Posts from Books

Startup CXO

On Monday, a copy of Startup CXO, my friend Matt Blumberg’s new book, arrived at the USV office. I picked it up to take a quick look and thought “this a heavy book!”

So I texted Matt, congratulated him on getting the book out, and then asked why it was so heavy. He replied “because it is 640 pages, there is a section on every C-level function in that book.”

That’s when I realized that Startup CXO is not really a book. It’s a “field manual” to scaling a leadership team and company. It is the kind of book you will keep by your desk and pull out from time to time to figure out how to approach an issue or to help one of your senior leaders figure out how to do that.

And in that context, it’s a very valuable resource for CEOs and leadership teams as they scale a company and find new challenges around every corner.

The book is now out in Kindle and Hardcover. I recommend the Hardcover so you can keep it handy and pull it out from time to time when you need a quick primer on something.

#Books#entrepreneurship#management

Extra Life

I have read more books written by Steven Johnson than any other author. In addition to being a friend and a USV-funded founder, Steven writes about things that fascinate me. And he is a wonderful writer. That’s a potent combination.

I am about to embark on another journey with Steven. This one is called Extra Life and it is about how mankind doubled our life expectancy over the last hundred years.

But Extra Life is not just a book. It is also a four part TV series airing on PBS that starts tomorrow night at 8pm.

Steven told me that when he started exploring the idea of this book years ago, he thought there might be a nice symmetry to launching the book on the hundred-year anniversary of the end of the flu epidemic of 1918-1919. Well little did he know then that we would have our own 100 year anniversary of that event that has shaken our world to its core over the last year.

This book is about much of what has come to dominate our lives in the last year, public health, vaccines, drug trials, etc, etc. But instead of focusing on the here and now, it zooms out and talks about the result of all of that. Which is a 10x reduction in childhood mortality and a doubling of life expectancy.

I am eager to dive into Extra Life. I’ve wanted something to put a hopeful and optimistic context on the events of the last year and here it is. Thanks Steven!

#Books#Current Affairs

The New Builders

My friend Seth Levine and Elizabeth MacBride have written an important book about the changing face of entrepreneurship in the US. It is called The New Builders and it came out this week. You can purchase it at all the places listed here.

This bit from the book’s Amazon page explains The New Builders’ message:

The dominant image of an entrepreneur as a young white man starting a tech business on the coasts isn’t correct at all. Today’s American entrepreneurs, the people who drive critical parts of our economy, are more likely to be female and non-white. In fact, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 31 times between 1972 and 2018 according to the Kauffman Foundation (in 1972, women-owned businesses accounted for just 4.6% of all firms; in 2018 that figure was 40%). The fastest-growing group of female entrepreneurs are women of color, who are responsible for 64% of new women-owned businesses being created.

In a few years, we believe women will make up more than half of the entrepreneurs in America.

Seth sent me a manuscript about six months ago and I read with interest the stories of these women of color starting businesses of all kinds. This is not the entrepreneurship that I tend to write about here at AVC, but in many ways it is more important, more courageous, and more powerful.

If you want to be inspired and encouraged, pick up The New Builders give it a read.

#Books

Funding Friday: Burn Alpha

Emily Segal is writing her next novel called Burn Alpha and she is crowdfunding it on her Mirror blog.

I contributed 0.1 ETH to the effort yesterday evening and she is now approaching her 25 ETH goal.

If you have an Ethereum wallet, like Coinbase Wallet or Metamask, you can participate in her crowdfunding project here. The rewards are pretty cool as is the premise of the novel. You can see all of that on her blog.

If you read this post on my Mirror blog, you will see the crowdfunding project embedded in this post. That’s pretty cool too.

#Books#crowdfunding#crypto

Business Books and Podcasts

I’m not a fan of business books. I find that you get most of the value from them in the opening chapter and then it is a lot of repetition from then on.

But there are some great concepts that one can glean from business books and I’ve often wanted to find an efficient way to do that without buying the book and reading one chapter.

Podcasts to the rescue. Most business book writers go on a podcast tour in order to promote their book. All you need to do is find your favorite interviewer on the podcast tour and listen to that one. That’s generally thirty to forty-five minutes and you will get everything you need from the book and maybe more.

As an aside, this is a classic example of the promotional effort cannabalizing the product itself.

Fortunately great writers don’t need to worry about this. I will always choose to read the words of a great writer over listening to them on a podcast. But there aren’t many great writers putting out business books. They write novels or big ambitious works of non-fiction. Which I prefer to read on a Kindle or in print.

#Books

The Startup Community Way

My friend Brad Feld has updated his excellent book on startup ecosystems called Startup Communities. The updated and expanded book is called The Startup Community Way and it is available for pre-order on Amazon. The book comes out tomorrow so you won’t have to wait long for it.

The timing of this book is excellent. The pandemic has shown that you don’t have to live and work in any particular place to be productive and innovative.

This suggests to me that we will see tech entrepreneurship and innovation move even more broadly around the US and around the world this decade and The Startup Community Way can be a playbook for how to make that happen.

#Books

Enemy Of All Mankind

We have a book club at USV. We read one book together every month and then discuss it over lunch. Today, we are going to discuss Enemy Of All Mankind, the story of the British pirate of the late 17th century, Henry Every.

The book was written by our friend and former USV portfolio company founder Steven Johnson. As is typical of Steven’s work, Enemy Of All Mankind is both a great story and also an object lesson in how single event can have a compounding effect on global politics and economics.

In this case, Every and his crew of pirates siezed a treasure ship belonging to the Grand Mughal that was returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition to making Every and his crew rich beyond belief, the attack set off a global political storm between India and England and resulted in a manhunt to find and punish the pirates.

It is a story about the dominant economic forces of the time (global trade routes) and how a single actor can and did wreak havoc on them. And it is a story about how that moment changed the course of India and England for the next two centuries.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to our discussion of it today. If you want to read it, you can get it on Amazon or Indiebound.

#Books

Secrets Of Sand Hill Road

One of the many great things about vacations is reading books. Vacation is the one time that I can really prioritize reading books (as opposed to everything else I read).

I just finished Scott Kupor‘s Secrets Of Sand Hill Road, a book for entrepreneurs about rasing capital from venture firms.

Scott makes the point numerous times in the book that the capital raising process is asymmetric for entrepreneurs in that they do it a few times in their career and VCs do it every day.

That is true for the pitch meetings, the negotiation process, and the post financing relationship too.

What Scott does in this book is break down every part of the process and explain it in plain english so that entrepreneurs can understand what’s going on and why it matters to them.

That last part is important, this book is written for entrepreneurs, not VCs.

Scott uses real world examples, mostly investments made over the last decade by his firm A16Z, to make the lessons he is delivering more “real.”

And he uses spreadhseet examples in one chapter and shows how various events can change the cap table for everyone.

It’s very much a “how to” book, more practical than theoretical.

There have been other books written about this topic, I like Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson’s Venture Deals, which is on its third edition now.

Jeff Bussgang’s Mastering The VC Game is also great.

You could teach an MBA or undegraduate course on capital raising for entreprenuers with these three books.

It would be a great course.

If you plan to be raising venture capital for your startup and don’t have the benefit of experience or a fantastic course on the topic, I would strongly recommend you pick up Scott’s book, or all three books, and spend some time reading them now or on your next vacation.

#Books#VC & Technology

A Man For All Markets

I have had this book, A Man For All Markets, on my kindle for the past year. I can’t recall who recommended it, possibly my friend Jeremy, but I can’t be sure.

A couple weeks ago, I had lunch with my friend Harry and he again suggested it to me. I decided to put it at the top of my to read pile (a virtual pile) and have been reading it for the past week.

It’s a terrific book, nominally the life story of Edward Thorpe, the math professor, blackjack card counter, and hedge fund manager.

The book is a reminder that math, particularly the highly agile mathematical mind, is a very powerful thing. But it is also full of amazing insights on risk and return, from gambling to investing.

I particularly liked this observation that Edward makes after testing his “ten count” system with the the backing of some less than reputable characters:

For the second time, the Ten-Count System had shown moderately heavy losses mixed with “lucky” streaks of the most dazzling brilliance.

My person experience with investing includes plenty of moderately heavy losses and the occasional “dazzling brilliance.

I am pleased to know that pairing is common in all sorts of risk taking ventures.

If you like math, cards, and/or investing, I am sure you will enjoy this book as much as I am.

#Books#stocks