Founder of the venture capital firm Street Global, Alysia Silberg relates her troubled childhood in Johannesburg and journey to wealth and success in Unemployable: How I Hired Myself.
Silberg was raised during 1980s apartheid by her former Hollywood makeup and special effects artist father and much younger, former dancer mother. Her family struggled with money—they subsisted on income from Silberg’s father’s pharmacy and costume rental store—and with her mother’s rages and emotional instability.
The story is studded with violence and tragedy. It opens with a violent carjacking in which Silberg’s mother is severely beaten and goes on to recount the early death of Silberg’s beloved father, her mother’s emotional and verbal abuse, and the frequent crime in their neighborhood.
Entrepreneurs from an early age, the author and her brother bought makeup from wholesalers, and ultimately her family began a small import business. In adulthood, she and her husband Darren launched successful startup companies, traveled the world, and settled in the US, coaching entrepreneurs and leaders through “the fundamentals of wealth creation.”
The story of Silberg’s rise and perseverance is extraordinary, but the book suffers from several flaws. It’s couched as a business book, but the advice is cursory and familiar: Never give up; be clear on what you want; seek the education you need to succeed. Silberg makes many mentions of the rise of AI but it’s never entirely clear why. The book’s end contains stories of some of the successful people she knows which are not connected to each other or to her story and feel like filler, and it offers business predictions that aren’t supported by evidence; for example, she writes that “there’s a good chance we will end up with a universal basic income” given the changing economy.
Overall, the book is an awkward mix of memoir and business genres. It might work better as a straight memoir, as readers will find the author’s personal story much more compelling than her business advice.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.