the item

Do More Faster
Do More Faster
2010

the questions

  1. How to run a killer startup

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the consensus

If you're looking to meet folks just like you who are getting started in their startup and hear what problems they had and how they overcame them, this book is for you. If you're looking for a feel-good book, not so much. Highly recommended.



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the review

Odds are that you and I will never be famous for running a startup.

Sure, we may have a startup. We may even get rich from a startup, but we'll never be a Bill Gates. We'll probably never even go to one of those cool startup bootcamps.

Why? As for me, I'm old, ornery, ugly, and generally obnoxious. How about you? Perhaps you live outside the United States. Perhaps you can't afford to move to SV. Perhaps you don't have a cofounder. Perhaps you just aren't good at making demo videos.

Because, at the end of the day, one thing is true: a lot of what it takes to be a famous startup founder boils down to one thing: a beauty contest. "People are the most important thing" one guy says. And since nobody likes to be around people they don't like, let's face it, only the popular kids are going to be going to YCombinator and appearing in TechCrunch. You and I are probably not them.

But don't give up! This just means we have to work three times as hard and three times as smart. With the right mentors, enough smart work, and a willingness to fail fast many times over, anybody can make it. That's where books like "Do More Faster" help.

This book is a collection of short articles written by folks who either run or have went through the TechStars program, a startup bootcamp with locations in several U.S. cities. By reading it, you get to see what founders were thinking as they made critical decisions and grew their companies while attending the camp.

I really liked this book, and don't have much bad to say about it, but it's pointless to write a review unless you can both offer constructive criticism and let the reader know what flaws the book had, so let's get to it.

Please, enough with the conference articles. Ever been to a conference or a seminar? You know how everybody that presents will tell you a story of pain and misery, all until they did something magic, after which it was all bluebirds and sunshine? Then you know what I'm talking about. This book didn't overdo it, but I really enjoyed the articles where people admitted to being lost and confused much more than the ones where everything was perfect, if only just a little bit. Because let's face it: lost and confused, looking for advice is how some of us feel, or we wouldn't be reading the book in the first place. There were a couple of what-went-wrong articles. Totally awesome. The book was well on the side of being practical, but a tiny bit more slice-of-life and a tiny bit less I-am-master-of-the-universe would have made it even better. Becuase when I hear a conference article, the first thing I want to do is to challenge the author.

So why not do that? I really wish some of the articles would have had the 2 or 3 most common responses/mistakes to their advice and how those objections are handled. The articles gave me a great feeling of being in a meeting with these guys -- so much that I wanted to ask questions! I feel that having a few question and answers for each section would give the book a better feeling of interactivity and add to its usefulness.

But fair warning: this is a real startup book, full of advice about corporation formation, raising money (or not), work habits, and 82(b) elections. If you are looking for a motivational book or a book to get you excited about staying with your startup, this probably isn't it. This is a personal-opinion, how do I do X, nuts-and-bolts book.

And whatever you do, don't get the ebook! I normally don't care what kind of book I get. In fact, I have been going kindle crazy for the past few months. But this book really should be a hardcover book. Here's why: the format of the book is dozens of short articles with pictures and such, giving you the feeling of being there and talking to these founders. The problem is that it's such a good book that good advice can easily pass you by and slip through your fingers. Here are some gems I caught. Many more certainly got away.

  • Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful
  • We learned that very few people care how you accomplish something. Instead, these people care more about whether you create value for your end user
  • If you can't quit no matter how hard you try, then you have a chance to succeed
  • when presented with exponential growth, remember that people tend to drastically overestimate what will happen in the short term, but will profoundly underestimate what happens over longer time spans
  • If you are innovating, you actually don't know what your product needs to be. Furthermore, your customers don't either. No one does
  • There is one thing that the hundred of founders I meet each year have in common, and that is that their plan is wrong. Sometimes it's the big things, sometimes it's the little things, but the plan is always wrong
Seriously. The book is full of great stuff like that. You'll be reading along and suddenly you'll go "Wow! I need to remember that!"

So do yourself a favor and get the physical book, use a highlighter as a bookmark, and make a lot of notes and highlight a lot. You'll want to go back and collapse it all together when you're done.

I really enjoyed this book. it was well constructed, well edited, and did one thing and did it well. And in the process I became a fan of Boulder, Colorado, which was totally unexpected. I found that I almost completely got in the spirit of the TechStars group by watching them (lots of pictures too) and listening to them in their own words. It was the closest I've ever come to feeling like I was part of a startup bootcamp, and I've been reading startup blogs and books for years.

You and I will probably never be a famous startup founder, but there's great news: the guys who teach, train, and grow startups are making a concerted effort to show the rest of the world how it's done. "Do More Faster" is a teriffic book at doing just that. I look forward to more great material from TechStars. Great job, guys.


   

the buzz

Nothing to see here, please move along
Nothing to see here, please move along
Nothing to see here, please move along
Nothing to see here, please move along
Nothing to see here, please move along
Nothing to see here, please move along
Nothing to see here, please move along


Practical advice from some of today's top early stage investors and entrepreneurs

TechStars is a mentorship-driven startup accelerator with operations in three U.S. cities. Once a year in each city, it funds about ten Internet startups with a small amount of capital and surrounds them with around fifty top Internet entrepreneurs and investors. Historically, about seventy-five percent of the companies that go through TechStars raise a meaningful amount of angel or venture capital. Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup is a collection of advice that comes from individuals who have passed through, or are part of, this proven program. Each vignette is an exploration of information often heard during the TechStars program and provides practical insights into early stage entrepreneurship.

Contains seven sections, each focusing on a major theme within the TechStars program, including idea and vision, fundraising, legal and structure, and work/life balance

Created by two highly regarded experts in the world of early stage investing

Essays in each section come from the experienced author team as well as TechStar mentors, entrepreneurs, and founders of companies

While you'll ultimately have to make your own decisions about what's right for your business, Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup can get your entrepreneurial endeavor headed in the right direction.

     


What is this?

A while back I wrote an article on my blog listing all the books that hackers recommended to each other from the site HackerNews. The purpose was to provide a place to list book recommendations so that people didn't have to type in the same list over and over again. (HN gets several requests for book recommendations a week. I also get at least a couple each month). It was very well received, and many posters and commenters either asked that I make a site or sent me an email asking me to do so.

How is this any different from the list on the blog?

This list has more books. This list is sortable both by what question you have and your skill level. In addition, once you sort the list, you can save the link with your sort and send it to somebody else. So, for instance, when somebody wants a book for noobs learning to program, you can make a link for that and then reuse it

How did you collect these books?

Initially the list came from Googling HackerNews.com "best book" and taking the books from the first few pages returned. Later, I added all the books that were mentioned "You left that out!" when Jacques posted the link. While adding those books, I came across a Stack Overflow link where programmers were asked to list their favorite tech books, so I included those too.

If I ask you to put a book on here, will you?

It depends.

These books were all gathered by finding places where hackers hang out and are suggesting books to other hackers and other hackers agree with them by voting up their suggestion. If I can find an example of this for your book, I'm happy to include it.

How are the books ranked?

I did the best I could with ranking. I am sure there are many things you do not agree with. It would be possible to add voting and personal ranking -- that would make the system much better. Heck, you could rank the books yourself and use it as a customized book list to show to people who want your advice. I'd like to do that, but if I've learned anything is to not let your featureset get ahead of the users. This first version will test the waters to see what kind of interest the community might have.