Tuesday, March 06, 2001

Bibliography for Entrepreneurs:

The toughest task for a budding entrepreneur is figuring out what's important and how to do it.
The toughest task for an experienced entrepreneur is explaining what's important and how to do it to a budding entrepreur.

The fact is that entrepreneurial learning is experiential--you can't really learn the importance of inventory controls until a disgruntled employee steals $50,000 of equipment. Trust me. I've gone through half a million dollars worth of the finest business education available, and I had to learn 99.999% of entrepreneurship on the job.

Books won't teach you how to be an entrepreneur. Accept it. However, if you realize that fact, and approach them with a grain of salt, here are a few books that you might find entertaining--and even useful.

High St@kes, No Prisoners, by Charles Ferguson.
Ferguson made his "fuck you" money when he sold FrontPage to Microsoft, and this book shows it. Ferguson pulls no punches, and shows you the seamy underside of Silicon Valley: the lying, cheating, and stealing. Read it and appreciate what you're up against.

Burn Rate, by Michael Wolff
Wolff details where the bodies were buried during the Jurassic days of the Net, back when people thought that content would make money. The account of how he sold his bookmarks file for millions of dollars to a gullible publisher is classic.

Startup, by Jerry Kaplan
A terrific first-person account of one of the biggest VC disasters ever (only exceeded by the current bubble-bursting debacle): pen-based computing. Hundreds of millions flushed down the toilet. What's uplifting is that the idea (and most of the people involved) were ultimately successful, a testament to the Valley's skill in reinvention. I wonder what Kaplan will write about the Egghead/Onsale disaster?

Here are some other books that, while entertaining, are utterly useless for entrepreneurs.

The New New Thing, by Michael Lewis
The story of Jim Clark, Netscape's founder. Folks, don't try this at home.

Nudist on the late shift, by Po Bronson
This is how East Cost folks see the Valley. Don't mistake for reality.

The First $20 Million Is Always The Hardest, by Po Bronson
Great title, fun book, but as dated as Larry Ellison's first Network Computer venture. Also, makes Stanford Product Design students seem a lot sexier and more glamorous than they really are. I speak from personal experience.

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