Book review: The Startup Playbook

The Startup Playbook by David KidderIt had been a while since I last read a business book (The Wide Lens by Ron Adner). I was looking to find a little inspiration to get me through to the end of the year, so I decided to pick up The Startup Playbook by David Kidder. To be fair, I wouldn’t consider The Startup Playbook a book. It’s a collection of interviews that Kidder has with successful entrepreneurs in which he lets them offer up their best advice for startups. At the end, Kidder provides “The Best Advice”. It’s a collection of excerpts from interviews in the book divided into “The Best Advice” categories such as Boards, Business Operations, Culture, Leadership, Marketing, Raising Capital, Sales and more.

Kidder interviews over 40 people for the book. Some of the notables included are Steve Blank, Matt Blumberg, Jeff Bussgang, Steve Case, Chris Dixon, Reid Hoffman, Ben Horowitz, Tony Hseih, and Elon Musk. Overall, I found the quality of the interviews and advice varied widely. Some were hard to get through, while others left me wanting more. Of the 40+ interviews, a couple that stood out to me were the interviews with Elon Musk and Chip Conley.

Musk’s story stood out due to what drives him. As he puts it in his interview:

I’ve always treid to be involved in things that will impact the future of humanity and have a good effect on the world. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about whether my ideas were the best way to make money.

I also found he had one of the best pieces of advice in the book:

I’m always surprised when people think they can make a great company without having a great product. The most important thing an entrepreneur can do is focus on making a great product or service.

I found the interview with Musk to be inspiring and only wish that it could have gone a few more pages. It also gave me a whole new respect for ventures he is involved in and his desire to truly make a difference in the world.

The reason I enjoyed Conley’s interview can be summarized in one word – passion. It’s obvious that Conley’s passion is to “create joy”, as he puts it. He has taken an idea that the industry downplayed, the boutique hotel business, and transformed it with Joie de Vivre Hospitality. As with Musk’s interview, I found it inspirational as it spoke to the passion that I recognize one has to have to build a successful business.

The other thing that I got out of The Startup Playbook were pointers to further reading and resources. A few new books made it to my ever expanding Amazon Wish List which I hope I will be able to get to at some point in 2014.

I like reading stories and lessons learned from other entrepreneurs, particularly if it can help me to learn and understand what it takes to succeed or how to avoid making the same mistakes others have made.  However, as I mentioned earlier, I found The Startup Playbook to be of mixed quality and wouldn’t put it into my must read category of books.

Founders at Work by Jessica LivingstonIf you’re interested like I am in reading entrepreneur stories and about lessons learned, I recommend that you pick up Founders At Work by Jessica Livingston first, and then The Startup Playbook. The overall quality of Founders At Work is better, and the interviews are more focused on the entrepreneurs and their stories. I also liked that Livingston focused on both successful and unsuccessful ventures as well as those of varying sizes.

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