First, I wanted to talk a bit about mindset.
The one key difference between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs is the way you look at the world. You need to see opportunities everywhere, because opportunities are in fact everywhere.
Many people have ideas for an internet business they want to build. Few actually show up.
Showing up is half the battle. Sometimes most of the battle. Think about your work. How many people can barely do their jobs? If you just showed up on time, tried to work reasonably hard, you would be able to do a better job than most of them.
Entrepreneurship is no different. Most people are bad at it. So just show up.
How do you build this mindset?
Reading is a good place to start. I recommend these two books as my favorite books on how to build a company.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Zero to One is an interesting take on startups by one of the most famous contrarian in Silicon Valley.
It focuses on what is fundamentally different about creating something new (or going from zero to one). Peter Thiel speaks from his own experiences at Paypal and Palantir.
It starts with a simple question: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”. A simple question on the surface that involves a intuitive sense of people, a belief that there are still secrets in this world not yet revealed, and a firm sense of self and manifest destiny. Not an easy question to answer for anyone.
It proceeds to talk about what technology is, the interaction of globalization and technology, and Thiel’s other musings about things as varied as the relatively slow pace of biotech innovation (spoiler: it’s not entirely the fault of regulations) and the role of chance in our lives.
An interesting section I’d like to call out is the section on monopolies and how they are good in an changing world because the lack of competition allows for investments in the future and in their workforce.
It ends with sales, distribution, a case study on why clean-energy companies in the early 2000s failed, and a profile of what makes great founders great.
My biggest takeaways are:
- intelligent design and driving to a vision of where things should be can lead to a global maxima whereas customer-driven innovation can lead to local maximas.
- the value of building long-lasting relationships in the workplace.
- a deeper understanding of distribution channels as a hidden bottleneck and the interaction of sales and distribution channels
Overall, an enjoyable read for anyone thinking about diving into entrepreneurship or curious about contrarian thinking. It is less filled with practical knowledge than “The hard thing about hard things” but does a better job of building out the fundamentals of what makes a company succeed and outcompete its competitors.
Reading time: 20 hours
The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
This book is a seminal piece on how to build companies. It goes over how Ben Horowitz (now a famous venture capitalist at a16z) grew his skills, met the people he needed to meet (including Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape), and became CEO of the first cloud software company (LoudCloud).
Ben Horowitz's core idea is: the hardest thing about running a business is how to make difficult decisions. He gives examples like: when you are running out of money, do you layoff loyal people who have followed you and trusted you this whole way? Or do you ask people to take a cut to their paycheck? Or do you layoff the newest people at your company?
Another example is: promoting amazing people is easy. What happens when those amazing people become entitled and ask for unreasonable salaries or benefits?
Ben's conclusion is: that is where the entrepreneur's courage shines out. To be an entrepreneur, you need to be endlessly evaluating yourself and what you are doing to identify places to grow and how to get better. This takes courage. So does making the hard decision that you know is the right decision.
This book covers how to hire people, especially into roles that you haven't done yourself. It covers how to build strong business relationships, address culture at your work, and how to build a stable company over time.
This book is more about the tactical day-to-day of building a business. It will be hard to find ideas for new businesses or how to think about market trends in this book, but if you want to make good decisions, this is your book.
Reading time: 20 hours.
These two books are my favorite books on building a business. Click on the picture above to get your copy today!
There's no better time than now to work towards building your own income and setting yourself up for success.