If you are working on your first startup, this is the book for you. Hopefully, the Foreword I wrote reflects my belief in the quality and importance of this book.
My friends @willherman and @rajatbhargava put their hearts and souls into the creation of the first edition of The Startup Playbook, and it paid off. Over 13,000 people bought the book, it’s a 4.8-star review book on Amazon (with 100 reviews), and it sold out.
I’ve known Will since 1984 and Raj since 1993. Will and I made our first angel investment together in 1994 – in Raj’s first company NetGenesis (which went public in 1999). Since then, Will and I have made many investments together (including most of Raj’s company). Raj and I have done seven companies together, including his most recent company JumpCloud which is one of the fastest-growing B2B SaaS companies in our portfolio (and in Colorado.)
The book is Will and Raj’s how-to guide for building your startup from the ground up. It has a collection of the major lessons and shortcuts they learned starting 11 companies between them – a lot of successes, but some nasty failures too. They wrote the book to shift the odds of success in your favor. They share their tips, secrets, and advice in a frank, founder-to-founder discussion with you.
The Startup Playbook is not a recipe; it’s not a template; it’s not a list of tasks to do. It’s their insider’s guide to starting a company and running it successfully in those critical early months. It’s full of our advice, guidance, do’s, and don’ts from their years of experience as founders, investors, mentors, and advisors.
It was a delight to interview Rajat Bhargava for the Give First Podcast. We’ve been working together since 1994 when I made my first angel investment in Raj’s first company (NetGenesis). We’ve worked on a number of companies since then, some successful, and some not, but our friendship – even with our own personal ups and downs – has been a constant.
Raj covers a lot of ground in this podcast, including some origin stories, his relationship with Will Herman (who co-invested in NetGenesis with me at the very beginning, which is how he met Raj), a moment where I treated Raj poorly and our relationship could have easily gone off the rails if we hadn’t both put energy into acknowledging what had happened and getting back to a healthy place, and how he thinks about Give First, both in the Boulder startup community and at his current company JumpCloud.
Raj – 25 years later, I still learn something from you every time we talk. You are a gem. I’m so glad you came up to me after that MIT guest lecture oh so many years ago.
My longtime friends Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman are launching their new book today. I wrote the foreword and was a reviewer.
I’ve worked with both Raj and Will for over two decades – as a co-investor, co-founder, board member, and co-director. They both are incredibly experienced founders and entrepreneurs, so I was delighted to be involved in their book.
The book is called The Startup Playbook and it’s their personal how-to guide for building your startup from the ground up. In it, you’ll find a collection of the major lessons and shortcuts they’ve learned that will shift the odds of success in your favor as you build your business. They are sharing their tips, secrets, and advice in a frank, founder-to-founder discussion format.
Startups are incredibly difficult, as we all know. In fact, Raj and Will claim that 9 out of 10 of them fail. My view is that is optimistic. Regardless of the odds, Raj and Will focus on the steps that founders can take to improve their chances of success.
Not only do I think that this book is an important read for all founders, but I think founders should hand copies to their startup team. Execs, early employees, and anyone interested in creating or working for a startup can learn a great deal about how to build a startup.
I know that Raj and Will would love to hear any feedback. Comment here, or email me and I’ll get it to them.
Rajat Bhargava and I have been working together since 1994. We’ve been involved in creating seven companies together (the most recent ones are MobileDay and Yesware) and, while most have been successful, we’ve had a huge number of positive and negative experiences along the way. We’ve mostly had a lot of fun and, when we haven’t, we always made sure we figured out what went wrong.
Minda Zetlin just put up an interview with us on the Inc. Magazine site titled 4 Signs You Should Say ‘No’ to a VC which I thought was excellent. She explores the entrepreneur – VC relationship and suggests four warning signs for an entrepreneur when interacting with a VC.
The paragraph on “you can’t be completely honest” is a seminal moment in my relationship with Raj. It also was a key point in my work career where, upon reflection, I completely and totally grokked the importance of being honest in the moment, clear about my reasoning, and willing to change my perspective based on new information, rather than feeling stuck in simply delivering a message. The section from the article follows:
“The important thing is to be completely transparent,” Bhargava says. “It’s very, very difficult to be transparent about your business, but it goes a long way toward building that relationship. ‘Here’s what I’m going through; here’s what I’m struggling with; here’s what I need help with.’ You have to know if that will spook the investor or if they’ll want to dig in and help you.”
That ability to be honest was a great asset in Feld and Bhargava’s relationship when they worked together on Interliant, the only one of their ventures that did not survive. After some politicking by a different executive, Feld removed a part of the company’s operations from Bhargava’s oversight. Bhargava took a few days to calm down, but then he explained forthrightly how disappointed he was and why he believed Feld had made the wrong decision. “Being open and directly confronting the issues, you get through it,” Bhargava says now. “I felt hurt, but I think our relationship is that much stronger.”
As for Feld, he recalls returning to his hotel after discussing the matter over dinner and feeling physically ill. “I knew I had completely screwed up,” he says.
I count Raj as one of my closest friends and trust him with my life. He’s had an enormous influence on how I behave as an investor and how I interact with entrepreneurs. Raj – thanks man – I look forward to many more years working together.