Tag Archives: Startup

On Chris Dixon

This “teacher’s reference guide” distills what I thought were some of Chirs Dixon’s more interesting blog posts and ideas. Don’t take my word for it, I’ve put together a complete compilation of his blog posts below that is well worth your time.

Chris Dixon first started a company called SiteAdvisor that helped users understand the safety and reputation of websites by testing the sites to find malware and spam. McAfee eventually bought it. His next venture was Hunch, a site that built a collective intelligence recommendation system, that was eventually acquired by eBay. Chris is now a partner at a16z, the “CAA” of venture capital.

Some of my key takeaways were around cryptocurrency (it allows computers to make commitments, amongst many other things, of course), the next paradigm shift will start off looking like a toy/hobby (what the richest and smartest do for fun on the weekends is what the mainstream will do in 10 years), and more related to network effects, startups, and venture capital.  

Tape Sucks: Inside Data Domain, A Silicon Valley Growth Story by Frank Slootman

Summary

  1. Frank Slootman talks about his time and leadership style

Key Takeaways

  1. Being cash positive, we really didn’t need the money for operations, but a strong balance sheet reassures enterprise customers so they buy gear from a small supplier.
  2. This fear-based behavior can scarcely be overstated. Large enterprises consistently prioritize their buying decisions to minimize the risk of embarrassment backlash. Huge premiums are paid in the misguided name of “playing it safe.” Dominant suppliers carefully cultivate and nurture this incumbent bias.
  3. From the perspective of an operations guy, there is a lot of riff-raff in venture capital: posers, herd mentality, technology infatuation, too much education, not enough experience to appreciate what grit and focus it takes to grow a business out of nothing. To have a fighting chance, you want to be with the best firms, and the best partners in those firms. Odds are already exceedingly low for venture success.
  4. In hindsight, it helped explain how some of our breakthroughs came about: they ended up betting on Moore’s law, the microprocessor subsystem, and avoiding the entrenched bottlenecks in the storage subsystem
  5. The famed Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter is usually associated with this term, but the basic idea goes back all the way to the works of Karl Marx. The notion (which has experienced a recent resurgence via Clayton Christensen’s writings on disruptive innovation) is that in order to create something, you have to destroy something else in the process. So, creative destruction is an axiom of business: you are not going to grow much without exacting a proportional decrease in business somewhere else. You better know whose livelihood you’re going to mess with.
  6. A challenged product sector is obviously a much better starting point than attacking a category that is favorably regarded. When picking a fight, don’t seek out the most formidable opponent.
  7. Many technologies are conceived without a clear, precise notion of the intended use. There is plenty of hoping and praying going on that some new technology will magically find a suitable problem to solve. Often, we think we know, vaguely, in the abstract—but the truth is we have no clarity on how our technology stacks up in that use-case, relative to alternatives. Start with the application or use case, not the technology. Don’t make it an after-thought. Ass-backwards, it is awfully hard to successfully recover from a technology-led venture that cannot locate its target.
  8. It is remarkable how little our strategy changed from dollar zero to a billion in sales. The most important thing we did throughout the journey: resist the ever-present temptation to muck with the strategy.
  9. Making yourself “scarce” is something to ponder.
  10. You simply cannot invest intelligently in revenue generation if you do not understand how to ramp effectiveness and make the underlying economics work. It should be obvious that a sales force that loses money will only accelerate cash burn—in the absence of deep pockets, not a game to be played for very long.
  11. If you have aspirations to go public, you cannot do so without a predictable model that you control. It is also a way to weaken competitors. At Data Domain we hired away the best of the best from our competitors—not only did we gather strength, we weakened them at the same time.   Ulysses S. Grant once said that victory is breaking the enemy’s will to fight. Our version of victory was a great salesperson quitting the competition and joining our band of brothers. Breaking their will to fight (prompting “surrender”) was one thing, but getting them to defect outright and rally to our cause—this was crushing for incumbent morale.
  12. Your power is in your own sales function and product—keep that in mind. The channel is a powerful, entrenched fixture in the industry, and one that demands respect. If you don’t bring the channel in, they will bring in your competition.
  13. Yet, there comes a time when the venture must pivot from conserving resources to applying them rapidly, as fast as you know how to do effectively—when that cross-over time comes is not always obvious. The irony is that most ventures seem to spend too much early on, and not enough later on when they could grow faster and pay for it. The question becomes “can you grow faster?” And, if not, why not? That should be a good board meeting discussion. The turning point comes when your sales activity is solidly paying for itself, and is clearly becoming more profitable with increasing volume. Now you have a virtual money machine and you want to start opening the floodgates.
  14. Accounting is the bastardization of economics. It can be puzzling to see early stage ventures focusing on P&L profitability, as that mentality can choke off growth in a hurry. You should not care much about profits early on. Instead, you care about maximizing growth while maintaining sufficient cash balances to sustain it.
  15. I have seen startups managing for profitability prematurely—a huge mistake. They simply do not appreciate the dynamics of an early stage, high growth operation versus a large, steady-state company. Big company thinking: check it at the door.
  16. Trust your team—nothing else scales.
  17. After suffering through a few instances of this mismatch at Data Domain, we adjusted our search algorithm and began looking for candidates who did not have the resume yet but did have the potential and desire for a career break to get to the next level. We called them “athletes”: candidates with the right aptitude and behavior profile but without the prerequisite experience.   Put differently, we started looking for people who we thought had their best work still in front of them, rather than behind them.
  18. Speed is the essence of a startup: we have to be able to take mistakes in stride, and self-correct in the normal course of business.
  19. Newly hired salespeople were stunned that they could pose a question online, and responses started piling up within minutes.
  20. CEOs can’t manage from behind the desk—you need to be the first guy or gal over the barricades, gloves off. You need to know from experience what it’s like getting your nose bloodied; otherwise, your troops can’t relate to you and you can’t relate to them.
  21. I staked out the Greater Boston Area and made more sales calls in the Northeast than anywhere else. Why? It was the home of our principal competitor at the time, EMC. We wanted to show our people we could beat them in their own backyard.
  22. If you don’t naturally swarm to the action, you need to learn that attitude.
  23. People can instantly finger a phony. Let them know who you really are, warts and all—show your humanity, your passions, your likes and dislikes. What do you feel strongly about? Can they still remember what you said a week later? Are you leaving a room with more energy than when you entered it? Not sure? Then you didn’t.   For most of us, it is work to become an authentic leader. By authentic I mean being who you really are versus acting out some burnished version of you.
  24. Software development actually suffers from diseconomies of scale: the more engineers, the slower it goes.
  25. Don’t be a pleaser, and don’t be an appeaser. Do what you think is right. Do anything less, and you only have yourself to blame.
  26. He had this style about him leaving no doubt that while he would share his point of view, he was not making recommendations or prescriptions: you, the CEO, were the judge. It actually made it easier to seek him out, as he didn’t demand you follow his point of view. He impressed on me that the role of the board was to hire and fire the CEO, and that he would not hesitate to pull either trigger!
  27. I found this advice priceless. You might as well spend all your time on winning—nothing else matters. Of course, a good board wants you to do exactly that. It obviously doesn’t mean you should blindly bat away all opinions coming at you, but just try them on for size and merit, and go from there. Keeping good council is strength; caving in on perceived pressure is weakness.
  28. Our drive for a set of values in the organization came about gradually, as more people came into the company. We started writing them down and describing them:   Respect   Excellence   Customer   Integrity   Performance   Execution   The first letter of each of the six values spells the word R-E-C-I-P-E.
  29. Becoming a value-led organization doesn’t happen automatically. We imported somebody else’s culture with every person we hired, and therefore had to undo a bunch of stuff. We called it “re-programming.” People learn culture based on what behavior they observe around them, good, bad, or somewhere in between. The magic begins when you start displaying what you mean by them in practice, when the consequences are real.   One aspect of compliance was that we told new hires upfront that while we might be somewhat patient and forgiving on performance, we would not be on conduct. Conduct is a choice, not a skill set. If someone made the wrong choices in the face of all the guidance received, it could and would be a dismissible offense.
  30. I’d go as far as to say that company culture is the only enduring, sustainable form of differentiation. These days, we don’t have a monopoly for very long on talent, technology, capital, or any other asset; the one thing that is unique to us is how we choose to come together as a group of people, day in and day out.
  31. They don’t “work for you”—we all work for the company. As a manager, you are there to help them succeed.
  32. Strong references (who voluntarily become your “promoters”) are priceless marketing collateral.
  33. Early on, when employee candidates asked us what our culture was like, we invariably said “blue collar.” Not a lot of flash—if it doesn’t directly aid our cause, we don’t spend money on it. Extravagance was frowned upon, and becoming self-congratulatory was avoided; these things weaken the focus and muscle of the company. Setting the tone comes from the top. Humble and hungry is what we wanted to be.
  34. Somebody once asked me how he or she would know whether they were a driver, and I answered, “you better find out before we do.” In other words, be more demanding of yourself. Are you increasing the company’s speed or not?
  35. No strategy is better than its execution. When you get better at execution, the strategic issues will crystallize more as well. Like art being 99% perspiration (versus inspiration), business is 99% execution (versus strategy). A company can go a long way with an average strategy and superior execution, but they will not go far without great execution, no matter how brilliant the strategy.
  36. Startup CEOs are more like plow horses than racehorses. A racehorse gets pampered all week, to be taken out of the barn for a few minutes to race on Saturday afternoon; startup CEOs live 12+ hours a day behind the plow. It doesn’t feel so glamorous when you get home at 11 at night and you need to get up at 5 am to catch a flight out of town.

What I got out of it

  1. Love Slootman’s no non-sense mentality and learned a lot from his explanation of his time at Data Domain

That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea by Marc Randolph

Summary

  1. Marc describes the formation and foundation of Netflix, his role, and the evolution of Netflix from DVD store/rental to dominant international media company. “Goal is to puncture myths but also reveal what they did and why it worked, turning Netflix from an unlikely idea into the media behemoth it is today – not let’s or principles but hard won truths (like distrust epiphanies)”

Key Takeaways

  1. The daily car rides with Reed and Marc seem enviable – what an amazing gift to be able to share ideas and have them destroyed without it impacting the relationship 
  2. From the beginning, Reed was intent on focusing on a business with recurring revenues that scaled massively 
  3. In one of the brainstorms with Reid, Marc brought up a VHS delivery service. After doing research it became clear that the tapes and shipping was too expensive, but once DVD’s came out, the whole equation changed and the business model now seemed viable 
  4. One of Marc’s guiding philosophies is to have his team loosely coupled but highly aligned – show the team where you want to go but not how to get there. Treat people like adults, trust them, give them a vision to go all in on
  5. It was expensive to acquire all the dvds at the beginning, trying to claim they have every dvd ever made, but they reframed it so that this expense was really cheap advertising. A dvd costs $20 but the reputation for having every dvd is priceless 
  6. Instituted a Tuesday date night with his wife where he would leave work at 5pm no matter what to spend time with her and no kids 
  7. Learned many of his leadership lessons from his time outdoors and exploring nature 
  8. Focus and doing your core competency extremely well is a matter of life and death for a startup 
  9. Environment of freedom and responsibility coupled with radical honesty is the foundation of Netflix’s culture
  10. They were struggling getting people to rent DVDs although being at success selling online. Eventually they tested out the idea of a subscription service with no late fees and an automatic sending of the next DVD in your queue when you return the old one. Mark would never have thought this was the path Netflix would have taken but it was immediately successful, so they ran with it 
  11. Nobody knows anything. This isn’t an indictment, ira a reminder. If this is true, you have to trust yourself, try things, and be ok with failing
  12. Randolph’s rules for success 
    1. Do at least 10% more than you’re asked to
    2. Never state as fact something which you don’t know 
    3. Be curteous always, up and down 
    4. Never complain 
    5. Don’t be afraid to make decisions when you have the facts 
    6. Be open minded but skeptical 
    7. Quantify whenever possible 
    8. Be prompt 
  13. You have to love the problem rather than the solution. This will keep you engaged and motivated even in difficult times 

What I got out of it

  1. Nobody knows anything so you won’t know whether an idea is good or bad until you try it. Marc’s enthusiasm is palpable even through the pages and the car ride him and Reed shared for years where they discussed and batted down ideas with radical honesty seems like an incredible gift

The HP Way by David Packard

Summary

  1. David Packard walks through the evolution of Hewlett-Packard from tiny startup to behemoth

Key Takeaways

  1. Finally, they hit upon the audio oscillator and sold eight units to Walt Disney, earning the company its first substantial revenues.
  2. Culture and the HP Way
    1. “But they had a great idea—the ultimate source of competitive advantage—if you can just see it,” I’d push back. “What might that be?” After ten or fifteen minutes, someone would likely voice the key point: Bill Hewlett and David Packard’s greatest product was not the audio oscillator, the pocket calculator, or the minicomputer. Their greatest product was the Hewlett-Packard Company and their greatest idea was The HP Way.
    2. The point is not that every company should necessarily adopt the specifics of the HP Way, but that Hewlett and Packard exemplify the power of building a company based on a framework of principles. The core essence of the HP Way consists of five fundamental precepts.
      1. The Hewlett-Packard company exists to make a technical contribution, and should only pursue opportunities consistent with this purpose;
      2. The Hewlett-Packard company demands of itself and its people superior performance—profitable growth is both a means and a measure of enduring success;
      3. The Hewlett-Packard company believes the best results come when you get the right people, trust them, give them freedom to find the best path to achieve objectives, and let them share in the rewards their work makes possible;
      4. The Hewlett-Packard company has a responsibility to contribute directly to the well-being of the communities in which its operates;
      5. Integrity, period.
    3. Hewlett and Packard rejected the idea that a company exists merely to maximize profits. “I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money,” Packard extolled to a group of HP managers on March 8, 1960. “While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper to find the real reasons for our being.” He then laid down the cornerstone concept of the HP Way: contribution. Do our products offer something unique—be it a technical contribution, a level of quality, a problem solved—to our customers? Are the communities in which we operate stronger and the lives of our employees better than they would be without us? Are people’s lives improved because of what we do? If the answer to any these questions is “no,” then Packard and Hewlett would deem HP a failure, no matter how much money the company returned to its shareholders.
    4. Therein we find the hidden DNA of the HP Way: the genius of the And. Make a technical contribution and meet customer needs. Take care of your people and demand results. Set unwavering standards and allow immense operating flexibility. Achieve growth and achieve profitability. Limit growth to arenas of distinctive contribution and create new arenas of growth through innovation. Never compromise integrity and always win in your chosen fields. Contribute to the community and deliver exceptional shareholder returns. Behind these specifics lies the biggest “And” of all, the principle that underpins every truly great company: preserve the core and stimulate progress.
    5. Any great social enterprise—whether it be a great company, a great university, a great religious institution, or a great nation—exemplifies a duality of continuity and change. On the one hand, it is guided by a set of core values and fundamental purpose that change little over time, while on the other hand, it stimulates progress—change, improvement, innovation, renewal—in all that is not part of the core guiding philosophy. In a great company, core values remain fixed while operating practices, cultural norms, strategies, tactics, processes, structures, and methods continually change in response to changing realities. Lose your core values, and you lose your soul; refuse to change your practices, and the world will pass you by.
    6. Yet the ultimate test of a great company is not the absence of difficulty, but the ability to recover from setbacks—even self-inflicted wounds—stronger than before.
    7. As we investigate this, we inevitably come to the conclusion that a group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company so they are able to accomplish something collectively which they could not accomplish separately. They are able to do something worthwhile—they make a contribution to society (a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental).
    8. We must realize that supervision is not a job of giving orders; it is a job of providing the opportunity for people to use their capabilities efficiently and effectively.
    9. If our main thought is to make money, we won’t care about these details. If we don’t care about the details, we won’t make as much money. They go hand in hand.
    10. Our first obligation, which is self-evident from my previous remarks, is to let people know they are doing something worthwhile. We must provide a means of letting our employees know they have done a good job. You as supervisors must convey this to your groups. Don’t just give orders. Provide the opportunity for your people to do something important. Encourage them.
    11. Profit is the measure of our contribution to our customers—it is a measure of what our customers are willing to pay us over and above the actual cost of an instrument.
    12. Get the best people, stress the importance of teamwork, and get them fired up to win the game.
    13. I found, after much trial and error, that applying steady gentle pressure from the rear worked best. Eventually, one would decide to pass through the gate; the rest would soon follow. Press them too hard, and they’d panic, scattering in all directions. Slack off entirely, and they’d just head back to their old grazing spots. This insight was useful throughout my management career.
    14. Another example of sharing, though in a much different way, occurred in 1970. Because of a downturn in the U.S. economy, our incoming orders were running at a rate quite a bit less than our production capability. We were faced with the prospect of a 10 percent layoff. Rather than a layoff, however, we tried a different tack. We went to a schedule of working nine days out of every two weeks—a 10 percent cut in work schedule with a corresponding 10 percent cut in pay. This applied to virtually all our U.S. factories, as well as to all executives and corporate staff. At the end of a six-month period, the order rate was up again and everyone returned to a full work schedule. Some said they enjoyed the long weekends even though they had to tighten their belts a little. The net result of this program was that effectively all shared the burden of the recession, good people were not released into a very tough job market, and we had our highly qualified workforce in place when business improved.
    15. GE was especially zealous about guarding its tool and parts bins to make sure employees didn’t steal anything. Faced with this obvious display of distrust, many employees set out to prove it justified, walking off with tools or parts whenever they could. Eventually, GE tools and parts were scattered all around town, including the attic of the house in which a number of us were living. In fact, we had so much equipment up there that when we threw the switch, the lights on the entire street would dim. The irony in all of this is that many of the tools and parts were being used by their GE “owners” to work on either job-related projects or skill-enhancing hobbies—activities that would likely improve their performance on the job. When HP got under way, the GE memories were still strong and I determined that our parts bins and storerooms should always be open. Keeping storerooms and parts bins open was advantageous to HP in two important ways. From a practical standpoint, the easy access to parts and tools helped product designers and others who wanted to work out new ideas at home or on weekends. A second reason, less tangible but important, is that the open bins and storerooms were a symbol of trust, a trust that is central to the way HP does business.
    16. Many companies have a policy stating that once employees leave the company, they are not eligible for reemployment. Over the years we have had a number of people leave because opportunities seemed greater elsewhere. We’ve always taken the view that as long as they have not worked for a direct competitor, and if they have a good work record, they are welcomed back. They know the company, need no retraining, and usually are happier and better motivated for having had the additional experience.
    17. No operating policy has contributed more to Hewlett-Packard’s success than the policy of “management by objective.” Although the term is relatively new to the lexicon of business, management by objective has been a fundamental part of HP’s operating philosophy since the very early days of the company. MBO, as it is frequently called, is the antithesis of management by control. The latter refers to a tightly controlled system of management of the military type, where people are assigned—and expected to do—specific jobs, precisely as they are told and without the need to know much about the overall objectives of the organization. Management by objective, on the other hand, refers to a system in which overall objectives are clearly stated and agreed upon, and which gives people the flexibility to work toward those goals in ways they determine best for their own areas of responsibility. It is the philosophy of decentralization in management and the very essence of free enterprise.
    18. I don’t argue that the job can’t be done that way, but I do argue strongly that the best job can be done when the manager has a genuine and thorough understanding of the work. I don’t see how managers can even understand what standards to observe, what performance to require, and how to measure results unless they understand in some detail the specific nature of the work they are trying to supervise.
    19. I learned everything I could about the causes of failure and decided to spend most of my time on the factory floor, making sure every step in the manufacturing process was done correctly. I found several instances where the written instructions provided the manufacturing people were inadequate, and I worked with them on each step in the process to make sure there were no mistakes. This painstaking attention to detail paid off, and every tube in the next batch passed its final test.
    20. That was the genesis of what has been called MBWA. I learned that quality requires minute attention to every detail, that everyone in an organization wants to do a good job, that written instructions are seldom adequate, and that personal involvement is essential.
    21. It needs to be frequent, friendly, unfocused, and unscheduled—but far from pointless. And since its principal aim is to seek out people’s thoughts and opinions, it requires good listening.
    22. Linked with MBWA is another important management practice at Hewlett-Packard, and a basic tenet of the HP Way. It’s called the “open door policy.” Like MBWA, this policy is aimed at building mutual trust and understanding, and creating an environment in which people feel free to express their ideas, opinions, problems, and concerns.
    23. The open door policy is very important at HP because it characterizes the management style to which we are dedicated. It means managers are available, open, and receptive. Everyone at HP, including the CEO, works in open-plan, doorless offices. This ready availability has its drawbacks in that interruptions are always possible. But at HP we’ve found that the benefits of accessibility far outweigh the disadvantages. The open door policy is an integral part of the management-by-objective philosophy. Also, it is a procedure that encourages and, in fact, ensures that the communication flow be upward as well as downward.
  3. Business
    1. Bill’s audio oscillator represented the first practical, low-cost method of generating high-quality audio frequencies needed in communications, geophysics, medicine, and defense work. The audio oscillator was to become the Hewlett-Packard Company’s first product.
    2. We designated this first product the Model 200A because we thought the name would make us look like we’d been around for a while. We were afraid that if people knew we’d never actually developed, designed, and built a finished product, they’d be scared off. Our pricing was even more naive: We set it at $54.40 not because of any cost calculations but because, of all things, it reminded us of “54°4o’ or Fight!” (the 1844 slogan used in the campaign to establish the northern border of the United States in the Pacific Northwest). We soon discovered we couldn’t afford to build the machines for that price. Luckily, our nearest competition was a $400 oscillator from General Radio, which gave us considerable room to maneuver.
    3. At the end of 1939, our first full year in business, our sales totaled $5,369 and we had made $1,563 in profits. We would show a profit every year thereafter.
    4. In those early days Bill and I had to be versatile. We had to tackle almost everything ourselves—from inventing and building products to pricing, packaging, and shipping them; from dealing with customers and sales representatives to keeping the books; from writing the ads to sweeping up at the end of the day. Many of the things I learned in this process were invaluable, and not available in business schools.
    5. He said that more businesses die from indigestion than starvation. I have observed the truth of that advice many times since then.
    6. Although the pressure to meet production deadlines was enormous, there was also lots of excitement and a great sense of camaraderie.
    7. Eventually, because of big gains in productivity, the bonus to our entire workforce rose to as much as 85 percent of base wages. At that point, which was some time after the war, we abandoned this particular bonus plan. But in no way did we discontinue the practice of sharing profits among all our people. To this day, Hewlett-Packard has a profit-sharing program that encourages teamwork and maintains that important link between employee effort and corporate success.
    8. Bill and I had decided we were going to reinvest our profits and not resort to long-term borrowing. I felt very strongly about this issue, and we found we were clearly able to finance 100 percent growth per year by reinvesting our profits. After some discussion with the members of the board, they seemed to be impressed with what we were doing but said they had a limit of 12 percent of profit they could allow on equity. I pointed out that our business had been doubling every year and that it would continue to do so for several years. I also told them that I had kept my salary at a lower level than it should have been because I did not think it was fair for my salary to be higher than Bill’s army salary.
    9. We developed additional instruments, and later on, again working with Dr. Haeff, we built a device his group developed that was capable of jamming an enemy’s ship-board radar. It was at the core of what was code-named the Leopard project. We were very conscientious about meeting our delivery schedule on this project, working around the clock. I recall moving a cot into the factory and sleeping there many nights.
    10. I believe this decision to focus our efforts was extremely important, not only in the early days of the company but later on as well. During the war, for example, we could have taken on some big—at least for us—production contracts. But that would have built the company to a level that probably couldn’t be sustained later on. I felt that we should take on no more than we could reasonably handle, building a solid base by doing what we did best—designing and manufacturing high-quality instruments.
    11. The counter was so useful when it did work that our customers tolerated its unreliability.
    12. Our collaboration with Stanford and Fred Terman continued, and in 1954 we expanded on the fellowship program and established what became known as the Honors Cooperative Program, which allowed qualified HP engineers to pursue advanced degrees at Stanford. The program made it possible for us to hire top-level young graduates from around the country with the promise that if they came to work for us and we thought it appropriate, they could attend graduate school while on full HP salary. Originally, the company paid part of their tuition as well, and more recently has paid all of their tuition. More than four hundred HP engineers have obtained master’s or doctorate degrees through this program. It has enabled us to hire the top engineering graduates from universities all across the country for a number of years—an important factor in the ultimate success of our company.
    13. As I have said many times, our success depends in large part on giving the responsibility to the level where it can be exercised effectively, usually on the lowest possible level of the organization, the level nearest the customer.
    14. There were about 4,000 people at this facility, and we were the first Americans ever to visit. It was obvious to me that what they were building would be entirely useless in modern-day combat, but I didn’t say anything at the time, except to compliment them on their workmanship.
    15. Bill Hewlett and I were raised during that depression. We had observed its devastating effects on people, including many families and friends who were close to us. My father had been appointed as a bankruptcy referee for the state of Colorado. When I returned to Pueblo during the summers of the 1930s, I often helped my father in looking up the records of those companies that had gone bankrupt. I noted that the banks simply foreclosed on firms that mortgaged their assets and these firms were left with nothing. Those firms that did not borrow money had a difficult time, but they ended up with their assets intact and survived during the depression years that followed. From this experience I decided our company should not incur any long-term debt. For this reason Bill and I determined we would operate the company on a pay-as-you-go basis, financing our growth primarily out of earnings rather than by borrowing money.
    16. Our long-standing policy has been to reinvest most of our profits and to depend on this reinvestment, plus funds from employee stock purchases and other cash flow items, to finance our growth. The stock purchase plan allows employees to apply up to a certain percentage of their salaries to purchase shares of HP stock at a preferential price. The company picks up a portion of the price of the stock. The plan has been in existence since 1959 and has provided us with significant amounts of cash to help finance our growth.
    17. I was convinced we could correct the problem through greater self-discipline. I quickly visited nearly every one of our major divisions, meeting with a host of managers and giving them a lecture that was later characterized by one manager as “Dave’s give-’em-hell talk.”
    18. One of our most important management tasks is maintaining the proper balance between short-term profit performance and investment for future strength and growth.
    19. The pricing of new products is an important and challenging exercise. Often a product will be introduced to the market at a price too low to make an adequate short-term profit. The thinking is that “we’ll get our costs down and that will enable us to make a good profit”— either next month, next quarter, or next year. But that time seldom, if ever, comes. Often pricing also falls prey to the goal of “market share.” Many managers in American industry are caught up with the idea of capturing a larger share of a market, often by undercutting the competition’s prices. In the short term, that often results in an impressive sales volume . . . but at the expense of little or no profit.
    20. What we did decide, however, was that we wanted to direct our efforts toward making important technical contributions to the advancement of science, industry, and human welfare. It was a lofty, ambitious goal. But right from the beginning, Bill and I knew we didn’t want to be a “me-too” company merely copying products already on the market.
    21. A constant flow of good new products is the lifeblood of Hewlett-Packard and essential to our growth. Early on we developed a system for measuring the flow and success of new products.
    22. At HP, as in other technical companies, there is no shortage of ideas. The problem is to select those likely to fill a real need in the marketplace. To warrant serious pursuit an idea must be both practical (the device under consideration must work properly) and useful. Out of those ideas that are practical, a smaller number are useful. To be useful an invention must not only fill a need, it must be an economical and efficient solution to that need. we often used to select projects on the basis of a six-to-one engineering return. That is, the profit we expected to derive over the lifetime of a product should be at least six times greater than the cost of developing the product. Almost without exception, the products that beat the six-to-one ratio by the widest margin were the most innovative.
    23. How do managers provide encouragement and help the inventor retain enthusiasm in the face of such disappointment? HP shows off its first computer in 1967 at the IEEE trade show in New York City. Many HP managers over the years have expressed admiration for the way Bill Hewlett handled these situations. One manager has called it Bill’s “hat-wearing process.” Upon first being approached by a creative inventor with unbridled enthusiasm for a new idea, Bill immediately put on a hat called “enthusiasm.” He would listen, express excitement where appropriate and appreciation in general, while asking a few rather gentle and not too pointed questions. A few days later, he would get back to the inventor wearing a hat called “inquisition.” This was the time for very pointed questions, a thorough probing of the idea, lots of give-and-take. Without a final decision, the session was adjourned. Shortly thereafter, Bill would put on his “decision” hat and meet once again with the inventor. With appropriate logic and sensitivity, judgment was rendered and a decision made about the idea. This process provided the inventor with a sense of satisfaction, even when the decision went against the project—a vitally important outcome for engendering continued enthusiasm and creativity.
    24. In 1994, HP’s sales in computer products, service, and support were almost $20 billion, or about 78 percent of the company’s total business. In 1964, our sales totaled $125 million and were entirely in instruments. Not a penny was from computer sales. This represents a remarkable transformation of our company and its business. It would be nice to claim that we foresaw the profound effect of computers on our business and that we prepared ourselves to take early advantage of the computer age. Unfortunately, the record does not justify such pride. It would be more accurate to say that we were pushed into computers by the revolution that was changing electronics.
    25. Several years later, at a gathering of HP engineers, I presented Chuck with a medal for “extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty.” So how does a company distinguish between insubordination and entrepreneurship? To this young engineer’s mind the difference lay in the intent. “I wasn’t trying to be defiant or obstreperous. I really just wanted a success for HP,” Chuck said. “It never occurred to me that it might cost me my job.” As a postscript to the story, this same engineer later became director of a department . . . with his reputation as a maverick intact.
    26. The fundamental basis for success in the operation of Hewlett-Packard is the job we do in satisfying the needs of our customers. We encourage every person in our organization to think continually about how his or her activities relate to the central purpose of serving our customers.
    27. Noel, a key member of our top-management team, was a strong advocate for helping the customer, so much so that he wanted our sales engineers to take the customer’s side in any disputes with the company. “We don’t want you blindly agreeing with us,” he’d tell them. “We want you to stick up for the customer. After all, we’re not selling hardware; we’re selling solutions to customer problems.” Noel stressed the importance of customer feedback in helping us design and develop products aimed at real customer needs. He also insisted that our salespeople never speak disparagingly of the competition. This reflected our feeling that competitors should be respected, the type of respect that existed between General Radio and HP when Bill and I were starting out.
    28. “More for less” became the goal for each new LaserJet model. This objective reveals a lesson learned from our experience with calculators. For many years we continued to introduce increasingly sophisticated calculators with greater capabilities at greater cost to consumers. Meanwhile, our competitors were offering basic features at a lower price. For the mass market, basic features were sufficient, and the lower-priced models decreased HP’s calculator market share. The sophisticated HP calculators sold to customers who needed more advanced capabilities—but we lost a large portion of the marketplace. With LaserJet printers, we decided that each revision would offer our customers greater capability at a lower price than its predecessor.
    29. Kenzo Sasaoka, our manager in Japan, and he said that I had shown him the way—that gains in quality come from meticulous attention to detail and every step in the manufacturing process must be done as carefully as possible, not as quickly as possible. This sounds simple, but it is achieved only if everyone in the organization is dedicated to quality.
    30. Especially in a technical business where the rate of progress is rapid, a continuing program of education must be undertaken and maintained.
    31. Another requirement is that a high degree of enthusiasm should be encouraged at all levels; in particular, the people in high management positions must not only be enthusiastic themselves, they must be able to engender enthusiasm among their associates. There can be no place for halfhearted interest or halfhearted effort.
    32. Thus, we made an early and important decision: We did not want to be a “hire and fire”—a company that would seek large, short-term contracts, employ a great many people for the duration of the contract, and at its completion let those people go. This type of operation is often the quickest and most efficient way to get a big job accomplished. But Bill and I didn’t want to operate that way. We wanted to be in business for the long haul, to have a company built around a stable and dedicated workforce. 
    33. Growth also affected the size and nature of company picnics. Bill and I considered picnics an important part of the HP Way, and in the early days we had an annual picnic in the Palo Alto area for all our people and their families. It was a big event, one largely planned and carried out by our employees themselves. The menu consisted of New York steaks, hamburgers, Mexican beans or frijoles, green salad, garlic French bread, and beer. The company bought the food and beer. It became customary for the machine shop people to barbeque the steaks and burgers, with other departments responsible for other parts of the menu. Bill and I and other senior executives served the food, giving us the opportunity to meet all of the employees and their families. In the early 1950s the company bought a parcel of land, called Little Basin, in the redwood country about an hour’s drive from Palo Alto. We converted part of it into a recreation area, large enough to have a picnic with two thousand people or more. We also made it available year around for our employees and their families to go overnight camping. This was such a popular benefit that we decided, later on, to duplicate the idea in other parts of the world where we had concentrations of HP people.
    34. The underlying principle of HP’s personnel policies became the concept of sharing—sharing the responsibilities for defining and meeting goals, sharing in company ownership through stock purchase plans, sharing in profits, sharing the opportunities for personal and professional development, and even sharing the burdens created by occasional downturns in business.
    35. In the United States and many other countries, employees participate in stock purchase plans and in cash profit sharing. U.S. employees with more than six months of service are eligible for profit sharing, and each year receive amounts calculated on the company’s pretax earnings. Over the years this payout has been as high as 9.9 percent and as low as 4.1 percent of base salary. Since the company has always been profitable, the program has continued uninterrupted since we started it in the 1950s.
    36. An important responsibility of managers is the selection and training of their potential successors. Management succession is especially critical at the upper levels of an organization, where a manager may be responsible for a wide scope of complex activities involving the expenditure of many millions of dollars and the efforts of many thousands of people.
    37. I have always felt that the most successful companies have a practice of promoting from within.
    38. Today Hewlett-Packard operates in many different communities throughout the world. We stress to our people that each of these communities must be better for our presence. This means being sensitive to the needs and interests of the community; it means applying the highest standards of honesty and integrity to all our relationships with individuals and groups; it means enhancing and protecting the physical environment and building attractive plants and offices of which the community can be proud; it means contributing talent, energy, time, and financial support to community projects.
    39. It took forty years for the company Bill Hewlett and I started in 1939 to reach one billion dollars in annual sales and a major part of that was from inflation. In the 1994 fiscal year that ended last October, we began the year with twenty billion dollars in worldwide sales and added five billion to that by year’s end. This occurred with essentially no inflation. Other technology companies have shown similar growth. Just as it has in the past, our growth in the future will come from new products. In 1994, we spent two billion dollars in new product development. Beginning in 1939 we generated at least six dollars of profit, spread over five or six years, for every dollar spent on new product development. By new products, I mean products that make real contributions to technology, not products that copy what someone else has done. This must be our standard in the future just as it has been in the past.
  4. Other
    1. I had to work very hard at Latin, but the math and science courses were easy because I already knew about as much as the teachers did. I was elected president of my class all four years.
    1. Bill went to a private elementary school, going to and from on a cable car. He did well with numbers and arithmetic but had great difficulty reading. He was thought to be a slow learner when, in actuality, he was dyslexic. But in those days no one knew what dyslexia was. He continued to have trouble reading and writing, and later on, in lecture classes, he couldn’t write notes fast enough to keep up with the lecturer. So, as is the case with many dyslexics, he learned how to listen, to file thoughts and information in a logical form and have them readily available from memory. “This procedure worked particularly well in learning math and science,” he says.
    2. I learned everything I could about possible causes of failure, and I decided to spend most of my time on the factory floor to make sure every step was done properly. It soon became apparent that the instructions the engineering department gave the factory people were not adequate to ensure that every step would be done properly. I found the factory people eager to do the job right. We worked together to conduct tests and identify every possible cause of failure, and as a result, every tube in that batch of twenty passed its final test without a single failure. That was a very important lesson for me—that personal communication was often necessary to back up written instructions. That was the genesis of what became “management by walking around” at the Hewlett-Packard Company.
    3. These miscellaneous jobs made us more sure of ourselves and our skills. They also revealed something we hadn’t planned but that was of great benefit to our partnership—namely, that our abilities tended to be complementary. Bill was better trained in circuit technology, and I was better trained and more experienced in manufacturing processes. This combination of abilities was particularly useful in designing and manufacturing electronic products.
    4. Another benefit from ranching was my friendship with Bill Hewlett. By running the ranches together—as well as the company—Bill and I developed a unique understanding of each other. This harmony has served us well every single day in running HP.
    5. Shortly after my arrival at the Pentagon, I called on all four of the Joint Chiefs in their offices and told them I wanted to work with them and that I needed their help. Bill and I had a deer hunt every year at our San Felipe ranch southeast of San Jose. He and I brought all the food, and we cooked and served the meals and washed the dishes ourselves with the help of our guests. In the spirit of friendship and collaboration, I invited the Joint Chiefs to join us at the deer hunt in 1969. They came and each got a deer. When it was time to wash the dishes, they rolled up their sleeves and helped us. That hunt helped establish a good rapport with the Joint Chiefs.
    6. Before I went to Washington, even the people who encouraged me to go warned me that a career in business would ill prepare me for the frustrations of government bureaucracy. And they were right.
    7. When i think of the phenomenal growth of the electronics industry over the last fifty years, I realize how fortunate Bill Hewlett and I were to be in on the ground floor. But it reminds me of a story I like to tell on myself. In my sophomore year at Stanford I took a course in American history and had the opportunity to study the westward movement beginning with the early pioneers and continuing throughout the nineteenth century. I remember lamenting that I had been born one hundred years too late, that all the frontiers had been conquered, and that my generation would be deprived of the pioneering opportunities offered our forebears. But in fact, we went on to make breathtaking advances in the twentieth century.

What I got out of it

  1. Some incredible business lessons from one of the original silicon valley companies that started it all

Marc Andreessen’s Blog Archives

Summary

  1. A compilation of Marc Andreesen’s blog posts – touching on everything from startups to productivity (PDF can be found here)

Key Takeaways

  1. Favorite articles – Why not to do a startup, guide to personal productivity, The Psychology of Entrepreneurial Misjudgment, Age and the Entrepreneur, Luck and the Entrepreneur
  2. When the VC’s say “no”
    1. Third, retool your plan. This is the hard part—changing the facts of your plan and what you are trying to do, to make your company more fundable. To describe the dimensions that you should consider as you contemplate retooling your plan, let me introduce the onion theory of risk. If you’re an investor, you look at the risk around an investment as if it’s an onion. Just like you peel an onion and remove each layer in turn, risk in a startup investment comes in layers that get peeled away — reduced — one by one. Your challenge as an entrepreneur trying to raise venture capital is to keep peeling layers of risk off of your particular onion until the VCs say “yes” — until the risk in your startup is reduced to the point where investing in your startup doesn’t look terrifying and merely looks risky.
  3. But I Don’t Know Any VCs
    1. VCs work mostly through referrals And of course it’s even better if you walk in with existing “traction” of some form — customers, beta customers, some evidence of adoption by Internet users, whatever is appropriate for your particular startup. With a working product that could be the foundation of a fundable startup, you have a much better chance of getting funded once you do get in the door. Back to my rule of thumb from the last post: when in doubt, work on the product. Failing a working product and ideally customers or users, be sure to have as fIeshed out a presentation as you possibly can— including mockups, screenshots, market analyses, customer research such as interviews with real prospects, and the like. 
    1. Don’t bother with a long detailed written business plan. Most VCs will either fund a startup based on a fleshed out Powerpoint presentation of about 20 slides, or they won’t fund it at all. Corollary: any VC who requires a long detailed written business plan is probably not the right VC to be working with.
    2. Alternately, jump all over Y Combinator. This program, created by entrepreneur Paul Graham and his partners, funds early-stage startups in an organized program in Silicon Valley and Boston and then makes sure the good ones get in front of venture capitalists for follow-on funding. It’s a great idea and a huge opportunity for the people who participate in it.
    3. Read VC blogs — read them all, and read them very very carefully. VCs who blog are doing entrepreneurs a huge service both in conveying highly useful information as well as frequently putting themselves out there to be contacted by entrepreneurs in various ways including email, comments, and even uploaded podcasts. Each VC is different in terms of how she wants to engage with people online, but by all means read as many VC blogs as you can and interact with as many of them as you can in appropriate ways.
    4. So, when such a new thing comes out—like, hint hint, Facebook or Twitter— jump all over it, see which VCs are using it, and interact with them that way — sensibly, of course. More generally, it’s a good idea for entrepreneurs who are looking for funding to blog — about their startup, about interesting things going on, about their point of view.
  4. The Only Thing That Matters
    1. Personally, I’ll take the third position — I’ll assert that market is the most important factor in a startup’s success or failure. Why? In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers — the market pulls product out of the startup. The market needs to be fulfilled and the market will be fulfilled, by the first viable product that comes along. The product doesn’t need to be great; it just has to basically work. And, the market doesn’t care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product.
    2. In honor of Andy Rachleff, formerly of Benchmark Capital, who crystallized this formulation for me, let me present Rachleff’s Law of Startup Success: The #1 company-killer is lack of market. Andy puts it this way:
      1. When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
      2. When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
      3. When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.
    3. Let’s introduce Rachleff’s Corollary of Startup Success: The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit. Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market. You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market Ft when it’s happening
    4. Carried a step further, I believe that the life of any startup can be divided into two parts: before product/market fit (call this “BPMF”) and after product/market fit (“APMF”). When you are BPMF, focus obsessively on getting to product/market fit. Do whatever is required to get to product/market fit. Including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital — whatever is required.
  5. The Moby Dick Theory of Big Companies
    1. First, don’t do startups that require deals with big companies to make them successful.
    2. Second, never assume that a deal with a big company is closed
    3. Third, be extremely patient
    4. Fourth, beware bad deals
    5. Fifth, never, ever assume a big company will do the obvious thing.
    6. Sixth, be aware that big companies care a lot more about what other big companies are doing than what any startup is doing.
    7. Seventh, if doing deals with big companies is going to be a key part of your strategy, be sure to hire a real pro who has done it before.
    8. Eighth, don’t get obsessed.
  6. How much funding is too little? too much?
    1. The answer to that question, in my view, is based on my theory that a startup’s life can be divided into two parts — Before Product/ Market Fit, and After Product/Market Fit. Before Product/Market Fit, a startup should ideally raise at least enough money to get to Product/Market Fit. After Product/Market Fit, a startup should ideally raise at least enough money to fully exploit the opportunity in front of it, and then to get to profitability while still fully exploiting that opportunity. I will further argue that the definition of “at least enough money” in each case should include a substantial amount of extra money beyond your default plan, so that you can withstand bad surprises. In other words, insurance. This is particularly true for startups that have not yet achieved Product/ Market Fit, since you have no real idea how long that will take. Raising money is never an accomplishment in and of itself — it just raises the stakes for all the hard work you would have had to do anyway: actually building your business.
    2. Some signs of cultural corrosion caused by raising too much money:
      1. Hiring too many people — slows everything down and makes it much harder for you to react and change. You are almost certainly setting yourself up for layoffs in the future, even if you are successful, because you probably won’t accurately allocate the hiring among functions for what you will really need as your business grows.
      2. Lazy management culture — it is easy for a management culture to get set where the manager’s job is simply to hire people, and then every other aspect of management suffers, with potentially disastrous long-term consequences to morale and effectiveness.
      3. Engineering team bloat — another side effect of hiring too many people; it’s very easy for engineering teams to get too large, and it happens very fast. And then the “Mythical Man Month” effect kicks in and everything slows to a crawl, your best people get frustrated and quit, and you’re in huge trouble.
      4. Lack of focus on product and customers — it’s a lot easier to not be completely obsessed with your product and your customers when you have a lot of money in the bank and don’t have to worry about your doors closing imminently.
      5. Too many salespeople too soon — are out selling a product that isn’t quite ready yet, hasn’t yet achieved Product/Market Fit — alienating early adopters and making it much harder to go back when the product does get right.
      6. Product schedule slippage — what’s the urgency? We have all this cash! Creating a golden opportunity for a smaller, scrappier startup to come along and kick your rear. So what should you do if you do raise a lot of money? As my old boss Jim Barksdale used to say, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing —be just as focused on product and customers when you raise a lot of money as you would be if you hadn’t raised a lot of money.
      7. Easy to say, hard to do, but worth it.
    3. Continue to run as lean as you can, bank as much of the money as possible, and save it for a rainy day — or a nuclear winter. Tell everyone inside the company, over and over and over, until they can’t stand it anymore, and then tell them some more, that raising money does not count as an accomplishment and that you haven’t actually done anything yet other than raise the stakes and increase the pressure.
    4. Illustrate that point by staying as scrappy as possible on material items — office space, furniture, etc. The two areas to splurge, in my opinion, are big-screen monitors and ergonomic office chairs. Other than that, it should be Ikea all the way.
  7. Why a startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much
    1. A startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much, because it is very hard to determine up front exactly what combination of product and market will result in success. By definition you will be doing something new, in a world that is a very uncertain place. You are simply probably not going to know whether your initial idea will work as a product and a business, or not. And you will probably have to rapidly evolve your plan — possibly every aspect of it — as you go. (The military has a saying that expresses the same concept — “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” In this case, your enemy is the world at large.) It is therefore much more important for a startup to aggressively seek out a big market, and product/market Ft within that market, once the startup is up and running, than it is to try to plan out what you are going to do in great detail ahead of time. The history of successful startups is quite clear on this topic.
  8. Hiring, managing, promoting, and firing executives
    1. Hire an executive only when it’s clear that you need one: when an organization needs to get built; when hiring needs to accelerate; when you need more processes and structure and rigor to how you do things.
    2. Second, hire the best person for the next nine months, not the next three years. 
    3. Third, whenever possible, promote from within.
  9. Retaining great people
    1. Companies that are winning — even really big, old ones — never have a retention problem. Everyone wants to stay, and when someone does leave, it’s really easy to get someone great to take her place. Companies that have a retention problem usually have a winning problem. Or rather, a “not winning” problem. 
    2. And here’s a neat trick that actually works. Go out and re-recruit the best people who already left. Some of them have since discovered that the grass isn’t actually greener at whatever mediocre startup they joined or whatever other big company they jumped to. Give them fat packages against the new mission and get them back.
  10. Where to go and why
    1. When picking an industry to enter, my favorite rule of thumb is this:
      1. Pick an industry where the founders of the industry — the founders of the important companies in the industry — are still alive and actively involved. This is easy to figure out — just look at the CEO, chairman or chairwoman, and board of directors for the major companies in the industry. If the founders of the companies are currently serving as CEO, chairman or chairwoman, or board member of their companies, it’s a good industry to enter. It is probably still young and vital, and there are probably still opportunities to exploit all over the place, either at those companies or at new companies in that industry. Once you have picked an industry, get right to the center of it as fast as you possibly can. Your target is the core of change and opportunity — figure out where the action is and head there, and do not delay your progress for extraneous opportunities, no matter how lucrative they might be. Never worry about being a small fish in a big pond. Being a big fish in a small pond sucks—you will hit the ceiling on what you can achieve quickly, and nobody will care. Optimize at all times for being in the most dynamic and exciting pond you can find. That is where the great opportunities can be found. Apply this rule when selecting which company to start
      2. In a rapidly changing Held like technology, the best place to get experience when you’re starting out is in younger, highgrowth companies.
  11. The Pmcarca guide to personal productivity
    1. Don’t keep a schedule!
      1. By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day. As a result, you can always work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time.
      2. When someone emails or calls to say, “Let’s meet on Tuesday at 3″, the appropriate response is: “I’m not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can’t commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I’m available, I’ll meet with you.” Or, if it’s important, say, “You know what, let’s meet right now.” Clearly this only works if you can get away with it. If you have a structured job, a structured job environment, or you’re a CEO, it will be hard to pull off. 
      3. If you have at any point in your life lived a relatively structured existence—probably due to some kind of job with regular office hours, meetings, and the like—you will know that there is nothing more liberating than looking at your calendar and seeing nothing but free time for weeks ahead to work on the most important things in whatever order you want. This also gives you the best odds of maximizing Yow, which is a whole other topic but highly related.
    2. Keep 3 and only 3 lists: a Todo List, a Watch List, and a Later List
      1. The more into lists you are, the more important this is. Into the Todo List goes all the stuff you “must” do — commitments, obligations, things that have to be done. A single list, possibly subcategorized by timeframe (today, this week, next week, next month).
      2. Into the Watch List goes all the stuff going on in your life that you have to follow up on, wait for someone else to get back to you on, remind yourself of in the future, or otherwise remember. Into the Later List goes everything else—everything you might want to do or will do when you have time or wish you could do. If it doesn’t go on one of those three lists, it goes away.
    3. 3×5 Index Cards
      1. Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3×5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day Use the back of the 3×5 card as your anti-todo list. Each time you do something, you get to write it down and you get that little rush of endorphins that the mouse gets every time
      2. he presses the button in his cage and gets a food pellet. Then tear it up and throw it away
    4. Structured procrastination
      1. The gist of Structured Procrastination is that you should never fight the tendency to procrastinate — instead, you should use it to your advantage in order to get other things done.
      2. As John says, “The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.”
    5. Strategic incompetence
      1. Enough said
    6. Do email exactly twice a day
    7. When you do process email, do it like this
      1. First, always finish each of your two daily email sessions with a completely empty inbox.
      2. Second, when doing email, either answer or file every single message until you get to that empty inbox state of grace.
      3. Third, emails relating to topics that are current working projects or pressing issues go into temporary subfolders of a folder called Action.
      4. Fourth, aside from those temporary Action subfolders, only keep three standing email folders: Pending, Review, and Vault
        1. Emails that you know you’re going to have to deal with again — such as emails in which someone is committing something to you and you want to be reminded to follow up on it if the person doesn’t deliver — go in Pending.
        2. Emails with things you want to read in depth when you have more time, go into Review.
        3. Everything else goes into Vault.
    8. Don’t answer the phone
      1. Let it go to voicemail and do them in batches
    9. Hide in an iPod
      1. People are less likely to bother you even if you’re not listening to anything
    10. Sleeping and eating
      1. start the day with a real, sit-down breakfast. This fuels you up and gives you a chance to calmly, peacefully collect your thoughts and prepare mentally and emotionally for the day ahead
    11. Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes
    12. Do something you love
  12. The Psychology of Entrepreneurial Misjudgment
    1. The design of tactical incentives — e.g. bonuses — is a whole topic in and of itself, and is critically important as your company grows. The most significant thing to keep in mind is that how the goals are designed really matters — as Mr. Munger says, people tend to game any system you put in place, and then they tend to rationalize that gaming until they believe they really are doing the right thing. I think it was Andy Grove who said that for every goal you put in front of someone, you should also put in place a counter-goal to restrict gaming of the first goal. 
    2. My favorite way around this problem is the one identified by Clayton Christensen in The Innovator’s Dilemma: don’t go after existing customers in a category and try to get them to buy something new; instead, go find the new customers who weren’t able to afford or adopt the incarnation of the status quo.
  13. Age and the Entrepreneur
    1. Just do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. The article he references can be found here
  14. Luck and the entrepreneur
    1. Chance… something fortuitous that happens unpredictably without discernable human intention. 
    2. OK, so what are they?
      1. In Chance I, the good luck that occurs is completely accidental. It is pure blind luck that comes with no effort on our part. 
      2. In Chance II, something else has been added — motion. Unluck runs out if you keep stirring up things so that random elements can combine, by virtue of you and their inherent affinities.
      3. Now, as we move on to Chance III, we see blind luck, but it tiptoes in softly, dressed in camouflage. Chance presents only a faint clue, the potential opportunity exists, but it will be overlooked except by that one person uniquely equipped to observe it, visualize it conceptually, and fully grasp its significance. Chance III involves a special receptivity, discernment, and intuitive grasp of significance unique to one particular recipient. Louis Pasteur characterized it for all time when he said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
      4. [Chance IV] favors the individualized action. This is the fourth element in good luck — an active, but unintentional, subtle individualized prompting of it. Please explain! Chance IV is the kind of luck that develops during a probing action which has a distinctive personal flavor. The English Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, summed up the principle underlying Chance IV when he noted: “We make our fortunes and we call them fate.” Chance IV comes to you, unsought, because of who you are and how you behave. Chance IV is so personal, it is not easily understood by someone else the first time around… here we probe into the subterranean recesses of personal hobbies and behavioral quirks that autobiographers know about, biographers rarely. [In neurological terms], Chance III [is] concerned with personal sensory receptivity; its counterpart, Chance IV, [is] involved with personal motor behavior.
      1. [You] have to look carefully to find Chance IV for three reasons.
        1. The first is that when it operates directly, it unfolds in an elliptical, unorthodox manner.
        2. The second is that it often works indirectly.
        3. The third is that some problems it may help solve are uncommonly difficult to understand because they have gone through a process of selection. We must bear in mind that, by the time Chance IV finally occurs, the easy, more accessible problems will already have been solved earlier by conventional actions, conventional logic, or by the operations of the other forms of chance. What remains late in the game, then, is a tough core of complex, resistant problems. Such problems yield to none but an unusual approach…[Chance IV involves] a kind of discrete behavioral performance focused in a highly specific manner.
      2. Here’s the money quote:
        1. Whereas the lucky connections in Chance II might come to anyone with disposable energy as the happy by-product of any aimless, circular stirring of the pot, the links of Chance IV can be drawn together and fused only by one quixotic rider cantering in on his own homemade hobby horse to intercept the problem at an odd angle.
    3. A recap?
      1. Chance I is completely impersonal; you can’t influence it.
      2. Chance II favors those who have a persistent curiosity about many things coupled with an energetic willingness to experiment and explore.
    1. Chance III favors those who have a sufficient background of sound knowledge plus special abilities in observing, remembering, recalling, and quickly forming significant new associations.
    2. Chance IV favors those with distinctive, if not eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors. This of course leads to a number of challenges for how we live our lives as entrepreneurs and creators in any field:  How energetic are we? How inclined towards motion are we? 
    3. Those of you who read my first page and the entrepreneur post will recognize that this is a variation on the “optimize for the maximum number of swings of the bat” principle. In a highly uncertain world, a bias to action is key to catalyzing success, and luck, and is often to be preferred to thinking things through more thoroughly.
      1. How curious are we? How determined are we to learn about our chosen field, other fields, and the world around us? In my post on hiring great people, I talked about the value I place on curiosity — and specifically, curiosity over intelligence. This is why. Curious people are more likely to already have in their heads the building blocks for creating a solution for any particular problem they come across, versus the more quote-unquote intelligent, but less curious, person who is trying to get by on logic and pure intellectual effort.
      2. How fIexible and aggressive are we at synthesizing– at linking together multiple, disparate, apparently unrelated experiences on the fly? I think this is a hard skill to consciously improve, but I think it is good to start most creative exercises with the idea that the solution may come from any of our past experiences or knowledge, as opposed to out of a textbook or the mouth of an expert. (And, if you are a manager and you have someone who is particularly good at synthesis, promote her as fast as you possibly can.)
      3. How uniquely are we developing a personal point of view — a personal approach– a personal set of “eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors” that will uniquely prepare us to create? This, in a nutshell, is why I believe that most creative people are better off with more life experience and journeys into seemingly unrelated areas, as opposed to more formal domain-specific education — at least if they want to create. In short, I think there is a roadmap to getting luck on our side, and I think this is it.

What I got out of it

  1. Some awesome insights. I changed how I batch mail, learned how to see luck from 4 different perspectives, and thought Simonton’s age and outstanding achievement was incredible 

Anything You Want: 40 lessons for new kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

Summary

  1. “I hope you find these ideas useful in your own life or business. I also hope you disagree with some of them. Then I hope you email me to tell me about your different point of view, because that’s my favorite part of all. (I’m a student, not a guru.)”

Key Takeaways

  1. What’s Your Compass?
    1. Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself
    2. Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself
    3. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world
    4. Never do anything just for the money
    5. Don’t pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help
    6. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working
    7. Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.
    8. Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people
    9. You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people
    10. Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your busienss
    11. The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy
  2. If it’s not a hit, switch
    1. We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence. But I think had misunderstood. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working. When you present one to the world and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing it as is. Instead, get back to improving and inventing
  3. No “yes.” Either “Hell yeah!” or “no.”
  4. The advantage of no funding
    1. Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision – even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone – according to what’s best for your customers. If you’re ever unsure what to prioritize, just ask your customers the open-ended question, “How can I best help you now?” Then focus on satisfying those requests. None of your customers will ask you to turn your attention to expanding. They want you to keep your attention focused on them. It’s counter-intuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone. 
  5. Proudly exclude people
  6. This is just one of many options
    1. You can’t pretend there’s only one way to do it. Your first idea is just one of many options. No business goes as planned, so make ten radically different plans. Same thing with your current path in life
  7. How do you grade yourself?
    1. Knowing what you’re keeping track of determines how you play the game
  8. Care more about your customers than you do yourself. 
    1. That’s the Tao of Business: care about customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well
  9. Act like you don’t need the money
    1. It’s another Tao of business: set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way
  10. The most successful email I ever wrote
    1. Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy. We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th. I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
    2. When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts and come up with world-changing massive-action plans. But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you
  11. Delegate or Die: The self-employment trap
    1. Always do whatever would make the customer happiest, as long as it’s not outrageous. Little gestures like these go a long way toward him telling his friends we’re a great company
  12. Make it anything you want
    1. Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves. So find that person and let her do it. 
  13. Delegate, but don’t abidcate

What I got out of it

  1. A great, quick book which is fun and has a lot of worthwhile lessons. While all 40 lessons are key, I’ve only included the ones that seem most relevant/differentiated. Make yourself unnecessary, build a business for the love of it

On Bill Gurley’s Above the Crowd

I spent this past month reading Bill Gurley’s fantastic posts on Above the Crowd.

Bill has been blogging since 1996 and it was fascinating to look back through time and see his thinking and thought process over these past 25 years, specifically as it applies to technology and consumer internet companies. The link at the bottom of the page is a compilation of all his posts and my favorite were: The Most Powerful Internet Metric of All, The Smartest Price War Ever, All Revenue is Not Created Equal, and The Thing I Love Most About Uber.

Swimming Across: A Memoir by Andy Grove

Summary

  1. Andris Grof (Andy Grove) tells us about his childhood in Hungary and how he lived through and dealt with WWII, Russian communist influences, and how he escaped to America. “I was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1936. By the time I was twenty, I had lived through a Hungarian Fascist dictatorship, German military occupation, the Nazis’ “Final Solution,” the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army, a period of chaotic democracy in the years immediately after the war, a variety of repressive Communist regimes, and a popular uprising that was put down at gunpoint. This is the story of that time and what happened to my family and me.”

Key Takeaways

  1. But I could see in my mother’s face that there was something else. She went on, “I think it’s time for you to become Andris Grof again.” I was stunned. I had become Andris Malesevics so through and through that for a moment I was confused. But only for a moment. Then the significance of being free to use my real name engulfed me.
  2. The sensation of being in a dream kept me from feeling fatigue and also kept me from wondering what would await us at the end of our journey. I just kept walking, numb. After a while, I was neither particularly surprised nor unsurprised by anything we encountered.
  3. My father was an outgoing man. I was impressed and also a little envious at how easily he struck up conversations even with complete strangers. He was able to find a common bond with everyone he encountered — the waiter at the restaurant, the conductor on the streetcar, or somebody sitting at the table next to him. He seemed genuinely interested in these other people. Every once in a while, in his enthusiasm, he got me involved in these conversations. Most of the time, I would listen for a while, but I would soon get impatient to go home.
  4. I discovered C. S. Forester’s books about the nineteenth-century British navy captain Horatio Hornblower. Something about the character really intrigued me. Although I wouldn’t tell anyone this, I fancied myself as a latter-day Captain Hornblower, a man of few but deeply thought-out words, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, pacing an imaginary deck with my hands behind my back, living a rich inner life that my classmates never suspected.
  5. I felt distinctly inferior in comparison with my friends. I didn’t play the violin — or any instrument, for that matter — and I wasn’t a math or physics genius. While I was a good student, I wasn’t particularly outstanding in any one area. And I was still bad at all sports except swimming. But they accepted me as their equal. I think that the main asset I brought was that I was more comfortable with the rest of the class than they were. I served as their bridge to the wild bunch. We had something else in common: All five of us were Jewish. We weren’t the only Jews in the class. There were a few more whom we had not become friendly with. But as we gravitated to each other’s company, and hung around with each other at recess and after school, a subtle wall formed around us. No explicit acts of anti-Semitism were ever expressed toward us. But the separation was real. We never discussed the fact that we were Jewish. We just knew that we were, just as the other members of the class knew it, too. Hungarians almost always knew who was or wasn’t Jewish, kids or adults. It became a sixth sense for all of us, never a subject of explicit discussion, but one of constant tacit awareness.
  6. Even the places that specialized in chemical compounds generally didn’t have them in stock. In an economy that operated by central planning, shortages of just about everything were commonplace.
  7. One reaction to the growing political oppression was the number of jokes that sprang up about it. They acted as a safety valve for feelings that couldn’t be expressed otherwise. Jokes about current events in Budapest were an art form. They were created and transmitted almost instantaneously.
  8. (The most annoying slogan was “Work is a matter of honor and duty.” It was posted everywhere — on factory walls, in stores, and even on street signs — right above the heads of people who were listlessly trying to get away with the minimum amount of work.)
  9. I realized that I needed help. Everything, from getting a job to getting a telephone, required “connections.” My father found somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody inside Chinoin. This person moved my application along, and I got hired as a laborer.
  10. I realized that it’s good to have at least two interests in your life. If you have only one interest and that goes sour, there’s nothing to act as a counterbalance to lift your mood. But if you have more than one interest, chances are something will always go okay.
  11. This evening, I was hanging on the outside as usual, looking ahead in the gathering May dusk, but I didn’t see the traffic or the familiar streets going by. My mind was filled with atoms and molecules and experimental schemes. Then, all of a sudden, I got it. I don’t know what set it off. The experimental results that were floating around in my head suddenly jelled and the confusion of the previous weeks coalesced into a solid vision of where I was and where I needed to go. I jumped off the tram and ran home. I took out my notes and checked to see whether my recollections of the past experimental results were correct. They were. I couldn’t wait to get back into the lab the next day. With complete confidence, I planned the next sequence of experiments to confirm my hypothesis. They worked.
  12. Political parties that had long been disbanded came back to life, and dozens of newspapers sprang up to publicize their beliefs. It was as if the gradual thaw that had slowly been taking place over the past couple of years had suddenly turned into a flood.
  13. The coffee we got was made from real coffee beans. In Hungary, “coffee” was made from ground, roasted hickory nuts. Since coffee wasn’t produced in any of the Communist-bloc countries, we didn’t have it. Real coffee tasted very good.
  14. I’ve never gone back to Hungary. To be sure, as the years went on, political and economic life both improved, at least as far as I could tell. Hungary even ended up becoming a member of NATO. But although I’ve retained fond memories of Hungarian music and literature, and I still look with some warmth at picture postcards of Budapest sent to me by friends who visit there, I have never desired to revisit it myself. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe I don’t want to remind myself of the events I wrote about. Maybe I want to let memories stay memories. Or maybe the reason is something simpler than that: My life started over in the United States. I have set roots here. Whatever roots I had in Hungary were cut off when I left and have since withered and died.
  15. I went through graduate school on scholarships, got a fantastic job at Fairchild Semiconductor, the high-flying company of its day, then participated in the founding of Intel, which in time has become the largest maker of semiconductors in the world. I rose to be its chief executive officer, a position I held for eleven years, until I stepped down from it in 1998; I continue as chairman today. I’ve continued to be amazed by the fact that as I progressed through school and my career, no one has ever resented my success on account of my being an immigrant. I became a U.S. citizen. I was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1997. My two daughters now have children of their own. In fact, it was the arrival of the grandchildren that stimulated me to tell my story. As my teacher Volenski predicted, I managed to swim across the lake — not without effort, not without setbacks, and with a great deal of help and encouragement from others. I am still swimming.

What I got out of it

  1. Amazing what Grove went through by the time he was 20. You can see the foundation, the grit, the perspective he got from these difficult times and how it later informed his life at Intel, becoming one of the most respected CEOs of all time. 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Summary

  1. The story and scandal of Theranos, the once multi-billion dollar startup which promised to revolutionize the medical industry by making blood tests quick, affordable, and available everywhere. Holmes promised the world but is now in the midst of lawsuits claiming fraud and deceit 

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, use the player below or watch here.

You can also find more of my articles in audio version at Listle

Key Takeaways

  1. Holmes was evangelical in her mission to revolutionize blood testing but her knowledge about science and medicine was weak. She was able to convince investors, employees, customers, and partners that Theranos would eventually have the capabilities needed to revolutionize the blood testing industry do so but her ambition got the better of her. She ended up having to lie and deceive everyone involved to keep the company going. Elizabeth was wildly ambitious since she was a child and idolized Steve Jobs and his impact on the world. 
  2. People are more lemming-like than they would like to admit. Dozens of very intelligent people were mesmerized by Holmes’ charisma, ambition to change the world, and intellect. They wanted her to succeed so badly and help the world (and get rich too) that they ignored blatant signs and warnings that things were off. Be careful of what your biases are and what you are too emotionally attached to. They can blind you and make you irrational if they’re not kept in check 
  3. Few people truly do the difficult work necessary to understand things. In this case, people saw Theranos’ Board of Directors such as General Mattis, Henry Kissinger, famous lawyer David Boies, George Schultz, and others and assumed that their involvement was a stamp of legitimacy. At its height, Theranos reached a valuation of over $9 billion which made Holmes’ stake worth nearly $5 billion
  4. Amazing to see how outright lies, deceptive marketing, and hiding of information still didn’t keep people from investing and going all in on Theranos. It was clear to many both inside and outside the company that their claims and projections were wildly overblown but when greed, envy, FOMO, and a desire to change the world overlap, you get extreme behavior (lollapalooza effects)
  5. Tyler Schultz, grandson of Board Member George Schultz, started at Theranos full time after graduating from Stanford. Not long after starting, he realized that not all was right. He asked questions and wanted to quit but his grandfather urged him to stay a little longer. He did eventually quit and was a key resource in exposing the details. His family spent over $400k just in legal fees but his courage allowed for the word to spread and potentially saved many lives since Theranos was in the process of rolling out their mini-labs to partners such as Walgreens and Safe Way.
  6. She may not have set out to defraud investors or injure patients, but her blind desire to be the next Steve Jobs and to revolutionize the world made her susceptible to cut corners, lie, manipulate others, and do whatever it took to try to make Theranos successful. 

What I got out of it

  1. Extremes in outcome, good or bad, often instruct best (Munger). This is definitely the case here. Holmes and Sunny Balwani ran an oppressive, secretive, bullying, fear-based, and dictatorial company which fired or marginalized anyone who wasn’t blindly committed. They promised the world but ended with lawsuits Beware of what your biases are and what you are very emotionally attached to. They lead to blindspots which can cause mistakes 

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston

Summary

  1. Jessica Livingston interviews some of the biggest technology entrepreneurs about their experience in the early days of their companies. You’ll get firsthand knowledge about the whole process and be able to pick up patterns across time (it’s always more work than you think it’ll be, almost none of these entrepreneurs foresaw how big their companies would eventually become). “Why the disconnect [between startups trying to seem like formal companies but actually operating far faster, often better]? I think there’s a general principle at work here: the less energy people expend on performance, the more they expend on appearances to compensate. More often than not the energy they expend on seeming impressive makes their actual performance worse. A few years ago I read an article in which a car magazine modified the “sports” model of some production car to get the fastest possible standing quarter mile. You know how they did it? They cut off all the crap the manufacturer had bolted onto the car to make it look fast. Business is broken the same way that car was. The effort that goes into looking productive is not merely wasted, but actually makes organizations less productive. Suits, for example. Suits do not help people to think better. I bet most executives at big companies do their best thinking when they wake up on Sunday morning and go downstairs in their bathrobe to make a cup of coffee. That’s when you have ideas. Just imagine what a company would be like if people could think that well at work. People do in startups, at least some of the time. (Half the time you’re in a panic because your servers are on fire, but the other half you’re thinking as deeply as most people only get to sitting alone on a Sunday morning.) This book can help fix that problem, by showing everyone what, till now, only a handful people got to see: what happens in the first year of a startup. This is what real productivity looks like. This is the Formula 1 racecar. It looks weird, but it goes fast.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Apparently sprinters reach their highest speed right out of the blocks, and spend the rest of the race slowing down. The winners slow down the least. It’s that way with most startups too. The earliest phase is usually the most productive. That’s when they have the really big ideas. Imagine what Apple was like when 100% of its employees were either Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak.
  2. In this book, you’ll hear the founders’ stories in their own words. Here, I want to share some of the patterns I noticed. When you’re interviewing a series of famous startup founders, you can’t help trying to see if there is some special quality they all have in common that made them succeed. What surprised me most was how unsure the founders seemed to be that they were actually onto something big. Some of these companies got started almost by accident. The world thinks of startup founders as having some kind of superhuman confidence, but a lot of them were uncertain at first about starting a company. What they weren’t uncertain about was making something good—or trying to fix something broken. They all were determined to build things that worked. In fact, I’d say determination is the single most important quality in a startup founder. If the founders I spoke with were superhuman in any way, it was in their perseverance. That came up over and over in the interviews. Perseverance is important because, in a startup, nothing goes according to plan. Founders live day to day with a sense of uncertainty, isolation, and sometimes lack of progress. Plus, startups, by their nature, are doing new things—and when you do new things, people often reject you. That was the second most surprising thing I learned from these interviews: how often the founders were rejected early on. By investors, journalists, established companies—they got the Heisman from everyone. People like the idea of innovation in the abstract, but when you present them with any specific innovation, they tend to reject it because it doesn’t fit with what they already know. Innovations seem inevitable in retrospect, but at the time it’s an uphill battle. It’s curious to think that the technology we take for granted now, like web-based email, was once dismissed as unpromising. As Howard Aiken said, “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” In addition to perseverance, founders need to be adaptable. Not only because it takes a certain level of mental flexibility to understand what users want, but because the plan will probably change. People think startups grow out of some brilliant initial idea like a plant from a seed. But almost all the founders I interviewed changed their ideas as they developed them. PayPal started out writing encryption software, Excite started as a database search company, and Flickr grew out of an online game. Starting a startup is a process of trial and error. What guided the founders through this process was their empathy for the users. They never lost sight of making things that people would want.

Summary

  1. Very rich read which provides great insights into how these entrepreneurs think, how they reacted and adapted to situations, and how persistent and creative you have to be to survive. Highly recommend for anyone thinking of starting their own business or in the midst of it now. Many parallels and patterns to learn from