A Memoir of Love and Madness in the Internet Gold Rush
By Tom Ashbrook
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780395839348, 304pp.)
Publication Date: May 2000
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In 1996, Tom Ashbrook was an international reporter who, in a crisis of the soul, resolved to join an old college classmate on the Internet rocket ride. THE LEAP tells the story of how he walked away from an enviable career to launch a risky new business venture, and it could serve as a template for anyone with e-commerce fantasies. As a deeply felt tale of a man who risks and rediscovers his family and purpose, it also has all the hallmarks of a classic. Ashbrook undertakes his white-knuckle journey in pursuit of the dream of an Internet startup without business experience, a technical background, or money. "I always knew you would do something crazy in the middle of your life," his wife, Danielle, tells him as their relationship careens through a dramatic rebirth of its own. "I just never knew it would be this kind of crazy." Ashbrook's odyssey is also the great American joy ride -- the story of two guys in the laboratory, in the garage, on the frontier, betting the ranch and then racing, half scared out of their wits, half giddy with adrenaline, toward the finish line. Success, when it finally comes, is sweet, but it is Ashbrook's story of self-transformation along the way that wins our hearts with its candor, its unabashed zeal, and the self-deprecating humor the author shares as he throws himself and his family over the edge in the middle of life to reach out for a new beginning.
Tom Ashbrook is an award-winning journalist and a founder of HomePortfolio Inc., creators of HomePortfolio.com, the leading Internet destination for premium home design products. A longtime foreign correspondent and editor for the Boston Globe, he spent ten years in Asia, working and reporting from India, Hong Kong, and Japan. He was awarded the Livingston Prize for national reporting and held a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University before launching a second career as an Internet entrepreneur. Ashbrook began his writing career at the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST in Hong Kong, covering the exodus of Vietnamese refugees and the post-Mao opening of China. His earlier work included roustabout and dynamiting jobs on oil exploration crews in Prudhoe Bay and the Alaskan Yukon, a teaching stint with the Yale-China Association in Hong Kong, scripting and dubbing Chinese kung fu films for international distribution, on-air hosting of primetime television in Hong Kong, and research jobs for Illinois Lt. Governor Neil F. Hartigan and U.S. Rep. Leslie C. Arends. Launched out of a third bedroom in 1996 and live on the Web since January, 1998, HomePortfolio has raised more than $24 million in venture backing, and has over one hundred employees and offices in Newton, MA; Chicago; Los Angeles; Charlotte; and New York. Described in the February, 2000 issue of HOUSE & GARDEN magazine as the Internet's "uber-site" for home design, H&G's editor wrote: "HomePortfolio.com blows my mind." Born and raised on a farm in Bloomington, Illinois, Ashbrook lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife, Danielle, and his three children.
"a lively... read." The Washington Post
"The Leap is something genuinely new among books on the emerging tech economy. It is a risk-taker's account that makes vivid what risk really means... enjoyable and provocative." -- James Fallows, author of Breaking the News
"Self-deprecating humor and gut-wrenching suspense (Will the money run out? Will his wife?). By the end, you're praying for this guy to make it." Time Magazine
"Tom Ashbrook's tale of self-doubt ... marital discord and a $25 million jackpot is just the thing to inspire would-be entrepreneurs to take the start-up plunge." Salon
"Entertaining and compelling. (Check out his wife Danielle's valentine to him...)." Fortune
"A gripping account of an e-commerce start-up by a journalist-turned-entrepreneur." Boston Globe
"Kudos to author Ashbrook for this heart-felt, sobering saga of his walking away from financial security to launch a risky new Internet business venture....Throughout, the author's penetrating candor and self-deprecating humor whirl the reader through his family's ordeal....this is a wild ride of a story." Library Journal