Venkatesh Rao (writer)

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Venkatesh Rao
Venkatesh Rao (8452380933).jpg
Jamshedpur, India
OccupationAuthor, consultant
NationalityIndian, American
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
GenreEssays, Literary Nonfiction, Sociology
SubjectSilicon Valley, technology, strategy
Literary movementPost-Rationality
Notable worksThe Gervais Principle, Tempo

Venkatesh Rao (born 1973) is an Indian-American author and consultant. He has previously worked as a researcher at Cornell University and Xerox.[1]

After resigning from Xerox in 2011, Rao worked as an independent consultant in Seattle and published his popular Breaking Smart newsletter series while writing his blog Ribbonfarm.[2] He was a fellow at the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles in 2019–20.[3]


After graduating with a Bachelor of Technology degree in mechanical engineering in 1997 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, he secured an F1 visa to study in the United States.[4] Rao received his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan. His dissertation, Team Formation and Breakup in Multiagent Systems, drew from "control theory, scheduling theory, and artificial intelligence" in an attempt solve multiagent problems in relation to "unmanned vehicle systems" and "autonomous constellations of spacecraft."[5]


Rao founded and regularly contributes to his blog Ribbonfarm. As a consultant for Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and Andreesen Horowitz, he launched the Breaking Smart newsletter, which has been translated into multiple languages.[6] He's also written for Aeon,[7] The Atlantic,[8] Forbes,[9] and been a guest on The Atavist's Longform podcast.[10] In 2011, Rao published Tempo, a book on strategy and decision-making which has been praised by David Allen and Daniel H. Pink.[11][12] His theories have influenced curator Troy Conrad Therrien's work at the Guggenheim Museum, and the 2018 Guggenheim Bilbao exhibition Architectural Effects prominently showcased his work.[13] He is also known to have coined the terms "premium mediocre"[14] and "domestic cozy".[15]

Personal life[edit]

Rao was born and raised in Jamshedpur (then in the state of Bihar, now in Jharkhand), the son of Hindu Brahmin parents from South India. He is an atheist.[16]

Having lived in many cities throughout the United States, Rao currently lives with his wife in Los Angeles.[17]


  1. ^ "Bio". Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  2. ^ Rao, Venkatesh. "Interview with Venkatesh Rao" (Interview). Interviewed by Dan Andrews. Tropical MBA.
  3. ^ "Bio". 28 June 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  4. ^ "What does Venkatesh Rao consider to be the big break of his career?". Quora. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  5. ^ Rao, Venkatesh (2004). Team Formation and Breakup in Multiagent Systems (Ph.D.). University of Michigan.
  6. ^ Marc Andreeson (7 February 2015). "Introducing Breaking Smart". Retrieved 2019-09-15.
  7. ^ "Venkatesh Rao". Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  8. ^ "Venkatesh Rao". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  9. ^ "Venkatesh Rao". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  10. ^ "Longform Podcast #174: Venkatesh Rao". January 6, 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  11. ^ "Tempo: timing, tactics, and strategy". January 6, 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  12. ^ "Tempo: timing, tactics, and strategy in narrative decision-making". Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  13. ^ "Architectural Effects explores the Bilbao effect". 11 December 2018. Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  14. ^ "Will you be able to afford a flat if you stop buying avocado toast?". 8 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Why are so many brands pivoting to coziness?". 15 January 2020.
  16. ^ "King Ruinous and the City of Darkness". 11 November 2016. Retrieved 2019-07-02.
  17. ^ "Regenerations". 28 June 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-02.