In Silicon Valley it’s easy to fall into believing that venture backing is a necessary step in the progression of building a winning technology business. Yet, bootstrapping is gaining popularity among entrepreneurs seeking to grow their business in a sustainable way.
I am a firm believer that fortune does favor the well read.
Thankfully, frequent travel to Europe and Asia leaves me ample opportunity to dig into a variety of books while en-route. In April, my wife and I traveled to Nice, the French Riviera, Paris and London mostly via train, including the Chunnel (which is basically the prototype for the Boring Company's plan, but originally proposed in 1802). With all of that travel I was able to get some focused time on several interesting books; so, I thought I'd put together a post with some reading notes and thoughts.
Anytime I run across a good review or recommendation from someone, I add it to an Overdrive or an Amazon wish list. When I head out on a trip I just look at what's available for checkout and I'm all setup. For this trip, I used Overdrive via my local library to download electronic copies of the books that I read. Very handy!
Now, this was a vacation, so I'm also including some more recreational reading at the end. In general those are shorter than the business books, but I think by page count they probably evened out at the end. I marked books with a plus (+) that I think are worth your time to read, although I get something out of everything I read.
Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma Built (+)
This is a good company origin story book. Really interesting to get the background on Alibaba and to understand their challenges and what it took to overcome them. The challenges and opportunities that exist in China are different than the ones here in the US, and it was great to get a deeper peek into those areas. Jack Ma is a tremendous leader and has accomplished a lot in guiding his company.
The Everything Store (+)
Amazon is just an amazing company and learning everything you can about how they do things is a no brainer. This is another good corporate origin story, but again it's great to get some insight into the opportunities they had in front of them. I also recently read the Nike story called Shoe Dog (+), which also was a great book. Maybe because we're starting something new here at Furious Collective, I'm gravitating my reading to these kinds of books recently. It's good grounding for me here and provides a lot of material to think about.
Never Eat Alone
Although I thought this book was perhaps twice as long as it needed to be, I was interested to read about how a professional networker goes about working his trade. There were a lot of obvious things to me, but I think someone who's looking for a comprehensive set of thoughts around engaging and being successful in working with other people this was a good book. Rob and I are trying to enforce a 'purposeful lunch' rule. When we get an invite for coffee or lunch, we try to make sure there's a real purpose that we can see. We can fill our days with lunches, but we ask ourselves what's the specific thing we want to get out of the meeting. It helps us stay focused.
I've read several books on the world of finance and a bit around the subprime mortgage crisis. This book did a good job of bringing several of the players backgrounds and the firms behind them into the light. It was an entertaining read, but I don't think I learned anything tremendously new about the collapse from it. It focuses on about seven main players and it was interesting to learn more about their history and their journey, so that was good definitely.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
This is a short book, just covering seven high level topics, originally from an Italian newspaper. Covers several of the core ideas and questions that physics deals with. Not a lot of depth, but always interested in staying up to date on how the physicists are thinking about thing. (As an aside, I really enjoyed watching Particle Fever (+) a couple of years ago, that was great!)
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
This is a Gladwell book, so you kind of know what you're going to get. I didn't really get into this book for some reason. The core stories are ones of asymmetric power situation and people that find a way to overcome them, but for some reason it wasn't the uplifting success type stories I was expecting, I spent more time being annoyed at the initial problem that existed in the world. I did enjoy the success stories of the people fighting through dyslexia and other personal issues in unique ways.
The 21st Century Economy--A Beginner's Guide
This is probably a good book for my nephews to read. It's almost a dictionary of terms with a couple page description of each term. Knowing that going in, it's probably a great book to get someone up to speed. I was apparently already up to speed, pretty clear on most of the terms, so let's say I skimmed this one pretty quickly, looking for anything that I didn't know. I believe there was only one or two terms that I actually ended up reading.
Those were the business books that I read on this trip. On the other hand, I read a good number of fiction stories as well. I will admit that I love everything by Terry Pratchett so he's always going to get a (+) from me, but I'm trying very hard to pace myself and not read everything in one sitting (which is a serious risk). I'll just leave a list of more casual reading below, in case you find yourself on a trip and need something to keep you entertained.
Jingo (+) kind of topical if you're reading the news; Soul Music (+) usually you can read his books in any order, this one might be the exception, you should read Mort (+) first; Childhoods End considered a classic, I must have read it before, but was good to read again; The Annihilation Score (+) this is one of a loosely connected series also might not be the place to start on that series but if you like eldritch spy thriller type things it's good ; A Meeting with Medusa I had read a follow on story to this recently and wanted to read the original; A Dirty Job the internet suggested that if I liked Pratchett I would like this guy, was ok but not as good in my opinion; Titan I read this a really long time ago and thought it might be interesting to revisit, was ok; Wang's Carpets short story length standard sci-fi story; The Cyberiad been reading more of this author, I read that the Sims game was partially inspired by a story in here so I picked it up, a series of short stories, good stuff; More Tales of Pirx the Pilot again some short stories, pretty stock sci-fi stories at this point.
If you enjoy reading and have some other book recommendations, I'm always on the lookout for more material, so please send your ideas my way. Happy Reading!
PS - I have a good friend who's just released her third book!! I just got my copy this week and will read it this weekend. Her other two books were amazing, if you like mysteries you should check it out - The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day (+)! Enjoy!
During the process of creating our business cards (because that's pretty much the second or third thing you do once you decide to start a new company) we ran across this amazing photographer of insects that you might have noticed being used around our websites. They were so awesome that we also decided to create desktop wallpapers out of the more arresting photos. When's the last time you changed your wallpaper, no really? 2016? 2012? You're not still using the stock OS wallpaper are you?
Dave and Rob
PS - Perhaps you're actually interested in wallpapers, maybe you've already got some amazing system that swaps in art every time you unlock your desktop, if you're using chrome and you might check out the Google Art Project extension. It's fantastic and there's a checkbox to have it change art for every new tab. We're not affiliated with it, just fans.
As a leader or CEO you have to build pathways for great culture to grow and thrive and you also have to make some hard and decisive decisions about what you need to remove from your culture. That sometimes means firing a mis-aligned employee and, at other times, means strongly and immediately correcting cultural mis-steps. Though none of us are perfect, as CEOs and leaders, we must, of course, lead by example as well.
Just before launching Furious Collective, the good people at Instapage created a Podcast featuring an interview with me about culture and leadership.
I had a great time reflecting on many lessons learned in a career building companies like KACE and AvantGo and, also, helping build great companies as an investor with Toba Capital.
I hope you'll enjoy the interview which is available here in written form or as an audio podcast.
Furious Collective, really? Are you guys angry?
No, we are not angry but we are excited about starting a new company! Furious Collective.
As you may have read on our website, Furious Collective is a venture production studio. We are turning things upside down in the realm of technology startups. Our plan is create a collection of technology startups each focused on becoming profitable within 12 to 18 months of inception.