cruel Halloween prank, Alphabet began as a master’s thesis that warned against corporate deception, and Palantir came from a campus controversy over hateful speech. These largely forgotten origin stories show how ordinary fears and youthful ambitions shaped their ventures—making each tech tale relatable, both wonderfully and tragically human. Readers learn about the adversities tech entrepreneurs overcame, the troubling tradeoffs they made, and the tremendous power they now wield. Using leaked documents and previously unpublished archival material, Lalka takes readers inside Big Tech’s worst exploitations and abuses, alongside many good intentions and moral compromises.

But this story remains unfinished, and The Venture Alchemists ultimately offers hope from the people who, decades ago, warned about the risks of the emerging Internet. Their insights illuminate a path toward more responsible innovations, so that technologies aren’t dangerous weapons but valuable tools that ensure progress, improve society, and enhance our daily lives.


Rob Lalka is a professor of practice and the Executive Director of the Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship at Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business. He is the co-founder of Medora Ventures, a consulting firm in purpose-driven ventures. 



Rob Lalka photo courtesy of the author. 


Book Passage Ferry Building
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
The Venture Alchemists: How Big Tech Turned Profits Into Power By Rob Lalka Cover Image
ISBN: 9780231210263
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title for More Details
Published: Columbia Business School Publishing - May 14th, 2024