Amy and I shipped the final draft of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur yesterday. “If you are interested in this book, go pre-order it now on Amazon to help our pre-order numbers“, said Brad the Book Salesman.
The backlog of things on my to do list is at an all time high. I’m normally super responsive to everything and have zero backlog. That is not the case right now.
The only thing in front of me for the next seven hours is the Detroit Marathon which I’m going to go suit up for after I finish writing this blog post. I don’t expect this to be a pretty marathon – I haven’t been running very much, or consistently, since my bike accident six weeks ago, but I’m running to support my partner Jason Mendelson who, along with Jill Spruiell and Becky Cooper from Foundry Group, are running their first marathon. Our partner Ryan McIntyre is also running today, along with Andrew Tschesnok of Organic Motion. I think it’s pretty cool that 36% of Foundry Group is running this marathon.
While my backlog is huge, I’ve been focused on making sure I’m responsive to all the top order stuff. In my hierarchy this is Amy, my partners, the CEOs of companies I’m an investor in, anyone else who works for a company we are investors in, and our LPs. That’s it – everything else is in “the next bucket.” I’ve gotten plenty done outside of this, but all my excess available time over the last thirty days has been allocated to shipping this book. If you check with Kelly and ask about my schedule, she’ll suppress a laugh as she tries to fit you in somewhere.
Every time I ship something I have new respect for all the entrepreneurs and people who work for the companies we are investors in. I’ve had a lot of time (almost 30 years) to work on my “prioritization algorithm” and feel like I’ve got it well tuned. I’ve always had a continual overcommit problem – where I take on slightly too much and then have to back off on some optional stuff – and this cycle repeats itself regularly in my life. However, when you commit to shipping something, like a book, you have a deadline and suddenly have to execute against it. The high order priorities come into clearer focus. The separation between them, and everything else, become crisp. When I’m sitting in a hotel room at 11pm after a day that started at 5am, I no longer am thinking that I’m going to get through all of my email. Instead, I’m learning the brilliance of using Google Circles to search my inbox for circle:”foundry ents” label:inbox and make sure I get all of those done before I go to sleep.
While I’ve got a ton of other things I want to get to that are interesting and relevant to me, none of them are either timely or important, at least to me. I realize they are timely and important to the person on the other end so I’ll eventually get to them, but the prioritization filter gets tight and the first constraint to enforce is timeliness. I try not to spend any time on stuff I don’t think is useful. As Amy likes to tell me “I’ll be the judge of that” – and I am the judge of what I want to spend my time on, and I’m sure I get this wrong some of the time. If you aren’t in the “inner circles” (yes – Google really got this right) then you have to wait. I’ll eventually get to it, but it won’t be first.
Everyone I know talks about how busy they are. And I’m sure they are. But if you haven’t shipped a product lately, I encourage you to configure something you are working on to look like a product that you are shipping. If you don’t have an external deadline, give yourself one. When you are working on something that has to ship in two weeks, you realize how much stuff is trying to get your attention that isn’t a priority, or even relevant to your mission on this planet. It’s a good way to remember how to prioritize. And it’s an excellent reminder to me about the pressure the people I invest in are under who continually ship products.
I’ve finished writing the book Startup Communities: Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City (a solo effort) and am now deep into Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving In A Relationship With An Entrepreneur which I’m writing with Amy.
I’m looking for a great collaborative writing tool for a book. I used Scrivener on a solo basis for Startup Communities – it’s outstanding for the first draft. I eventually had to drop into Word to work with the production system for my publisher (Wiley) but that’s probably the case for any non-self-publishing experience at this point.
However, I can’t for the life of me figure out a workflow with Scrivener that works effectively for two writers. It’s a single-user product and all of my Dropbox related contortions work to share the file, but then only one person can actually work in it at any given time. So “pair programming” (or “pair writing”) might work, but we are both banging away at the book next to each other while on our treadputers (on different computers).
I’m moving everything to Google Docs for now, but I’m looking for feedback from other writers who have done books as joint projects where there were two writers. I don’t really want to pass documents back and forth (or share separate files via Dropbox) – I want a true collaborative writing solution.
Any thoughts out there?
Yesterday at 4:57pm I hit send in Gmail and submitted the final draft of my newest book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneur Ecosystem In Your City to my publisher (Wiley). I’ve still got two more revision cycles – one in a few weeks when I get the final copyedited version and then one last review of the page proofs but the book is done. The publication date is early October but if history is a guide it should be out by mid-September.
Startup Communities is the first book in a four book series I’m doing called Startup Revolution. I’m spending most of this summer in maker mode at my house in Keystone and doing all my normal work, but I’m not travelling at all and trying to spend as little time as possible doing random stuff. June was just awesome – I feel rested, happier, and more productive than I’ve felt in a very long time.
My deadline was the end of day on July 5th. Specifically 11:59pm on July 5th. It felt phenomenal to get done a day early. I went for a short bike ride (I have a marathon this weekend in Montana so I’m tapering), had some dinner, grabbed some ice cream and popcorn, and watched the first six episodes of Damages with Amy. Four hours later my brain was calmed down from a 40+ hour focused push to get the book out.
Today feels like a total bonus day. I’m heading out for lunch with Amy, grabbing some salt tablets for my marathon, working on random stuff this afternoon, running an hour to dinner and then eating with two good friends (and Amy). We get up early tomorrow and head to Montana.
Life is good.
Jason and I got an email this morning that said the following:
Hi Jason and Brad,
Just wanted to thank you for writing the book ‘Venture Deals’. The advice in the book seriously helped my startup get a great term sheet on the table on Friday.
We get an email like this often. They come in different forms – some are longer than others – but they always have the same message. “Thank you for helping me.” And that feels awesome. It’s not the extrinsic motivation from the praise, it’s the intrinsic motivation that comes from knowing I’ve put together a book on a difficult topic that is useful.
I’ve currently written three books: Venture Deals, Do More Faster, and Burning Entrepreneur. This summer I’m going to write four more – Startup Communities, Startup Life, Startup Boards, and Startup Accounting. They are all in process and at different stages of completion – by the end of the summer they’ll be largely done and will come out quarterly starting in Q3. My goal is to cover a broad range of Startup topics in the same format that Jason and I did with Venture Deals.
Every time I get an email like the one above, it’s a little more fuel to keep on writing.
Amy and I have just launched a new project we are working on together called Startup Marriage: Balancing Entrepreneurship and Relationship. It includes a blog, a tweet stream, and a book (hopefully by the end of the year.)
Since the beginning of 2010 I’ve written two books. The first, Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons To Accelerate Your Startup, was with David Cohen, the CEO of TechStars. The second, Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer And Venture Capitalist, was with Jason Mendelson, one of my Foundry Group partners. Wiley published both of them and I’ve learned a lot about writing a long form book. I’ve also enjoyed the process and the work immensely, except for the final, mind-numbing edit cycle.
Amy and I have been talking about writing Startup Marriage for several years. Do More Faster’s last chapter is on Work-Life Balance and I have written a lot about Work-Life Balance on my blog. While there is always more to learn and figure out, Amy and I have gotten a lot of things right, although we’ve had plenty of ups and downs along the way as we’ve figured this stuff out.
We’re spending a good chuck of our time in Paris and Italy writing together. Our goal is to have a solid draft of the book done by the time we get back to Boulder after Labor Day. We haven’t decided whether to self-publish or go with a publisher this time around – we’ll see how we feel when we get a little closer to the end of the draft. In the mean time, we’ll be blogging regularly on the Startup Marriage blog about a wide variety of topics, including the experience of writing a book together. We hope you’ll follow us and participate!
The English language badly needs a gender neutral pronoun. The more I write, the more I feel the need for this. In my post yesterday, Does Your VP of HR Report To Your CEO? I felt this very acutely as I tried to be gender neutral to avoid the “CEO’s are male, VP of HR are female” bias. But I failed and just used “he” throughout the post.
Jason and I struggled a lot with this in our new book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. We finally gave up and used “he” throughout. But we felt compelled to discuss this in the Preface.
“In an early draft, we varied gender on pronouns, using “she” liberally throughout the book. However, as we edited the book, we found that the mixed gender was confusing and made the book less readable. So we decided to use male pronouns throughout as a “generic pronoun” for both genders. We are sensitive to gender issues in both computer science and entrepreneurship in general—Brad has worked for a number of years as chair of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (www.ncwit.org). We hope our female readers are okay with this approach and hope someday someone comes up with a true gender-neutral set of English pronouns.”
In general, I’ve adopted the “use the pronoun of the author” approach. I’ve tried (s)he but I don’t like it – I find it to be hard to read. I like “phe” or “per” but neither of these have had any consistent usage that I’m aware of.
For all the women out there reading this, when I say “he” I actually mean “he or she” or “she or he”. And for all the english scholars and style book writers out there, please push the use of “phe”, “per”, or some other gender neutral pronoun on the world.