I love origin stories.
David Brown, Techstars CEO and co-founder, just updated his and published a new edition of No Vision All Drive. It’s the story of Pinpoint Technologies, his first company with David Cohen, one of the other co-founders of Techstars.
As an origin story, it’s a detailed autobiography of what David learned from the experience of his first company. In this edition, he’s added some linkages into Techstars, and how his learning around entrepreneurship and leadership has evolved since the experience of Pinpoint.
I’ve read the book three times (for each edition – the self-published 1st edition, the FG Press 2nd edition, and the Techstars Press 3rd edition) and I learned lots about David Brown – and David Cohen – each time. In addition to plenty of fun little anecdotes, my current experience with the David(s) nicely intertwined with what I was reading, as I was able to time travel back to them during their formative entrepreneurial experience.
No Vision All Drive is particularly fun for me since the time frame overlapped with my first company – Feld Technologies. There are great overlaps like incorporating with The Company Corporation (for $99), remembering the joy of Btrieve, struggling with Microsoft Access with significant simultaneous users and endlessly rebuilding the database (Rome was lost for a simple reindex), and working through the endless issues around growth for a self-funded business.
As a bonus, I finished Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint by Robert Gaskins. This was the origin story of PowerPoint and Forethought, the first acquisition Microsoft ever made. It’s long, but as Gaskins rolled through the Forethought history in the mid-1980s and then his time at Microsoft from 1987 – 1993, I was able to once again time travel back to Feld Technologies, which was an independent company from 1987 to 1993 (when we were acquired by Sage Alerting Systems, which became AmeriData Technologies.)
While I’m not inspired to write the Feld Technologies origin story at this point, it’s a lot of fun to remember it, against the backdrop of what others were doing at the time. And, I know David Brown a little bit better today than I did yesterday.
Ryan Holiday’s newest book, Stillness Is The Key, came out at the beginning of October. I ended up with two copies and thought I’d read it over the weekend after they showed up at my house. The weekend slipped by and I didn’t pick it up until mid-day on Thanksgiving.
It was pouring rain in San Diego all day so it was a perfect laying on the couch reading afternoon. I just finished and, once again, Ryan delivered with this book.
Ryan divided the book into three sections: Mind, Spirit, and Body. He has a thorough exploration, broken up into about a dozen chapters, for each category. As is his style, there are many detailed and powerful examples.
He leads with Seneca, a friend of all Stoics and a frequent visitor in Ryan’s writing. He tells a short story around apatheia, or upekkha, or aslama, or hishtavut, or samatvam, or euthymia, or hesychia, or ataraxia, or aequanimitas – a word that finally comes closer to translation into English.
That word is stillness. In the intro to the book, Ryan says,
“To be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude—exterior and interior—on command.
Buddhism. Stoicism. Epicureanism. Christianity. Hinduism. It’s all but impossible to find a philosophical school or religion that does not venerate this inner peace—this stillness—as the highest good and as the key to elite performance and a happy life.
And when basically all of the widom of the ancient world agrees on something, only a fool would decline to listen.“
I thought the chapters in each section were extremely well-titled and are listed below. Like reading a poem, slow yourself down and, instead of skimming the next three paragraphs, read them aloud.
Mind: The domain of the mind, Become present, Limit your inputs, Empty the mind, Slow down think deeply, Start journaling, Cultivate silence, Seek wisdom, Find confidence avoid ego, Let go.
Spirit: The domain of the soul, Choose virtue, Heal the inner child, Beware desire, Enough, Bathe in beauty, Accept a higher power, Enter relationships, Conquer your anger, All is one.
Body: The domain of the body, Say no, Take a walk, Build a routine, Get rid of your stuff, Seek solitude, Be a human being, Go to sleep, Find a hobby, Beware escapism, Act bravely.
If even one chapter in each section strikes a chord with you, I encourage you to grab a copy of Stillness Is The Key.
Ryan – thanks for adding another phenomenal book to my bookshelf.
David Cohen and I are doing a public event in Boulder this Friday 10/11 and one in Denver next Thursday 10/17 around our new book Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup, 2nd Edition.
These are happening at the Barnes & Noble stores listed below.
10/11: Friday @ 4pm: B&N Boulder: Crossroads Commons
2999 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80301
10/17: Thursday @ 6pm: B&N Denver: Colorado Blvd II
960 S Colorado Blvd
Glendale, CO 80246
While David and I used to do a lot of public things together in Boulder and Denver, our “out in public together” time has decreased a lot the past few years because of a variety of things, including the rapid expansion of Techstars globally.
So, when we came out with the new version of Do More Faster, we decided to do a few events together in Colorado. We had a fun event at B&N in Fort Collins a few weeks ago, so we are ready to follow it up in Boulder and Denver.
As a special bonus, our good friend Jerry Colonna from Reboot will be joining us in Boulder on Friday 10/11 to interview us and be part of the discussion.
Come out and join us for a couple of hours of fun and a stimulating discussion about entrepreneurship.
Ryan Holiday’s new book Stillness Is The Key is out. I have a copy on the top of my infinite pile of books at home along with a copy on my Kindle. I’ll be reading it this weekend.
For a moment of inspiration today, take a look at his launch video.
I’ve read every one of Ryan’s books. I’ve loved them all, learned from them, and gotten ideas and inspiration about how to adapt and adjust my behavior.
I look forward to some time this weekend with Stillness is the Key.
As Amy and I settle into our time in Homer, we spent a lot of last weekend (and the evenings) reading. We don’t have a TV up here, so our lying around entertainment is reading with some bonus knitting time for Amy.
I’ve been working my way through the books at the upcoming Authors and Innovators Business Ideas Festival and got through three of them so far. I also read a near-final draft of John Minnihan’s upcoming book and The Impossible Long Run: My Journey to Becoming Ultra by Janet Patkowa.
But, the best book of last weekend was Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac. It’s the first major book about the story of Uber, by a New York Times writer who has covered tech (and Uber) for a long time.
It’s incredibly fast-paced. It’s in the same category of a number of other “first major book about an emergent important company by a journalist” including Bad Blood (Theranos) by John Carreyrou and The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick.
While I knew over 80% of the content in the book, having it strung together in a time sequence, with emphasis on key activities that happened at the same time, or influenced other future actions, was critical to the narrative and extremely well done by Isaac. While some of it had a reporter flavor, most were non-judgmental and let the activities stand on their own. Periodically Isaac would nudge you toward a conclusion, but most of the time he let you take your view where you wanted from the context provided.
It’ll be interesting to see where Uber is in a decade. In the meantime, reflecting on how it got to where it is today is fascinating.
Amy and I arrived in Homer this evening for some time in a different place. We are TV-free up here, so that means, well, books.
She fell asleep early so I finished off The Bookish Life of Nina Hill which I had started several weeks ago but got distracted and read a few other things. The distraction was more a function of being in Boulder, surrounded by physical books which I read, in contrast to being in Homer with my Kindle, where I simply picked up on the last thing I had been reading.
This was a fun book. The protagonist, Nina, loves books, schedules “nothing” for Thursday nights so she can go home and read, and works in a bookstore. While she gets along with people, her favorite thing in the world is to be home alone reading a book. Sound like someone you know?
It covers Los Angeles, books, romance, endless book and movie references, trivia quiz competitions, books, a cat named Phil, a recently discovered family, and David Hasselhoff. Like good contemporary fiction, it moves quickly, the protagonist (Nina) is super-awesome-hilarious-complicated, and time disappears for a while and then suddenly the book ends.
But the backstory of the book is even more entertaining. The author, Abbi Waxman, shares the last name with David Waxman, who is a partner at TenOneTen Ventures. Oh, and they are married. While I’ve never met Abbi, I’ve known David since the late 1990s when I was on the board of PeoplePC and he was a co-founder. Foundry is an LP in TenOneTen and it’s been fun to work with David again after a long hiatus.
I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that David’s wife, like my wife Amy, was a writer. It popped up a few times over the years, but it never stuck in my brain. Over the summer, when Amy and I were having dinner with Nick Grouf (David’s co-founder at PeoplePC) and Shana Eddy, it came up again when one of Nick or Shana (I can’t remember which) recommended The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. Dots were again connected, and the circle now included Amy.
On the plane today, as Amy was reading my Kindle over my shoulder, she said “didn’t someone recommend that book to us?” which then prompted a fun conversation about Nick, Shawn, David, and the mysterious Abbi who I hope to someday meet.
While that backstory was merely a lame approximation of the fun tangling of characters in Abbi’s book, it seemed fitting to unroll it that way.
If you like fiction, books, Los Angeles, stories about interesting characters, and a few plot twists, go grab The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.
And, just like that, I’m off to bed …
Over the summer, I’ve been exploring Buddhism. I’m focused on it as a philosophy, not as a religion, but decided that reading a broad survey book that covered the history of Buddhism from multiple angles – historical, philosophical, and religious, might be interesting.
I stumbled up Buddhism 101: From Karma to the Four Noble Truths, Your Guide to Understanding the Principles of Buddhism at Explore Booksellers in Aspen. I grabbed it along with a few other books (something I do every time I enter a bookstore) and observed it sitting on my living room book table over the summer.
When we came back to Boulder, I carried a few books back with me including Buddhism 101. I’d started it and read bits of it but took a few hours on the couch this afternoon after my run and polished it off.
It’s a great survey guide to Buddhism. The chapters are short, very accessible, and remarkably clear. I’m sure some of the historical stuff will drift away from my memory, but the broad arc of the evolution of Buddhism and a reinforcement of the principles against this historical backdrop is now a solid base that I can build on.
If you have a meditation practice, a friend who is a Buddhist, or are just interested in having more than a millimeter deep understanding of Buddhism, this book will get you to two millimeters. And you’ll understand, after reading it, why there’s no value in getting attached to the number of millimeters.
I’m an enormous Jim Collins fan. It’s a special bonus that he lives in Boulder.
He just came out with a short monograph called Turning the Flywheel. It’s only 40 pages but stunningly good. In it, he dissects the concept of the flywheel, which he first described in his seminal book Good to Great.
Every CEO in our portfolio will be receiving a copy in the next month as part of our “book of the almost every month club.”
If you are a CEO trying to build an enduring company, get Turning the Flywheel now and read it this upcoming weekend.
I don’t know whether it was Jerry Colonna or my therapist who recommended this to me, but I listened to David Whyte’s Midlife and the Great Unknown yesterday on my evening run.
As part of my acceptance of midlife, which I define as the transition into the stage where you know you have fewer days to live than the number of days you have already lived, I’ve been exploring a bunch of different things. One of them is poetry, which has always been extremely difficult for me to read.
So, I decided to try a combination of poetry, memoir, and reflections by David Whyte on Audible. I usually run without headphones, but I’m trying to reacclimate to the roads around my house in Boulder after spending the summer on the trails in Aspen, so I thought I’d listen to a book on tape. I’d downloaded Midlife a few months ago and it was at the top of the Audible list on my phone, so I just rolled with it.
About two miles up St. Vrain, as I was approaching the left turn on 47th, I settled into a groove where everything fell away. Whyte has a beautiful voice and I realized that listening to poetry is a lot easier for me than reading poetry. And, as I transitioned into the flow state that is a good run after the first 20 or so minutes, a smile crossed my face.
When I finished my eight miles, I was almost done with the two-hour-long Audible recording that I listened to at 1.25x speed. Amy was downstairs watching the US Open so I made my recovery smoothie, got in the hot tub, and had a wonderful half-hour phone call with my dad where we just talked about life as the sun went behind the Flatirons.
As I get comfortable with midlife, I see more poetry in my future.
When we started Techstars in 2006 we had one core goal in mind – helping entrepreneurs succeed. While it started as an experiment with one accelerator in Boulder, we now have about 50 accelerators annually around the world funding 500 startups a year. We also run Startup Weekends and Startup Weeks in over 150 cities globally, have a venture capital fund that invests in companies after they go through the accelerator program, and have a set of corporate innovation and ecosystem development programs that help bridge the gap between large enterprises, cities, and startups.
A key part of the ethos of Techstars is to always look for more ways to help entrepreneurs succeed whether or not they are part of the Techstars network.
Recently, we decided to start publishing the best content we have in the Techstars network. David Cohen and I came out with the 2nd Edition of Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup. Jason Mendelson and I are releasing the 4th Edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist next week.
A new book in the Techstars Series is Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups written by Amos Schwartzfarb, the Managing Director of Techstars Austin.
Amos has been the Managing Director of Techstars Austin for four years and was one of the top mentors in Austin for the three years prior to him taking over MD role from Jason Seats (who is now Techstars’ Chief Investment Officer.) Prior to Techstars, Amos spent almost 20 years working at or founding startups including HotJobs.com, Work.com, Business.com, and Blacklocus where his job was always to figure out product-market fit and then build and scale the sales and client service organizations. These companies grew collectively to well over $200 million in revenue and had nearly $1 billion in exit value combined.
When Amos started his work mentoring at Techstars, he became a high demand mentor because virtually every company going through the Techstars Austin program sought him out for advice on figuring out sales. When he took over the role of MD for Techstars Austin, he quickly became one of the go-to resources for other MD at Techstars for sales related advice.
Amos decided to write Sell More Faster because he realized building early-stage sales organizations had become intuitive to him based on a simple but effective process he created back at Business.com called W3. This process stood for WHO is your customer, WHAT are they buying, and WHY do they buy it. However, he realized that of all the thousands of founders he speaks with each year, almost no one has a grasp on what it means to do “sales” in a startup. While they might understand sales in a mature company, it’s very different in a startup. In addition, as he looked around for books on sales for the founders going through Techstars Austin, while he found plenty of sales in general, he couldn’t find a great one addressing the tactical and operational side of building your sales strategy and process from day zero.
So he wrote it.
Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups is an awesome and straightforward playbook that takes you step by step through what you need to do from before you even start developing product all the way through to where you have found repeatability in your sales organization and are scaling the business. It’s a recipe that you’ll be able to refer back to throughout the life of your company and is the only sales book I’ve encountered for startups that address the “how-to of selling” from an operational perspective.
If you are a founder or responsible for sales in an early-stage company, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Sell More Faster: The Ultimate Sales Playbook for Startups right now. It officially hits the stores on September 4th and you can pre-order yours now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Finally, Amos will be doing a 20 city book tour this fall including a workshop on selling that accompanies the book. Watch the Sell More Faster website to see the dates when Amos comes to a city near you.
Enjoy – and don’t forgot to Sell More Faster!