What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? How do the likes of Caterina Fake from Flickr, Chris Anderson from the Ted talks, or Reid Hoffman from Linkedin, do it? “The Startup Playbook” can answer many questions that you have. It features advice and insights from famous entrepreneurs. It is a great and easy read for those working on/developing ideas, and are still in their early years of their business. It’s your chance to learn key practices, behaviours, and ideas for success.
“The lesson of Kidder’s book is simple: They did it, and you can too. No magic tricks, no special genetic advantages, just passion, persistence, good sense, and a little luck.”
– Seth Godin, founder, Yoyodyne and Squidoo
While this sounds promising, do not place all your bets on it. Once you read each playbook you will notice how different and sometimes contradictory they are. In the end, they are just inspirations – case studies – and as an entrepreneur you need to develop your own playbook. Here are some pointers from my reflection on the book:
Fundraising is overrated and misunderstood.
Going to investors to raise capital is a very valid approach. Venture capital is one of the main thing that keeps a lot of startups alive. But, are startups always aware of the price that comes with it? And are they willing to pay it? Investors will share percentages of the company, and start influencing decisions you take and values you have.
Some may go to the extent of kicking you out. Imagine getting fired from your own company? And it has happened (Steve Jobs, anyone?).
However, one approach of raising capital that particularly resonated with me was asking friends and family for the money. On one hand, if you have fears against this approach because your idea might not work, then you do not truly believe in it and might as well not venture into it. On the other, if you have strong belief that this will work, then your friends and family should come first when you are asking for investors. They have more right to share with you profit than a random stranger.
Your startup is not a potential source of money.
Thinking “I am building this company so that I can sell it.” sets you down a slippery slope. You are only truly passionate about your project when you know you cannot let it go (not easily, at least!). And this passion is what will keep you focused, help others believe in your idea and ultimately help you succeed.
Empower your employees.
Do not hire the best employee when you’re starting the company! Probably, you cannot even afford it. It is rather more important to build a team that works together effectively and contribute beyond their positions. You also need to be transparent with your employees. Let them in. Share with them the ups and downs of the company. They can literally make or break your startup, so choose wisely. And once you do, trust and empower them.
This book is formed of over 40+ interviews, and ultimately what you will get from it are far more points than what I just shared. It features “best advice” on several categories such as sales, raising and deploying capital, public relations, product, market, and customer development, hiring and firing, success and failure, leadership, and business operations. It gets your mind racing with ideas and when you flip the last page, you are almost ready to take on anything to make your startup work. A highly recommended read!
David S. Kidder, the writer of this book, is an entrepreneur himself. He founded and co-founded many startups such as Bionic and Clickable. He is also an active angel investor through his fund, Alt Option Return.