WHAT WE'RE READING: Wondering if the entrepreneur's lifestyle is for you? Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder turned venture capitalist, has an answer. His book, The Start-up of You, shot to the top of the Amazon sales charts the day it was released. (How'd he do that?) Now just more than a month old, it's holding its own at around #20 on Amazon's bestseller list. Reid's core argument: technology and globalization wreck the traditional job market so you're far better off taking an "entrepreneurial" approach to brewing your own career.
Now if you're already paddling through the entrepreneurial waters and trying to build a company, grab a copy of The Startup Owner's Manual, by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf. (Betsy confesses she finds it very keeping in touch with the entrepreneurial spirit the fact that Blank and Dorf self published this. Reid, alas, went a more traditional route. We hope that's not why their tome is #1,026 on Amazon's list!)
Steve Blank has built a great reputation for himself as Stanford University's guru of starting companies. He's got plenty of street cred, having played a role in eight startups, from flops to a dot-com bubble king. He spent the past decade teaching entrepreneurship and now has poured all that experience into this hefty, $40 manual.
For Blank, building great products (and in fact, just about every chapter) starts and stops with customers. The book is packed with worksheets and tips, all aimed at getting you to use customers' responses to shape and validate what you build. The writing is blunt but wry: "Hubris is the evil twin of a passionate entrepreneur," they chide in big font.
You won't find much about how to woo investors or structure convertible debt. "Eventually, prospective investors, banks and others will want to see the traditional P&L, forecast and more, and that's fine." Where this book shines, however, is in helping you define what you're doing, why you're doing it and who it serves. Get those questions right, suggest the authors, and you'll have a compelling product. Their thoughtful advice could make this the best $40 investment you make in your startup.