For the Startup Warriors : Touch of Madness is What it Takes

WarriorEntrepreneurs often step into a very negative zone. How do you deal with it? There are many ways, like finding an entrepreneur twin. Or you could pick up a really good book. I’m not into self help books, neither am I an entrepreneur. But one book I often pick up is The Manual Of Warrior of Light.

In the book, author Paulo Coelho’s protagonist, a boy, is handed a blank blue book by a mystical woman on a beach to write about the warrior of light. What is a warrior of light asks the boy?

“‘He is someone capable of understanding the miracle of life, of fighting to the last for something he believes in – and of hearing the bells that the waves sets ringing on the seabed.’

Write about that warrior, she says.

Thus begins a great compilation. Here are some of my favorites from the book.

A warrior does not need to be reminded of the help given him by others; he is the first to remember and makes sure to share with them any rewards he receives.

The warrior knows that he is free to choose his desires, and he makes these decisions with courage, detachment and – sometimes – with just a touch of madness.

Warrior 1

A warrior of light never resorts to trickery, but he knows how to distract his opponent. However anxious he is, he uses every strategy at his disposal to gain his objective.

He is never taken in by appearances and makes a point of remaining silent when people try to impress him. And he uses the occasion to correct his own faults, for other people make an excellent mirror.

A warrior of light respects the main teaching of the I Ching: ‘To persevere is favourable.’ He knows that perseverance is not the same thing as insistence.

They are not always quite sure what they are doing here. They spend many sleepless nights, believing that their lives have no meaning. That is why they are warriors of light.Warrior 2

A warrior of light carefully studies the position that he intends to conquer. However difficult the objective, there is always a way of overcoming obstacles.

If he waits for the ideal moment, he will never set off; he requires a touch of madness to take the next step. The warrior uses that touch of madness. For – in both love and war – it is impossible to foresee everything.

A warrior of light knows his own faults. But he also knows his qualities.

A warrior of light does not postpone making decisions. He thinks a good deal before he acts; he considers his training, as well as his responsibilities and duties as a teacher.Warrior 3

A warrior of light shares his world with the people he loves. He tries to encourage them to do the things they would like to do but for which they lack the courage.

The warrior of light pays attention to small things because they can severely hamper him. A thorn, however tiny, can cause the traveler to halt.

The warrior of light is always trying to improve. Every blow of his sword carries with it centuries of wisdom and meditation.

A warrior of light is always vigilant. A warrior does not try to seem, he is.

Recommended Read : Startups and Bollywood : The Ultimate Collection

Image credit: Shutterstock

Book Review: Lean In

The most remarkable thing about Lean In is successful-women batting for the ones on their way up! And the message to the world is:

Fire walled indifference of corporate growth is dead.

Compassion, empathy and open conversation is sexy and in fashion. 

When I heard about Lean In for the first time, the first thought I had was that even if the book has some garbled text filling it up, it is a great idea to have someone like Sheryl Sandberg take up the women and work conversation. Making this point of view heard in corporate corridors and homes is a significant push to the women and work agenda.leanin

In case you haven’t noticed, the political correctness of the majority of highly successful women in corporate world is massive. The ones in the corporate world actively speaking and promoting more women at work is a small group of people. Success for a generation of women meant, fitting into the testerone driven norms, whether it is was travel or working hours. Sandberg not only challenges that reasonably but opens it up for conversation. There are no verdicts, only encouragement to look at facts and needs.

The narrative makes it amply clear that a lot of learnings and leanings in the book arose from Sheryl’s personal journey. Though to the media and the corporate world, she comes across as a high-flying executive, the experience of raising a family while raising a company is a humbling one. Children level out many things irrespective what your rank is and the turmoil faced by millions of women finding a fit between personal-professional aspirations is very similar. It is this context that makes Lean In a very appealing read.

Elements of personal story telling and anecdotes from her own experiences with family, children, peers, colleagues ease the read of an otherwise prickly topic.

Sheryl herself is a great example of how gender diverse teams and women professionals in leadership roles can be great for startup and business success – Google, Facebook, Yahoo all seem to have found a high degree of resonance in the idea. If you are a startup founder or a corporate executive, pick this one up!

The book is an easy read, well written and cleanly edited. Sandberg keeps a reasonable voice and tone through the book and if you have either heard her speak or read her earlier, the book surely comes across as a personable read. The research is intensive but relevant and is detailed in appropriate proportions.

There are only two things Lean In misses – measure of success as an individual parameter and family as a stereotypical unit.

While we know that the corporate ladder is converging into a maze, Lean In approaches the whole conversation from the point of view of someone who is geared to stick it out in the glass walls of the corporate set ups, discounting the growing tribe of women entrepreneurs, SMBs, franchise owners, artists, creative professionals and such like. The fact remains, that measure of success and the significance of the big corner officer are not the same anymore for a large number of people, across the world. An increasing number of women and men are defining success that helps them find better work-life fit. A customized approach to work-life balance as opposed to the race for the ladder approach, the corporate world has advocated all these decades.

Lean In gives a sense of family being a stereotypical unit although nowhere it is articulated so. The feel through the book is that this is a book for the working mom, with career ambition with a family and husband around.

Without particularly saying so, Lean In offers little to single women, single moms, the flexidads, the hobbyist, the creative alternator, people not so big on corporate ambition.

Irrespective, Lean In makes it clear that making your voice heard matters and acting on your conscious decisions works wonders! A simple and powerful idea shared well.

Read it at least once!

[Book review shared by Sairee Chahal, founder of A believer in work-life redesign, serial entrepreneur, mentor, an occasional writer and mother of a 6-year-old, Sairee is your regular Fleximom. @Sairee on Twitter

Fleximoms is a work-life and career destination for women in India. Fleximoms works towards creating, enhancing and co-creating workflex opportunities for women professionals. It also helps organizations harness flexibility as a value driver.]

Book Review: Shipping Greatness [Practical lessons on building and launching outstanding software]

Product management is often misunderstood among startups. Some tend to think of it as a UI/UX and some think it’s project management (read: Jobs of a PM).

But in reality, it’s all about shipping shipping greatness, i.e. ship stuff that matters (not shipping products that you can).

The book is largely aimed at early stage product development teams (not just startups) and brings some of the experiences by the author Chris Vander Mey, former Google product manager and Amazon engineering manager.

The book not only looks at the high level view of shipping products, but also revisits some of the most unsaid conversations/myths in product teams. For instance:

  • You are not the boss—team leads are servants and exist to serve the engineering team.
  • Start with the user and work outward.
  • Build the simplest thing that can possibly work.
  • You ship the software you have, not the software you want.
  • <and more>

The book takes a practical approach to the entire B-school gyaan that we all know of, i.e. have a mission strategy (we all know this), but ensures that it fits on a t-shirt! Simple, isn’t it?

Importantly, the book does take discussions beyond ‘successful launch = successful product syndrome” and the significance of right metrics for product teams, but one just wishes that there was more dedicated to ‘beyond shipping’ as well.

Nevertheless, if you are a product manager or a startup building products , we strongly recommend you to get hold of this book (link). This is a must read.

Recommended Read:

» Also, do check out the Product Management channel on (it’s full of awesomeness).

What the Pluck! Who Needs a Book to Share on a Social Network! [Book Review]

When I had remarked exactly a year ago, “Google + is an excellent product– a brilliantly planned, and well developed web-app, with a striking UX and great features, that has the potential to take social networking to the next level,” little did I know that I would be reading and reviewing a book on Google+ a year later. What the Plus!

Guy Kawasaki, an Apple evangelist in its early days(1984), is now an Apple Fellow, and Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, a seed-stage and early-stage venture capital fund, and cofounder of RSS aggregation site Kawasaki is the author of 10 books, and presents this as his 11th title.

What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us” is a book about Google+, obviously, and its myriad features, generously interspersed with screenshots of his own Google+ profile and posts. It goes on to provide tips and tricks on how to get familiar with it, use it, master circles, amass more followers, etc., and brings in differences between Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, allocating different functionalities to these, Twitter for perceptions, Facebook for people, Pinterest for pictures (really?), and Google+ for passions. And I thought Google+ was about to take on the world of social networking in all aspects.

What the Plus! is more like a user manual for Google+. Most internet users flock social networks and need not be instructed on how to comment or respond to them. Why, many people in India started using Internet only after the advent of Facebook. So what if a newer social network uses, well, circular circles instead of linear lists to organize friends? Why do we need a manual to learn the new features? What the Plus! [Everytime I try to say/write What the Plus!, my larynx/fingers do not cooperate and try to insert the F-word. I have to force them hard to render the correct phrase.]

Sample chapter names from the book: “How to Comment”, “How to Share Posts”, “How to Respond to Comments”! He might as well add a chapter, “How to switch on the computer”. If I need a book to understand how to share posts and how to comment or respond to comments, it means either Google+’s interface is in Tulu, or I am super dumb. Come on man, just because a Guy [sic] is popular on Google+ doesn’t mean he can insult his fellow users’ intelligence.

“Google+ for the Rest of Us”, the second part of the title of the book, reeks of elitism, something Google+ was chastised for in its days of infancy, when you could join Google+ only through an invitation. Also, the book begins with a rather elitist quote by Tom Clancy: “Never ask what sort of computer a guy drives. If he’s a Mac user, he’ll tell you. If not, why embarrass him?”. “Google+ for the Rest of Us” is just a euphemism for “Google+ for Dummies”, something he couldn’t have explicitly said, because using a social network is not the same as learning a new programming language.

I can vouch that Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice-President, Social, Google didn’t mean it when he commented: “We didn’t expect over 100,000,000 people to join Google+ so quickly. If we had, we might have written a tutorial like this one. Lucky for us, Guy has written this wonderful introduction to Google+. Highly recommended!”. You would never have published a manual like this Mr. Vivek Gundotra, because this would have meant acknowledging that Google+ was so difficult to use, it had such a pathetic UX that you needed a manual to make your way through it. And it would have corroborated your elitist attitude towards Google+ in its early days–restricting people to join it first, and then asking other low-life muggles to read through a book to use it. [I hope this Kawasaki Guy is not a Shill for Google.]

Guy is no ordinary guy–he is extremely popular, influential, and successful. And that, I feel, is the sole reason behind the popularity of his latest book-lookalike manual. The popularity of the manual book is also the reason of the large number of subscribers to Guy Kawasaki’s Google+ profile: at the time of writing, he has 2.9 million followers, more than Sergey Brin’s 2.4 million and comparable to Vic Gundotra’s 2.9 million. He also rewarded his loyal followers by providing a free downloadable copy of What-the-Plus-Google-Plus-for-the-Rest-of-Us via a link that expired in a couple days.

Smart move, Kawasaki. Use a product, write a user manual with hundreds of screenshots, crowdsource editing on Google+, publish the book, earn royalty, be talked about, and gain popularity on the newest and most powerful social network in town. And then do what? Continue on, which no one uses anyway, indulge in the heightened ego of this increased popularity, or just improve your Klout score, the usefulness of which is a topic for another debate.

Enough said. I would not waste more time of yours than that Guy did mine on his book. If you’d still like to waste some time and money, or need to validate your dumbness, go ahead and buy a copy which is available on the Kindle store for $2.99 (and Rs 176.51, now that Amazon has opened shop in India), or the paperback edition for $8 on Amazon and Rs 462 on Flipkart.

Just don’t complain later that we didn’t warn you.

[With inputs from Ishan Vyas.]

[You can follow our Google+ page, and trust me, we never used tips from this book.]

Book Review: The start-up of you [You are a Born Entrepreneur]

When Ried Hoffman, the co-founder of world’s largest professional network LinkedIn and author-entrepreneur Ben Casnocha team up to write a book on starting up, chances are, you are going to read from cover to cover and perhaps follow up on the footnotes too. 

Their book, “The Startup of You,” however, is not really a clichéd self help book.  Out of the 250 odd pages, come examples of successful people in the Silicon Valley, the art of start and years of experience gleaned not only to inspire but also to make you act. For instance, the book tells you why its important for startups to adapt through the example of Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield who set out to roll out an online multiplayer game and ended up making Flickr, now used by millions of users.

While the the author’s plug LinkedIn a little more than often, one can be forgiving for the interesting examples and insights the book has to offer. For instance, how did Sheryl Sandberg who began her career in India where she worked on public health projects for the World Bank, go on to become one of the top executives at Google and then Facebook? The idea is to pivot towards breakout opportunities by tapping the intelligence of the network.

In seven chapters, the authors tell you how all humans are entrepreneurs, how  you can develop a competitive advantage, network, adapt, plan and pursue breakout opportunities in the in the new new world. The book begins by establishing that all humans are “entrepreneurs at the helm of at least one living, growing start-up,” which is their career.

It goes on to explain the changing nature of work and how start-up’s like human beings need to be in permanent beta to thrive.

Hoffman and Casnocha explain in detail the principles of Silicon Valley in the book. Here are some of the things you are likely to learn from the book

1. Developing competitive advantage by understanding your assets, aspirations and market realities.

2. Using ABZ planning

3. Building relationships and deploying a powerful network

4. Finding and creating opportunities by tapping networks, being resourceful and staying in motion.

5. Appraising and taking on intelligent risk.

6. Tapping network intelligence.

Coming from Hoffman, who has invested in Facebook, Zynga, Flikr and co-founded companies like Paypal and Linkedin, one is left with little choice but believe that the advice is sound and read the book.

Book Review: “The Good Fail”

– Lost 11 jobs in 12 months and everytime he was asked to leave, not because he was bad at the job, but because of his background (of being a failed entrepreneur with tainted background).

– Been associated with failed startups, legal cases?

A normal person would have had a tough time dealing with so many failures, but Richard Keith Latman has an interesting life to live.9781118250716_cover.indd

‘The Good Fail’ is autobiography of Richard Keith Latman, founder of MicroWorkz, a failed PC enterprise.

From his blog:

Many of you have asked for the whole story, all the details, the total thought process and perhaps the real inside accounting of how everything went down. Two years ago, with the help of some amazing writers and researchers, we begin to document, craft and develop the facts into a single manuscript. That book, now titled “The Good Fail”, is now in pre-production and will be in online and offline bookstores, Kindles, iPad’s and other devices in April 2012.
The publication of this book, part life story and part entrepreneurs reference guide, is the end of the Microworkz story for me. On April 3rd, when the book is officially released, this site and all the content on this site will cease to exist. Microworkz, both as a company and an idea, will have reached its logical and permanent end.
This is the last post I will write here and it’s not without a tear in my eye. Microworkz was a dream that I couldn’t make a reality. Microworkz was a nightmare that helped shape who I am today. Microworkz was a movement that helped change the landscape of computing. But, most of all, Microworkz was, I hope, the foundation of a story that will help entrepreneurs and future business leaders recognize and avoid failure.

Richard Keith Latman started Microworkz, one of the hottest Silicon Valley startup that rose to fame owing to the unique business model it had. The company went through its own roller-coaster ride – from running one of the hottest startup to going downhill, for not living up to customer’s expectation. The company, Microworkz was a pioneer in bundling free Internet access with extremely cheap PCs and was turning out to be a threat to bigger players like Microsoft etc. In due course of time, the company realized that it wasn’t prepared for such an attention and while media did play a role in company’s success, negative press resulted in consumer frustration and hence lawsuit by Washington state alleging flagrant disregard of consumer protection law.

Why would you be interested in ‘The Good Fail’ story?

Well, Richard Keith Latman’s failure story didn’t end with MicroWorkz. He also worked on another great product called iToaster, which was shelved later (great concept, no IP). And then he lost 11 jobs in 12 months, and all of them owing to envious colleagues googling about him and his tainted background.

Even after so many failures, Richard Keith Latman didn’t give up and now runs a successful automobile CRM company called iCarMagic. That is, he still didn’t give up and kept going forward is probably the only reason why you should be reading the book (and take a leaf from it).

Lessons learnt?

A lot. As an entrepreneur, you need to start taking care of paperwork right from the early days (Microworkz was selling ‘unoriginal’ version of Microsoft Windows, as they didn’t get the official licenses from Microsoft) to managing personal-business life.

Importantly, the book is about a lot of entrepreneurs who often fail to prepare themselves for “limelight” and end up being scrutinized for every ‘little’ thing.

Surely a book worth reading, no matter what stage of your business you are in.

My only peeve towards the book is lack of visuals (why isn’t there any pic of Microworkz PC?), which otherwise would have made it more fun to read.

Overall, a must to have in your shelf and if you are like me, go for the hard copy version!

Book review: Behind the Cloud [Salesforce Story]

Behind the cloud is not about cloud computing. It is not about the journey of from an idea to a billion dollar company as the cover claims either. It is Marc Benioff’s way of patting himself on his back for his marketing genius, salesmanship and connections. And even though I put it that way, if you run a technology company, it is a brilliant book and there are tons of things you can learn from it.

The book starts with a quick introduction on his stint at Apple and Oracle, and how he transitioned from a shy coding geek to something that was way more fun – interacting with customers. He led a number of huge projects under the inspiring leadership of Larry Ellison who was an early mentor. But when Benioff realized that he had become a corporate lifer and got frustrated with the way established companies work, he decided to call it quits and took a sabbatical. behind the cloud book review

Benioff started to do things differently, especially to take on the world of traditional enterprise software which came on CD-ROMs and took six to eighteen months to install. And their costs ran in millions, both hardware and software. The book talks about the different aspects that make salesforce what it is today in what Benioff calls playbooks – startup, marketing, events, sales, technology, philanthropy, global, finance, leadership and finally a playbook for an inspiring conclusion.

Right from the time Benioff started, he believed in hiring the best. So he got in Parker Harris and team, the best in the Valley at the time, to join as co-founders and got Ellison to invest $2 million along with his valuable mentorship. Benioff talks about how he introduced a marketing-obsessed culture right from the start and embraced bold marketing tactics to break through all the industry noise. It was all the more important for them since they were not just introducing a new product but an entirely new concept as well of software as a service, as opposed to the established model of on-premise software. Benioff also talks about the importance of positioning, and how a company should either position itself as the leader or the rebel.
For them, it was simple – they were the rebel to Siebel systems, who delivered expensive on-premise CRM software and were the industry leaders in it. Right from the “No software” logo they got developed to the mock “No software” prostests they organized outside Siebel’s conferences, they used the rebel positioning to great effect. And they got awesome press out of it. In fact, once they created this ad with a fighter jet shooting a biplane (symbolic for the obsolete on-premise software industry) and the Times ran an editorial on it on the front page of their business section with the entire ad. They didn’t have to pay a cent for it.

Getting good press has always been one of Benioff’s main marketing mediums and he talks about how they have honed their meesage over time to convey the image that they want their brand to stand for. To start off, they captured the press’ attention with the David v Goliath story and the End of Software revolution. But when they became a more heard-of name, they moved on to talking about the value they added and the industry they were pioneering. The press lapped it all up. Benioff always puts in a special effort to maintain a very good relationship with the press, which makes him a resource for comments as soon as anything important happens in the industry.

The other medium salesforce has used a lot for its marketing is events, which Benioff talks about in great details. With events, they gave their customers, potential users, analysts and press a common forum to talk about both the industry and the tool. Since their customers were having massive success with their tool, they became evangelists of the brand at these events. An important lesson Benioff leaves for everyone is that it is not the pitch that you make during the event that is your message, the event itself is. If you are about innovation, make sure the event reflects it. A quick example of this is the self-service kiosks they introduced for checking in instead of people doing it.

On the sales side, Benioff wasn’t as big a rebel as on the marketing side. They used the traditional telsales model when they could not afford having offices in different regions for face-to-face meetings, and when they could, the used these offices for landing customers with more than 500 employees.
However since their model itself was different, there were a number of important differences with the way software was traditionally sold. Since the price of salesforce was fixed for everyone, their sales reps never created urgency by offering discounts. Rather they did it on the basis of the prospect’s need for it, and what salesforce could do for them. Also unlike traditional companies where they target entire companies when making a sale, Benioff used the land and expand model. They get into a company by selling to a few departments and when these departments saw the value in their products, they introduced it company-wide.

The way salesforce has expanded globally is pretty interesting to learn as well. Again, the traditional method of leveraging partner networks did not work for Benioff since they typically worked on margins, and they did not quite understand this new model of software delivery. So salesforce had to set up its own offices in different part of the world one-at-a-time and Benioff used his two-leader approach for it. He hired local leaders to head each of these offices since they had a deep understanding of the culture, industry and buying patterns of the region; not to mention the talent pool they could tap into. And then he used to put someone from his headquarters in the office to maintain the consistency with the head office. Benioff also talks about how an entry in a new region should be treated like starting up all over again. You can not use what is currently working for you in your primary market since the new market might not be equally mature. Benioff instructs that you should first educate the market, get a few customers, establish your brand, get your customers to evangelize the product for you and then go on to hire people and expand. And be at it while you are doing it since global expansion requires a continued focus and determination.

Benioff also talks about when salesforce went public and how he hired the best people for the job. They made an important decision to go public on NYSE instead of NASDAQ. Since they were in San Francisco, people thought just like the other dot com companies, they could also go away quickly. However NYSE added the traditional, old-line and established branding which is exactly what they wanted to have for fiscal matters. And Benioff used his marketing genius even here when he chose their ticker to be – CRM. Yes, CRM.

Finally Benioff talks about the strong hiring culture that they have. For him, hiring works the sme way as sales. They build a talent pipeline by tapping into every connection they have, irrespective of whether they have a suitable position or not. So many a times when salesforce employees are having lunch with people they know, they are in fact interviewing these candidates without them even knowing about it. And when they have a suitable opening, they quickly know whom to go to. Also, they have multiple rounds of interview and even ask interviewees to give presentations so that they know they are hiring the best people for the job.

All in all, the book has both its strong and weak points. On the weaker side, the book is not a smooth read. The narrative is is frequently interruped by “tips” Benioff wants to give us, and it sounds like do-it-my-way-and-you-will-be-successful in places. Also Benioff doesn’t talk about the struggles of salesforce in details, or the ego clashes he typically has with industry leaders. But on the stonger side, Benioff talks about so many different aspects of running a business – starting up, raising money, marketing, sales, using your connections, finance, expanding globally, philanthropy, hiring and a lot more – that there is a lot everyone can learn from it. Also the way he has taken on the established software industry and toppled giants like Siebel is very inspiring. So if you are someone who is excited by technology and its implications, give it a read.

[The book review has been contributed by guest author, Sanket Nadhani who heads Marketing & Sales at FusionCharts. He also writes for the FusionCharts blog talking about usability, charting tips & tricks and mostly about all the behind-the-scenes fun. He loves his food and beer. Follow Sanket on Twitter:@sanketnadhani. Sanket earlier shared Review of Delivering Happiness]