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I’ve been reading a lot lately. On an almost daily basis, someone out in the world sends me a physical book, which I love. While I have something like 500 unread books on my Kindle, I still love laying on the couch reading a physical book. So the stacks of books that show up keep me company and I chomp through them whenever I need a break from everything else.
Yesterday I read No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet. It was awesome and I recommend it for any entrepreneur out there either working on a company or thinking about starting a company.
If you don’t recognize the name Danny Lewin there are two big things to know before you dive into this book. First, he was the co-founder of Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ: AKAM – currently valued at $8 billion.) Second, he was likely the very first person to die in the 9/11 attack.
There are lots of other interesting and unexpected things to know about Danny before you start the book. He was born in Denver. His parents made aliyah to Israel when he was a young teenager. He was built like a tank and was a member of Israel’s Sayeret Matkal. He longed to be at MIT.
Akamai’s original name was Cachet Technologies. They entered, but didn’t win, the MIT $50K competition in 1998. As a judge for the MIT $50k until 1996, there were always a lot of VCs hanging around. In this case, however, the only VC who truly had conviction to get behind Akamai was Todd Dagres – then of Battery Ventures, now of Spark Capital.
Akamai was an amazing pre-Internet bubble story. From nothing to IPO in less than 18 months, a market cap of > $20 billion, followed by a 99% decline in the stock price post-bubble. Over the last decade, however, they’ve demonstrated that they have a real business, now valued at $8 billion with Q313 revenue of $396m, Q313 GAAP Net Income of $80m, and cash flow from operations in Q313 of +$158m. Not bad for a company that was written off completely a decade ago.
This is the story of the creation of that company. And the people behind the creation, mostly notably Lewin. The author, Molly Knight Raskin, writes beautifully, deeply, and thoughtfully. She combines an origin story (for Akamai), a coming of age story (for Lewin), and a tragedy (for Lewin, his family, his extended family, and Akamai.) While the tragic ending, which comes much to early, is the end of the book, it’s short (less than 10% of the book), appropriate in its level of drama, and helps us process the amazing life that Lewin lived.
I’m tired of the classic boom bust popular media story arc of “hero emerges from nothing, the hero does amazing things, bad things happen and the hero crashes, watch how the hero is no longer a hero, the hero fights and claws his way out of the cellar and rises again to be a hero.” This is not one of those books. Instead, it’s a great biography of an entrepreneur, his company, and his all too short life.
William Hertling is currently my favorite “near term” science fiction writer. I just read a pre-release near-final draft of his newest book, The Last Firewall. It was spectacular. Simply awesome.
You can’t read it yet, but I’ll let you know when it’s available. In the mean time, go read the first two books in the trilogy.
They are also excellent and important for context for The Last Firewall. They are inexpensive. And they are about as close to reality while still being science fiction as you can get.
I define “near term science fiction” as stuff that will happen within the next 20 years. I used to read everything by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson. Gibson’s Neuromancer and and Stephenson’s Snow Crash were – until recently – my two favorite books in this category. Suarez’s Daemon and Freedom (TM) replaced these at the top of my list, until Hertling showed up. Now I’d put Daemon and The Last Firewall tied for first.
Amy and I were talking about this in the car today. Gibson, Sterling, and Stephenson are amazing writers, but their books have become too high concept. There’s not enough love and excitement for the characters. And the science fiction is too abstract – still important, but not as accessible.
In contrast, Hertling and Suarez are just completely nailing it, as is Ramez Naam with his recent book Nexus. My tastes are now deeply rooted with these guys, along with Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross.
If I was writing science fiction, this would be what I was going for. And, if you want to understand the future, this is what you should be reading.
One of my favorite books of all times is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I read it every few years and recommend that every entrepreneur read it early in their journey.
While a plethora of entrepreneurship books have come out recently, including the ones I’ve written in the Startup Revolution series, there hasn’t yet been the equivalent of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for entrepreneurship.
Matt Blumberg’s new book -Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business - has elements of it and is awesome. It should be out next month and every entrepreneurial CEO should buy a copy of it right now as it’ll be an incredibly important book to read for any CEO at any experience level.
Riz Virk’s post on TechCrunch yesterday – The Zen of Entrepreneurship - also caught my eye. He’s got a book out called Zen Entrepreneurship: Walking the Path of the Career Warrior. He’s sending me a copy but I went ahead and grabbed it on Amazon to read this weekend.
I know Riz from the 1990′s in Boston – I was an advisor to his first company Brainstorm Technologies. It was long ago enough at this point that I don’t know if I was helpful or not, but I had warm feelings toward Riz and smiled when I saw his name pop up again after not seeing it for a while.
Jerry Colonna and I have talked on and off about really digging into this topic and trying to write a philosophical treatise on entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial way that will stand the test of time. I’m not ready to take this on as I’ve got enough on my plate, but I know it’s out there somewhere. In the mean time, I’m psyched to see more CEOs writing real books about entrepreneurship, rather than yet another ego testament to themselves.
Matt and Riz – thanks for putting the effort into this!
When the Second Edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist came out, I was baffled that the books were listed as two separate Amazon items. The biggest impact was that all the reviews for the first edition did not sync with the second edition, so anyone coming across the second edition wouldn’t see all the first edition reviews. There was also a bunch of other content missing from the Second Edition page. In frustration, I wrote a post titled The Mess of a Second Edition Book.
For several weeks I dug into this with Wiley (my publisher) to no avail. I kept hearing back that the Second Edition is considered an entirely new book. I accepted that (it has a separate ISDN number), but I still wanted the two pages to be linked. The First Edition pointed to the Second Edition, but the Second Edition didn’t point to the first edition. And – none of the content on the pages was synchronized. I kept thinking some version of “c’mon guys – this is just meta-data – how hard could this really be?”
Dane McDonald, who works for me, eventually just took it on himself to figure this out. He went to the Amazon Author Central site, found, and followed the instructions.
- Login to your Amazon Author Page.
- Click on the “Help” button in the navigation Bar.
- Click on the “Contact Us” button in left hand sidebar of your screen.
- Under “Select an issue,” select My Books.
- Under “Select details,” select Update information about a book.
- In the field that appears, select Update something else.
- In the next field that appears, select I want to link one edition of my book to another edition.
- Make sure to include your email address as well as both ISBN #’s for the two editions of the book you would like to link.
- It takes 1-3 business days for the link to take effect.
Voila. Several days later what Wiley had said was impossible now worked. The two editions were linked and all was good in the world. Until the other day, when the books magically unlinked. Boo.
Yesterday, I followed the instructions again to relink the editions. This time I got a disappointing email from Amazon.
I understand you would like us to link ISBNs 978-1118443613 and 978-0470929827.
The books requested for linking, Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist ISBN 978-1118443613 and 978-0470929827 don’t meet the qualifications to be linked. Please accept my sincere apologies for this disappointment.
In order to be linked, books must have the same content. Linking books such as the hardcover and paperback edition is meant to allow customers to choose between different formats, but customers should be able to expect to read the same content. Newer editions of nonfiction books generally have additional primary content, and therefore aren’t considered materially the same.
Books that are different parts of a set, or derivations of one another can’t be linked, even though they may be similar.
Thank you for contacting Author Central. We hope to see you again soon.
Double boo. I guess I should be frustrated, but pretty much everything about the old school publishing process baffles and perplexes me. Almost none of it is from a reader or author’s perspective. The publishers and distributors have their own magic language, special rules, and byzantine processes. Everything is harder than it needs to be, doesn’t work quite as expected, and has a bunch of extra words around each step.
I’ve let go of my frustration. Now I’m just amused. And I’m glad stuff like Bookshout exists – hopefully it’ll stimulate another wave of reader-centric disruption.
I needed some mental floss one night in New York last week when I was having trouble sleeping so I read Playing for Pizza: A Novel. My mom had recommended this one – I can’t remember why – but I usually read whatever she recommends. Put it in the “good son” category (although she helped me develop my love of reading and she’s almost always on target with recommendations for me.)
I grew tired of John Grisham and his legal thrillers over a decade ago. But I always enjoyed his writing so it was fun to dig into something completely different. I love Italy, pizza, and food, so that made sense. Football, however, is low on my list of things I care about. I decided to blow off caring about the football stuff and just get lost in the book.
Grisham has always written a book I can read in one sitting. I turned off my iPad at about 1:30am NY time and smiled. The Italy stuff was good. The pizza stuff was good. The food stuff was good. And the football stuff was even good.
If you are looking for something light, clever, engaging, and written in typical fast moving Grisham style, grab it. Solid mental floss.