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I just found out that Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City made the Amazon Top 10 Business Books of 2012.
I’m not a huge “made that list person” but as a writer this is a very cool thing, especially when I look at the other books, and writers, on the list. I’m downloading all of the other books right now and taking them on my two week vacation which is coming up.
I’m at Defrag this morning listing to Kevin Kelly explain how the global super organism already exists and why it is different than the Kurzweil defined Singularity. Awesome – and extremely consistent with how I think about how the machines have already taken over. Kevin’s intellectual approach is clearer and deeper – which I like, and will borrow heavily from. Kevin’s book, What Technology Wants, is also in a swag bag and I’ll be reading it next week.
One of the powerful concepts is that the “city is the node.” As I’ve been talking about Startup Communities, I’ve been explaining the power of “entrepreneurial density” and why everyone is congregating around cities again (intellectually referred to as the reurbanism of American). It’s really cool that he’s using the Degree Confluence Project to “show” (rather than simply “tell”) this.
A few of the books on the Amazon Top 10 Business Books of 2012 touch on this theme – I’ll be looking for it as I read a lot on the beach the next few weeks.
If you’ve ever shipped anything, you understand the power of a deadline. It’s incredibly helpful to me as an investor to also be a maker, as I get to experience the same pressure many of the people I’m investing in feel, as I try to weave the creation – in my case of books – into a very busy life. Blending the creative / maker experience with a very full manager experience is fascinating, hard, and very enlightening.
The latest maker experience I’m having is the book my wife Amy and I are writing called Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. The deadline for the draft that “goes into production” with our publisher (Wiley) is due on 10/22. “Going into production” means the writing is done – the next thing we get back is the copyedited version, which we can tweak, but not make major changes to. Basically, once we submit on 10/22 other than cleaning stuff up, the ship has sailed.
While the Startup Life deadline looms, it’s not at the top of my work priority stack. My top work priority is my activity as a partner at Foundry Group. This is unambiguous to me and everyone around me – I spend the vast majority of my time on this and any time an entrepreneur I’m working with needs me they get a top level interrupt on anything I’m doing. Next in line is my work with TechStars. Next is the book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your Community which shipped at the end of September. Then Startup Life. That’s it – I’ve got no capacity for anything else right now.
When I got back from “summer” – which was my return to New York from my bike trip to Slovenia – Amy and I had 15,000 words written for Startup Life. The book was put together pretty well – we knew what we wanted to write, but we had a ton of writing to do. We were together in New York for two weeks so we got a lot of writing done in between all the other stuff we did. I’ve been traveling around the country since and our weekends have been dedicated to writing while Amy writes all week as I run around and do my thing.
Last night after getting to the hotel room in San Francisco at 10pm, I spent three hours making a bunch of minor edits to the current version (we are still using SkyDrive and it has been awesome.) My assistant Kelly printed a copy out on Monday morning for me to drag around. It’s the first time I’ve read the book from beginning to end on paper and it validated that we are almost there. Last night when I went to bed we had 65,656 words. We’ve still got a few things to add in, but we are close.
The deadline dynamic is fascinating. Originally we had a “publisher draft deadline” of today (10/12/22). This is the version we submit to our senior editor and his team. They do a quick review with broad suggestions. This was due back to us on 10/17/22. We then have a “production draft deadline” of 10/22/22 (five days in this case.) While all of that feels very tight, given that this is my fourth book with Wiley, they are comfortable with my approach and I know what to expect back from them. But five days still isn’t very much.
So Amy and I beat our deadline and shipped the publisher draft early Monday morning on 10/8/12. This bought us an extra weekend of work since we’ll get the feedback today rather than on next Wednesday, 10/17/22. We now have ten days until our final deadline on 10/22/12, instead of only five.
Several people have suggested we write a book titled “Startup Author: Surviving and Thriving Writing a Book With Your Significant Other.” It’s been an awesome experience to do a collaborative project like this with Amy. I love her brain and how it works. It’s very different than mine and we each know and understand that. We complement, and compliment, each other a huge amount, and I feel this is reflected in the book, which makes me happy.
The deadline is such a powerful forcing function. I’m experiencing it again first hand and it gives me even more respect for the entrepreneurs I work with everyday. After I finished up last night, I gave myself a pre-sleep treat and watched Episode 3 of the founders. As I was watching it, I thought of the title for this post. So – count this riff inspired by all of the founders at TechStars - y’all are the really awesome ones who inspire me!
Many of you know that I’ve been working on several new books this summer. I’m completely obsessed with the radical transformation of our society from a hierarchy to a network, the integration of the machines into every aspect of our lives, and the radical transformation of the way – as humans and organizations – we work. Hopefully this shows through in what we invest in (for example, most recently Full Contact and Modular Robotics).
As a result of this obsession, I’m launching Startup Revolution, starting now.
I view Startup Revolution as a movement. Since my partners and I started Foundry Group in 2007 we’ve had an incredible experience working with a hundreds of entrepreneurs across the US in the 50 or so companies we’ve directly funded. We co-founded TechStars and have gotten to work with thousands of amazing entrepreneurs and mentors, many of whom are also incredible entrepreneurs. We’ve written a few books, including Do More Faster and Venture Deals and met many more entrepreneurs through them. We’ve invested in other VC funds with our own money (and subsequently met even more entrepreneurs) and evangelized tirelessly about startups around the US, working with organizations like the Startup America Partnership.
Lots of community has developed around startups, what I’ve learned, and what I think at the Feld Thoughts site, but I want to create a community that is broader. My partners and I continually learn all kinds of things about startups. We learn by doing – through our investing at Foundry Group. But we also learn by teaching – through writing (books and blogs), talking to entrepreneurs continually about what we are thinking, and evangelizing the power of startups and entrepreneurship as widely as we can. And all of this makes us better investors.
The Startup Revolution movement is another step in this. Like any new thing, I’m launching early and iterating often. The next few moves are the Startup Revolution site (and subsites for each book – Startup Communities, Startup Life, Startup Boards, and Startup Metrics). Leave anything you want me to add, change, or think about in the comments.
Finally, pre-orders for Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City and Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur are now up on Amazon.
The Startup Revolution is well underway. Don’t be left behind.
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.
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.