Reviewed by Ayanda Mbanga

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them” said one Napoleon Bonaparte. This was in the 1700s, and it would seem that is still the case today.


If you’re fascinated to learn about how the other half lives, then this book is for you. From private jets, first class flights criss-crossing around the globe, valentine’s weekends in the Bahamas, all the way to double-storey apartments with doormen in New York City, you’ve come to the right place. 


However, if like me, you battle to understand the concept of virtual money, you may struggle here and there to follow the narrative in this book. Stephen Timm tries to disentangle a complex web spanning different continents – a digital existence of the tech start-up world – of concepts such as crowd-funding, crowd-sourcing, angel investors, block chains and such. With a large reliance on Facebook research, this book taught me one important thing: Carefully manage your social media profile. Do not embellish!


As he takes us through the underbelly of the fintech world, Timm paints a picture of how things are often not what they seem. This is a world of delusion, smoke and mirrors, and how to make a quick buck – or more like big bucks, as quickly as possible. There is no storefront window here, where you can take a look and make a decision to buy or not. This book offers much intrigue (and confusion at times) where people buy something they can’t see or touch. This is a story of a probably well brought up young man, from a good Durban family, but whose ambition drove him to delusion and lies. From selling something that does not exist to people who are easily impressed by a smooth talker with no scruples, my main take out from this intricate story is to be weary of:

  1. Greedy people who look the part and take short cuts at every corner
  2. Big spenders who like thin women
  3. Sleek and charming name droppers who are too self-involved 
  4. People who sell you an idea and act like there’s an urgency for you to buy
  5. Unclear communicators, who leave everything they say open to any interpretation
  6. Playing victim when things go sour


This is a modern-day true story of fabricated achievements, huge amounts paid for very little effort and blame shifting when the truth comes out. Like Michael Jordaan says, this is an old-age narrative of ego and flying too close to the sun. This is a story of great ambition gone bad.


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