Category: books

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17 October / books / best practices / management
Dr. Daniel Kahneman features on the latest Farnam Street podcast and it’s a surprising episode. Kahneman wrote Thinking Fast and Slow. I admire Kahneman a great deal. Not for his Nobel or for his work, which are both impressive, but for his humility. Some of the key tenets of Kahneman’s work in his famous book were disproved. And he owned up to it, both in print and on the podcast. That’s the hallmark of someone with great integrity, and it’s a sign to trust someone more.
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19 September / books
I’ve been searching for a great history of the venture capital industry since before I joined Redpoint. There are a handful of books that are pretty good. Done Deals. eBoys. Creative Capital. But there’s a great one calledVC by Tom Nicholas. Nicholas traces the history of the venture capital industry back to whaling. They weren’t called venture capitalists back then, but they serve the same role. Men would broker relationships between wealthy individuals and adventuresome captains.
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17 September / books
I’ve gotten to know Marc Randolph as a fellow board member at Looker. Marc has helped many companies get off the ground, but the most famous is Netflix. Marc founded the business and served as its first CEO until Reed Hastings took the helm in 2003. In [That Will Never Work](), Marc recounts the early days of the $130B market cap company first started in Santa Cruz and it’s a remarkable story.
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25 April / books
Charlie Munger is famous for championing the idea of mental models. Mental models help us think about the world by simplifying very complex topics into more digestible and tractable ideas. The challenge with mental models is first learning about them and second figuring out which model applies when. We use mental models in our daily lives. The 80⁄20 rule is the Pareto Principle. Focus on the stuff that will yield 80% of the result with 20% of the work.
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25 February / books
I remember the first time I visited China. We landed around 11pm local time in Beijing in the midst of the summer heat wave. As we landed, humidity fogged the Boeing’s windows, and the runway lights projected mirages from the haze. I could have sworn that heat was the product of a billion people’s fervent labor to advance their country and pull themselves into a new era. Since that trip, when I visited RenRen, Autonavi and a few other blossoming startups, the Chinese startup ecosystem has grown tremendously.
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25 February / books
When I was a teenager, I read many books about Dr. Richard Feynman. The irreverent but kind Nobel prize winner in physics became famous for his contributions to quantum mechanics. Though I’ve never understood quantum mechanics all that well, I’ve always admired Feynman, like many others. To read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman is to hear about his upbringing in Queens, New York, where as a boy Feynman teaches himself advanced math, plays practical jokes and fixes radios during the Great Depression to help neighbors, and impresses all of them with his intellect.
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12 February / books
In Defense of Troublemakers. I love the title. Who doesn’t want to be a troublemaker? Charlan Nemeth is a professor at Berkeley of Psychology. She’s studied the role of dissent in group decision-making and written this book on the topic. It’s a critical part of a functioning team. Here’s what I learned from the book: The minority, dissenting opinion in an argument is essential to ensure we make the best decisions.
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14 December / books
These are my ten favorite books from 2018. The (Mis)Behavior of Markets - Written by Benoit Mandelbrot, the Belgian mathematician who pioneered fractals, this book and theory inspired Naseem Taleb. It’s a powerful book on the uncertain nature of financial turbulence. Creative Selection - Ken Kocienda, a former Apple engineer who co-authored Safari and the iPhone keyboard, writes about culture at Apple. Among other insights, he discusses the most effective ways to brainstorm with teams - it’s not with ideas.
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04 December / best practices / strategy / product / books
I’ve wondered what it’s like to work at Apple. I’ve read books and articles about Steve Jobs and the turbulence the company experienced. Ken Kocienda co-wrote the Safari browser and developed the first iPhone keyboard. His book, Creative Selection, is the first book that provides a view of the day to day environment at Apple. It’s full of wisdom. These are my learnings from the book. There are few brainstorming sessions at Apple because ideas are difficult to debate.
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19 July / books / management
I first met Elad Gil when I became an associate product manager at Google. Back then, he had an unusual habit I noticed right away. Most people carry their laptop in the same way. The laptop is closed, in hand, between the hand and the hip. Elad carries his laptop open, powered on and by the top or bottom corner. He’s so smart and has so much cognitive bandwidth, he simply doesn’t have time to wait for the computer to wake from sleep.
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10 July / saas / management / pricing / books
Over the weekend, I read Tien Tzuo’s book, Subscribed. Tien is the founder and CEO of Zuora, and former CSO/CMO at Salesforce, where he started in 1999. He has been working in SaaS for nearly 20 years. He’s a thought leader in the world of subscriptions, and I learned a tremendous amount from his book. There were three key themes that resonated with me. First, the shift to a subscription business model reinforces customer centricity.
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Imagine you came across this ad. Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.
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01 January / strategy / startups / saas / books
There’s a crisis in the scientific academic world. It’s called the Replication Crisis. Scientists have found that they cannot replicate the results published by many scientific studies. The same thing is happening in the world of business. Over the last 15 years I’ve read several hundred business books, and I’ve written one. Across those 15 years, one of the most interesting is a book called The Management Myth, which traces the history of management science back to its less than solid origins.
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03 December / management / best practices / books
A friend suggested that I read the Five Dysfunctions of a Team over the weekend. Though I’m passionate about business books, I rolled my eyes. I had seen this one on best seller lists for a long time, and never thought it would have much to offer. I admit my book-cover bias was wrong. The author has a counterintuitive assertion. Meetings shouldn’t be boring. The book is a fable, describing the journey of a new CEO, Kathryn, who takes the helm of a struggling high-growth startup.
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09 July / sales / books
I’ve asked many VPs of Sales the same question. Which is the best book on the fundamentals of selling? Almost unequivocally, they respond, “Miller-Heiman.” The New Strategic Selling is an updated version of the original Strategic Selling, which was published in 1988, and describes the key activities of successful sales people. I resonated with two concepts in the book: the 4 Seller Response Modes and the authors’ recommendations on how to prioritize a salesperson’s time.
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I’ve been reading Fred Kofman’s book, Conscious Business. Written in 2006, the book summarizes Kofman’s experiences as a management consultant to some of the great leaders in technology and other industries. In the book, Kofman lists 12 questions Gallup used to identify great managers in one of the largest management surveys conducted. As I read this list of 12 questions, I started answering them for each of the different roles I’ve had.
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04 June / management / books
The New Zealand All Blacks are the most successful athletic team perhaps of all time. A rugby outfit whose name originates from the solid black uniforms, they have won 79% of their international matches spanning 68 years. James Kerr followed the All Blacks, interviewed them and distilled his learnings into a book, Legacy. Kerr organizes the book into 15 life lessons, three of which stood out to me. Humility is the first.
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31 March / books
There’s a new class of company that wield data to create long-term competitive advantage. TheRealReal uses this morning’s sales data to inform this afternoon’s marketing campaigns. Hubspot motivates its sales teams not just with a target quota, but a blend of key sales metrics that reflect the strategic priorities of the company. Zendesk’s data team educates and trains its employees to use data in meetings to prioritize key product management and marketing efforts.
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20 May / management / books
Orbiting the Giant Hairball is one of the most unusual business books I’ve read. It’s irreverent, full of drawings, and completely chaotic in the most wonderful way. Gordon MacKenzie, the author of the book, worked at Hallmark cards for 30 years to the day. He started initially in the creative department imagining greeting cards and ultimately found himself with the title Creative Paradox. In his book, he described the way he injected creativity into his working life.
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24 March / saas / startups / sales / books
If you want to understand how to build a great SaaS sales organization, you should read Mark Roberge’s The Sales Acceleration Formula. It’s the single best book on the topic. Mark is the Chief Revenue Office at Hubspot, a company which has created tremendous success by perfecting the inbound marketing plus sales model. The book is invaluable for every founder, CEO and member of the management team because it not only explains how the Hubspot sales team is structured, but why the structure came to be.
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11 September / startups / books
I wish I had been in Stanford’s CS183 class in 2012, the year Peter Thiel taught it. A student of the class, Blake Masters, copied all the class notes and I read every post, like thousands of other visitors to the site. In a few days, Thiel and Masters will release a book version of these notes called Zero to One: Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future.
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Some of the best content to be found about startups is locked in books. Thomas Kjemperud asked me yesterday for a 140 character recommendation of one book for founders. Reducing my list to just one and condensing an argument for why founders ought to read it in just 117 characters was just too great a challenge for me. Instead I’ve written a blog post about the nine favorite books I’ve read over the last five years have helped me understand startups and the processes that make them successful.
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04 January / sales / best practices / books
Daniel Pink, former speechwriter for Al Gore, has written an unconventional book on sales called To Sell is Human. In this well researched book, Pink observes a few surprising evolutions in society and their impact on sales. The hard sell is dead. Enabled by the internet, prospective buyers know more about a product than a salesperson. This is true for cars as much as enterprise software. As a result, the salesperson no longer leverages an information asymmetry to sell a product.
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31 October / best practices / books
Peter Senge has been called the most influential business strategists of the century and in my view Senge is the successor of Peter Drucker, the management visionary. Senge published a book in 1990 called The Fifth Discipline which I think every manager, founder and CEO should read. Great companies transcend their great products. Not defined by one product, these companies adapt, innovate and reinvent. They learn continuously to succeed as their environment changes.
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24 August / startups / best practices / books
We negotiate every day in almost every conversation and exchange, whether it’s rescheduling a flight, asking for a product return or responding to a term sheet. I’ve been reading Getting More, a book by Stuart Diamond, who trains the military, Google and many others on negotiation. Everyone should read it. This book is set apart because it recognizes the nature of relationships, emotion and human nature, forgoing concepts like ZOPA and BATNA.