I recently finished reading The Monk and the Riddle – The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur – by Randy Komisar with Kent Lineback.
This is a book that narrates, through the dialogue between a mentor (Komisar) and two entrepreneurs seeking to launch their business, valuable lessons on entrepreneurship, and leadership. It takes us through the lifecycle of a start-up from inception to execution. What sets this book apart is that the narration showcases both the investor’s point of view (VC) and the entrepreneurs looking to start their business. Through this the reader learns the gap that can and usually does exist between the two and how to mediate that.
A very educational, insightful and entertaining read!
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:
1- “VCs, I explained, want to know three basic things: Is it a big market? Can your product or service win over and defend a large share of that market? Can your team do the job?”
2- “VCs invest first and foremost, I explained, in people. The team would have to be intelligent and tireless. They would need to be skilled in their functional areas, though not necessarily highly experienced. Moreover, they would need to be flexible and cable of learning quickly. Heaps of information about the market and the competition would be streaming in after they launched. They would have to course-correct, on would have to be comfortable with uncertainty and change. That’s why VCs look for people with some startup experience, people who have proven they can thrive in chaos. It significantly reduces the risk of failure.”
3- “It’s not clear that being the first-mover will provide the rash of Internet startups a sustainable competitive advantage. Ultimately being right, or better positioned, may be more important than being first.”
4- “Stay small and remain flexible for the time being, so we can keep close to the market, learn from prospective customers, and afford to take some missteps. You have o be able to survive mistakes in order to learn, and you have to learn in order to create sustainable success. Once the market is understood and the product is fully developed, then move fast and hard. If, on the other hand, we discover with this approach that there’s no market at all, we won’t have wasted truckloads of money.”
5- “Business is one of the last remaining social institutions to help us manage and cope with change.”
6- “Passion and drive are not the same at all. Passion pulls you toward something you cannot resist. Drive pushes you toward something you feel compelled or obligated to do. If you know nothing about yourself, you can’t tell the difference. Once you gain on modicum of self-knowledge, you can express your passion.”
7- “Business…is about nothing if not people. First, the people you serve, your market. Then the team you build, your employees. Finally, your many business partners and associates. Sever the chain of values between leadership and the people translating strategy into products and services for your customers, and you will destroy your foundation for longer-term success. The culture you create and principles you express are the only connection you will have with each other and your many constituencies.”
8- “Silicon Valley veterans share a tacit understanding that what a startup needs isn’t one CEO, but three – each at successive stages of the startup’s needs isn’t one CEO, but three – each at successive stage of the startup’s development…The first CEO is “the Retriever.” From the muck she must assemble the core team, the product or service, and the market direction – all around a coherent vision. She must also raise the money and secure crucial early customers and partners. She is prized for her tenacity and inventiveness. The second CEO is “the Bloodhound.” He must sniff out a trail – find the market and prove the business. He needs to build an operating team and establish a market beachhead. HE is prized for his keen sense of direction and company-building skills. The third CEO is “the Husky.” She must lead the team, pulling an operating company that grows heavier by the day with people and public company responsibilities. She is prized for her constancy and scalability. None of these, to me, is top dog. All are equal in importance, just different in skills and temperaments.”
9- “Management and leadership and related but not identical…Management is a methodical process’ its purpose is to produce the desired results on time and on budget. It complements and supports but cannot do without leadership, in which character and vision combine to empower someone to venture into uncertainty. Leaders must suspend the disbelief of their constituents and move ahead even with very incomplete information.”
10- “I liked being the leader better than being the guy who made the trains run on time. I found that the art wasn’t in getting the numbers to foot, or figuring out a clever way to move something down the assembly line. It was in getting somebody else to do that and to do it better than I could ever do; in encouraging people to be great; and in getting them to do it all together, in harmony. That was the high art.”