“The Start-Up” is the first fictional book I have read in years and it was very much worth my time. The first in a three part arc, “The Start-Up” is an intriguing novella reminiscent of “The Accidental Billionaires” but with a Silicon Valley flair.
The story takes place in Silicon Valley and follows the adventures of Adam and Amelia Dory, sibling undergraduates at Stanford University. The story describes their experiences at Stanford and ultimately their chance encounter with the world of Silicon Valley venture capital.
Although a work of fiction, much of this book is based on true to life themes, which make it both an informative and entertaining read. In particular, there are a number of things “The Startup” does very well.
First, I really enjoyed the contrast between Tom Fenway, a Tesla Roadster driving VC and T.J. Bristol, a polished Stanford undergraduate vying for a place in a new incubator. At this meeting T.J. was prepared based on his previous corporate internship success – a fancy suit and tales of his success with slide decks while in these positions. He was shocked to discover Tom arriving at the meeting in shorts, Tommy Bahama garb and flip flops. He was even more surprised to discover the VCs indifference to his past experience which was irrelevant to entrepreneurial success. After all, what works in a late stage company is very different from a seed or even early stage company. This part of the book captured the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit (which Tom refers to as the spark) and the breaking of usual corporate convention.
Second, the contrast between Adam and Amelia is true to life. Amelia, the inventor, is the software obsessed coder without concern for money or prestige. Doing what’s right and problem solving is of paramount importance. Trading freedom for funding is unthinkable in her mind. Adam on the other hand is the more business minded of the pair. Although less technical savvy, he is receptive and on the lookout for business opportunities. This dynamic appears to match the complimentary President vs. CEO roles in a seed stage company.
In addition, “The Start-Up” documents the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship well. Entrepreneurs experience a wide range of emotions based on smashing successes to bitter failures with a corresponding emotional range of exuberance to flaring tempers. Although most books and reports on entrepreneurs focus on the overnight success which is the exception rather than the rule, the truth is captured by “The Start-Up” – there will be many successes and corresponding failures – life can, and will change in the blink of an eye for the entrepreneur.
Finally, the Start-Up seems like it was written for the overwhelmed entrepreneur, especially the wired mind of an Internet entrepreneur. The novella is short in length at under 100 pages and the chapters are each written in short form content which are a breeze to read.
In closing, “The Start-Up” was an easy, entertaining, yet informative read. The characters are likable, the story intriguing and consistent with the world of start-ups. I greatly look forward to the second book in the three book arc and feel compelled to experience Stanford and Silicon Valley for myself!
Image Credit: The Start-Up Books