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Verne Harnish‘s new book, The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time, is out. I’ve read the excerpt up on Fortune and I’m looking forward to reading the entire book this weekend. The short description follows:
The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time – with a Foreword by Jim Collins — is Verne Harnish’s latest book. Author of the ever popular Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne along with some of the top writers and editors at Fortune magazine, share the inside story on 18 of the most unconventional decisions ever made in business – decisions that not only changed companies, but changed industries and even nations. Endorsed by several top CEOs and biz authors, these decisions should spark important ideas to transform your own companies and industries. If you want a sample, download a free chapter (GE’s key decision) and read Verne’s six page Introduction.
I’ve known Verne since 1990. A little known fact about us is that he was the only person I knew in Boulder when Amy and I moved here in 1995 (he moved to the east coast within the next year.) While we don’t spend a ton of time together these days, I have enormous respect for him as a thinker, scholar, and teacher around entrepreneurship. His company Gazelles has long been involved in helping numerous high growth companies in all aspects of their growth.
I first met Verne at the first Birthing of Giants program in 1990. I noticed an advertisement for it in Inc. Magazine. At the time I was president of Feld Technologies, my first company. We were 12 people and slightly more than $1 million in revenue. The advertisement spoke to me and I applied. I was accepted and a few months later had one of the most incredible weekends of my life with about 60 of my peers hanging out at the MIT Endicott House. It was the first time I discovered my peer group and it led to a long-term involved in Young Entrepreneurs Organization (where I founded the Boston and Colorado chapters) and planted deep seeds for my understanding of the power of mentorship.
I’ve been a huge fan of Verne’s since the day I met him in 1990. Many other amazing people were at that first Birthing of Giants event, including Ted Leonsis, Martin Babinec, and Keith Alper. I’m participating in a reunion in October in Boston – I’m very much looking forward to it. In the mean time, I’m going to reward myself for getting the publisher’s draft of Startup Life done this weekend by laying on the couch and reading Verne’s new book.
Holy cannoli! That’s what I shouted out loud (startling Amy and the dogs who were laying peacefully next to me on the couch last night) about 100 pages into William Hertling‘s second book A.I. Apocalypse. By this point I figured out where things were going to go over the next 100 pages, although I had no idea how it was going to end. The computer virus hacked together by a teenager had become fully sentient, completely distributed, had formed tribes that now had trading patterns, a society, and a will to live. All in a parallel universe to humans, who were now trying to figure out how to deal with them, ranging from shutting them off to negotiating with them, all with the help of ELOPe, the first AI who was accidentally created a dozen years earlier and was now working with his creator to suppress the creation of any other AI.
Never mind – just go read the book. But read Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears first as they are a series. And if you want more of a taste of Hertling, make sure you read his guest post from Friday titled How To Predict The Future.
When I was a teenager, I obsessively read everything I could get my hands of by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Heinlein. In college, it was Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, and Neal Stephenson. Today it’s Daniel Suarez and William Hertling. Suarez and Hertling are geniuses at what I call “near-term science fiction” and required reading for any entrepreneur or innovator around computers, software, or Internet. And everyone else, if you want to have a sense of what the future with our machines is going to be like.
I have a deeply held belief that the machines have already taken over and are just waiting for us to catch up with them. In my lifetime (assuming I live at least another 30 years) I expect we will face many societal crises around the intersection of man and machine. I’m fundamentally an optimist about this and how it evolves and resolves, but believe the only way you can be prepared for it is to understand many different scenarios. In Avogadro Corp and A.I. Apocalypse, Hertling creates two amazingly important situations and foreshadows a new one in his up and coming third book.
If quadcopters can play a James Bond song, it’s not far fetched that tens of thousands of them could become an autonomously controlled weapon controlled by software that simulates the intelligence of weaver ants. Toss in some perfluorocarbon tracers to simulate a pheromone matrix, a bunch of guns, face recognition software, and bad guys and by page 267 about all you can say is “fuck!”
I love Daniel Suarez - I think he may be one of the best “near term science fiction writer” alive today. His previous two books – Daemon and Freedom(TM) were superb, but Kill Decision really nails it and takes you to a much more real, and completely terrifying place. He’s got new characters, better action and dialogue, deep science that is well explained, and very scary scenarios that play out in a “I can’t put this book down” way.
As I’ve said many times recently, the machines have already taken over and are just waiting patiently for us to catch up with them. I’m optimistic about the machines – they won’t emerge in a terrifying terminator future hell bent on exterminating us. Instead, we – the humans – are the problem. We’ve been trying to kill each other since the beginning of time and when the biological (in this case software based on weaver ants) merges with the machines (quadcopters with guns) bad shit happens. And once again the humans created all the bad shit.
As my first book of summer, this was a great place to start. I finished about half of it last night and Amy said I whined in the night with bad dreams, so it did it’s job. Daniel – wow – awesome.
One of the super cool things about self publishing is that it’s really easy to make updates and release a new version. I released – with HyperInk‘s help – the first version of Burning Entrepreneur on April 11th.
Last week we released v2.0. We’ve fixed typos, clarified a few things, added tweets and comments to the body text, and added a few more chapters. We also updated the title to simply “Burning Entrepreneur” although the subtitle “How to Luanch, Fund, and Set Your Startup on Fire” is still around.
I’ve gotten plenty of positive feedback on this book and I’m excited about the updated version. If you haven’t read it yet, go grab a copy and tell me what you think. And – if you’ve read it – toss up a review on Amazon if you feel like it as every one of them helps.
The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman is another book that belongs on every entrepreneur’s bookshelf. It’s excellent.
I met Noam for the first time last week when I was at HBS. I was on a panel of VCs (me, Mike Maples Jr., Kate Mitchell, and David Frankel) talking to a room full of HBS alumni who are VCs. Noam and I had exchanged several emails over the past few months and he sent me a review copy of the book but it got lost in my infinite pile of books to read. After seeing him and talking to him briefly, I decided to put it on the top of the stack. I laid on the couch all day yesterday with Amy and the dogs and demolished a pair of books. The Founder’s Dilemmas was the first.
I get asked endless questions about founder dynamics, solo founders, optimal number of founders, equity allocations between founders, roles of founders, alignment between founders, and investor – founder relationships. I’ve been involved in many conflicts between founders, transition in roles between founders, emotional struggles with founders as businesses grow and change, investor conflicts (other than me) with founders, and the list goes on and on and on.
I’ve never seen a book before that was particularly helpful – to a founder – about the wide range of issues a founder will face. There are plenty of books lots with stories, anecdotes, and suggestions, but none that are particularly systematic about going through all of the issues. Noam’s book is the first I’ve read – and he totally nails it.
He covers it three ways – with data, with analysis, and with stories. He’s done a ten year quantitative study that he follows up with his own analysis and then intermixes this with actual stories from a set of founders, including two that I know reasonably well – Dick Costolo (FeedBurner – I was on the board), Genevieve Thiers (Sittercity – we looked hard at investing but ultimately didn’t) and many I know from a distance. As a result, I was able to back test the stories and anecdotes and they were completely factual in contrast to many other books like this where the qualitative stories are embellished to fit either the ego of the participants or the point being made by the author.
Noam systematically marches through all of the major dilemmas I could think of for founders: career, solo-vs-team, relationship, role, reward, hiring, investor, failure-vs-success, founder-CEO succession, and wealth-vs-control. I believe he’ll coin several new reference phrases, including my favorite around wealth-vs-control (“do you want to be king or want to be rich?”) He looks at each of these from all sides (e.g. yes – you can be king and rich, but there are other options that may get you where you want to go faster and with a much higher chance of success) and uses a great blend of data, analysis, and anecdote to make and support his points.
If you are a founder, or considering being a founder, a board member, or an investor, buy The Founder’s Dilemmas right now. One of your goals should be to do everything you can to maximize your chance of success. This book will help a lot and you won’t regret the time you invest in it.