Fact file

Entrepreneur turned writer

First-time author Amy Wilkinson decided to write a book to help everyone start a business and succeed at it after chafing at how the US government seemed to be mollycoddling "too big to fail" corporations - such as big banks and car companies after the 2008 global financial crisis - while ignoring Silicon Valley start-ups.

Wilkinson, 43, spent seven years in Silicon Valley as she studied English and political science at Stanford University there, and then secured master's degrees in sociology and business. In her time there, she was convinced that it was the valley's start-ups that created jobs for her countrymen, not business' big boys.

In an interview with The Sunday Times here, she says: "I thought the people who would shape the future were the start-up founders, not big institutional people. And I knew some of them from Silicon Valley."

She was here last month as an Eisenhower Fellow, during which she met Singaporean businesspeople such as Banyan Tree's Mr Ho Kwon Ping, Hyflux's Ms Olivia Lum and Sakae Sushi's Mr Douglas Foo. She also gave a talk at the American Chamber of Commerce here.

Wilkinson also got a bird's eye view of all that mollycoddling because she was working in the White House then, cobbling international trade policy for 31/2 years.

That was right after her prestigious stint as a White House Fellow from 2004 to 2005. Fellows have included former US Secretary of State Colin Powell. The fellowship is the top leadership grooming programme in the US, with a yearly acceptance rate of about 1 per cent.

By 2010, no person or think-tank she knew was studying start-ups as engines to create jobs, so she decided to write a book about it. She thought it might take 18 months at most, but she ended up chasing a total of 200 entrepreneurs for their secrets for success.

The result is The Creator's Code, which got the attention of economist Ben Bernanke when he was head of the US central bank. So he got her to give talks to his colleagues.

She says: "My data shows that in the US, firms less than five years old create the net new jobs. So if you want new jobs, you really have to have creators upskill." Her book spotlights the six skills to that end.

Born in Hong Kong, where her father managed the Asian arm of German timber trader Weyerhaeuser, she grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and qualified first as a sociologist at Stanford. She then worked at the US embassy in Mexico in the mid-1990s.

In that time, she also founded a start-up called Alegre, which sold the arts and crafts of Mexican artisans. But her lack of financial smarts then had her father advising her to beef up on that. So after a banking stint in Argentina and Brazil with J.P. Morgan, she went back to Stanford, this time to its business school. She also worked as a strategy consultant at global consulting giant McKinsey.

Then in 2004, she secured the White House Fellowship, which put her in government, after which she began on her book.

"I consider it my public service," she says of writing it. She faced a few challenges in doing so, chief among which was how to stay ahead of business trends when the landscape of American life was changing so fast.

"One of the difficulties of a market-based entrepreneurship book is that you want it to be fresh," she muses. "So I was editing it all the way until Christmas last year."

She launched the book in the US in February, worldwide in March and a translation of it last month .

She now teaches a course based on the book at Stanford. You can track updates on her research at www.amywilkinson.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'Entrepreneur turned writer'. Print Edition | Subscribe