Follow the money, said Deep Throat, the mysterious star of Woodward and Bernstein’s — and America’s– Watergate saga. It was good advice then and it’s good advice now. And it’s how David E. Hoffman, in The Billion Dollar Spy, has reinvented the spy story for our age. Or at least pivoted its emphasis. Since at least the first dot com bubble, the great mystery of the marketplace has been how do you put a value on an enterprise? (“That’s a crazy valuation” is probably the most uttered sentence on ABC’s entrepreneur show, Shark Tank.)
Hoffman answers this question — and in a marketplace that’s even more inscrutable than Silicon Valley: spying. What’s the value of espionage? He covers the well-known story of Adolf Tolkachev, who was a high tech spy in Moscow for the US, and tells us how valuable Tolkachev’s contribution was. Hoffman estimates that, despite the book’s catchy title, Tolkachev’s work probably saved the US $2 billion. The money is calculated in technology solutions not designed and built because of the information Tolkachev passed along.