My Favorite Entrepreneurship Books (2015 Version)

Here is a visual view of my favorite “Entrepreneurship” books.

My 6 super-favorites have bold blue borders.

  • The Startup Owners Manual, by Steve Blank
  • Value Proposition Design, by Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
  • The Design of Business, by Roger Martin
  • Humble Inquiry, by Edgar Schein
  • Linchpin, by Seth Godin
  • Leadership BS, by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Reading Entrepreneurship 2015 10 30

More — The Big List of Entrepreneurship Reading

If you’re looking for the monster reading list. Steve Blank has the best one here

Technology Sales Manifesto – Zero to One – by Peter Thiel

2015 02 10 ZeroToOne
I really enjoyed Peter Thiel’s Zero to One.

Right from the beginning he focusses on a startups job being creating new things instead of copying things that work. I was hooked right there. I also like he that recommends hiring people you actually want to work with.

I was not expecting it to be a manifesto on technology sales. It provides good context for techniques discussed in Dan Pinks To Sell Is Human.

I was going to pass on this book, but then it showed up in Andrew Schmitt’s Books in 2014 list. Thanks Andrew.

Random Quotes

  • page 120 We set out to hire people who would actually enjoy working together.
  • page 131 “The Sales Dead Zone = Small Business”
  • page 139 “EVERYBODY SELLS”
  • page 160 The best sales is hidden. There’s nothing wrong with a CEO who can sell, but if he actually looks like a salesman, he’s probably bad at sales and worse at tech.


Blake Masters CS183 Essays

What’s Happening with Peter Thiel’s Dropout Club

What Does Marketing Do? ( In Theory ) Make Selling Superfluous

Revisiting Drucker’s definition of Marketing — What Does Marketing Do? (Part 1) {2006}. Still Useful.

Here are the highlights.


Let’s start by referring to Drucker. We get the following definition from pages 20 & 21 in “Essential Drucker“.

There will always, one can assume, be the need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superflous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.

Here are some more supporting points from those pages:

  • Business has 2 basic functions: marketing and innovation.
  • Despite the emphasis on marketing and the marketing approach, marketing is still rhetoric rather than reality in far too many organizations.
  • True marketing does not ask, “What do we want to sell?”. It asks, “What does the customer want to buy?”
  • It does not say, “This is what our product or service does. It says, These are the satisfactions the customer is looking for, values, and needs.
  • Indeed, selling and marketing are antithetical rather than synonymous or even complementary.

Discussion — Overall, this is a very tall order.

How many products/services fit this bill? The product that comes to mind quickly is iPod. The iPod, and its ecosystem, illustrate just how difficult it is to get a product to sell itself. It’s iPod, iTunes Player, iTunes Store ( they solved legal DRM problem and got music industry on board), an O/S for multimedia, the CD ripper/burner, and more details. It’s taken ~ 5+ years to get going on all cylinders. It was obvious in the early years that people wanted music on the net ’cause Napster was such a huge thing. But making iPod mainstream, that is a work of pure genius (and loads of hard work). It was a good idea that was refined, refined, refined, and is still being refined. It’s like a non-stop loop of listen & react. ( I think the Japanese have a word for this “kaizen”)

Who Is the Customer? ( What Does Marketing Do? revisited )

A six year old post that still seems “extremely useful”. /enjoy.

Part 3 – Who Is The Customer?

Why is that all of us can have a good meeting with a customer and then come back to the office to disagree with everyone else on what the customer wants? Most people are good at talking to the customer. Our society prepares us well by banging the customer into our heads all the time with phrases like, “The Customer is always right!”. We all know about Listening and Reacting. Why are we so often individually correct and collectively in disagreement?


The root of this disagreement is often that the customer is more than one person and communication between all the groups within a customer is not perfect . Each of us talks to a different set of people who each have different requirements. Few of us talk to more than one department within the customer’s organization. We know what each individual group wants, but often we don’t understand what the “whole” customer wants. We need to aggregate all this communication and we’ve got to decide which “customer/prospect” we should be talking to.


This disagreement is exacerbated by the fact that post-sales departments usually have better relationships with the customer than pre-sales departments ( ie sales & marketing ). The post-sales guys actually work with the customer over long periods of time and have to develop a working relationship. A lot can be learned about what the customer wants from post-sales staff. That said — The post-sales guys can also be a real drag when a past great customer becomes a bad investment. These departments will resist change and will question “new prospects” forever. They’ve invested a lot in the past customers. I read a great quote the other day in the Wikinomics Book that fits here, “These people act like Tarzan … they hold onto the old vine until the new vine in securely in place.”

In summary, Listening and Reacting to the customer is challenged by the following points.

  • The Customer is a “group” of differing opinions.
  • You (The Vendor) are a “group” of differing opinions.
  • You have many departments that have a strong preference for who the customer should be.
  • It is very rare that the “whole” customer and the “whole” firm meet at the same time.

These challenges define the most important actions that people with marketing titles perform. That is:

  • Know who the right customer is.
  • Connect that customer with the right people, and information, inside the firm.
  • Let go.
  • Keep notes … Repeat.


“Nothing” – What Does Marketing Do?

An awesome Product Manager will design themselves out of the picture. They aspire to be irrelevant. They trend to “Nothing”.

I’m going backwards thru my backlist of “What Does Marketing Do?”. This is #5. /enjoy.

When I started this series I wanted to the say the following things, but I kept getting off track.

  • In an ideal world there would be “nothing” for people with marketing titles to do.
    • Each department would “gather & coordinate” all the information needed to develop the product that sells itself.
  • In the “real world” Marketing peoples tasks are all about “passing & playmaking“.
    • They keep the ball/puck “in play“, put it “where it needs to go“, and most importantly they “let go“.
    • The “glory guys do the scoring”. (Exec, Sales, Engineering)
  • Steve Nash & Gretzky are the “sports analogies”.
    • This presents an extreme challenge for companies because a Nash, or Gretzky, only comes along once a decade. These types of people are very difficult to find, develop, recognize, reward, etc.
    • These guys don’t look the part of “star”. Gretzky & Nash are the scrawniest guys on the playing surface … most great Marketing people share the same traits … they have great stats (if someone actually collects them ), but they don’t look the part.
    • Marketing departments are “scrawny” and don’t have the bulk to do the glory. Marketing departments are very small relative to other departments. This is not a bad thing (just a fact )
  • This “highly skilled unselfish play”, “lack of bulk”, and “secondary glory” is hard to live every day. Thus most marketing departments bias themselves towards “sales” or “engineering”. The tasks are do-able and there will be a chance to share in some glory.

Note: In re-reading this … it appears kinda harsh. I’m not trying to be pessimistic here. I’m just trying to get at some of the fundamental challenges of working in marketing departments. I know that understanding the above “really” helped me many times.

The full series can be found in the “here

Responding to “Freak Out”

Revisiting a response to the “Freak Out” post.

After reading the “Freak Out” post my buddy Seattle Dave recommended that I read, “Leadership and the New Science, by Margaret Wheatley“. I’m almost finished it and my first reaction is wow! 😯 This is awesome ❗ Just how many exclamation points can I put in a post ❗ ❗ ❗

The concept of her book is simple — apply the concepts of 21st century science to organizational behaviour. The result is shocking and inspiring. It provides a great deal of hope for the future. This book must be read.

The key point that she focusses on is that “new science” is all about relationships and not Newtonian reductionism. Topics covered are: “Field Theory” ( provides an analogy of corp vision and EM fields ), Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (Measuring one variable more accurately comes at the expense of less accuracy in other variables. You can’t know it all at the same time. In fact knowing more about one thing ensures that you’ll know less about another.), Quantum wave/particle duality ( if the experiment looks for waves it finds waves and if it looks for particles it gets particles), Schrodinger’s Cat ( admits to not getting it, but then applies it to the common phrase “you see what you want to see — so choose something nice”), self-organizing systems, information vs. content, and more.

Quotes – There are some great quotes on the Margaret Wheatley Wikipedia page. The first paragraph ends with this sentence

She describes her work as opposing “highly controlled mechanistic systems that only create robotic behaviors.”

Warning: For some this book may come off as too “New Agey” and “difficult”, especially when she starts off by noting “Fritjof Capra‘s Turning Point (another book I loved) and reading some quotes from it. I urge all readers to to get/look past this and “listen”.

Freak Out – What Does Marketing Do?

I wrote “Freak Out” in 2007. Still has legs.

I read somewhere a few years back ( I think it was in Harvard Business Review ) that the right level of stress/frustration for an executive is when “There are only 2-3 days per month when you want to give up, set the building on fire, and start again”. This comment was very “eye opening” for me, I had thought that I was the only one who “suffered” thru these days.

It was good to know that I was not alone in the Monthly “Freak Out” or “Pit of Despair”. Turns out that we all have these days, but how does one deal with it under the microscope of a team looking for direction? How does one act? Do I wear it on my sleeve? Or do I attempt to hide it? Teams are tough investors because they are making the toughest investment of all ( their time & careers ). There is also the challenge of executive pay. It is well known that corporate pay scales resemble the “long tail’ curve. Thus teams’ have little sympathy, they expect “positive” direction and answers from executives. They probably “Freak Out” more than me.

Unfortunately giving teams what they want and hiding the “Freak Out” is exactly the wrong thing to do. No one can predict the future. No one knows the “exact” path to success. For example, Burton Malkiel’s famous investment book “Random Walk Down Wallstreet” notes that Wall Street analysts can do a great job at crunching the “historical” numbers for any company, but the “valuation” of a company still requires a “forecast” of the future. Thus Wall Street analysts valuations are “educated guesses” with batting average like success (i.e. 20% or less). An executive can do no better 😦 , trying to predict the future will only focus ridicule and crushing morale issues in your direction.

The best policy is to keep the “story” open all the time (ie share the pain 👿 ), celebrate every success like there is no tomorrow, be organized in describing/tracking “the journey” to success, keep modifying the story as it changes (’cause it will… Nothing moves in a straight line), fail often, and try again. It takes a lot of courage & hard work to do this in the open, but it is the only way I know to get the team to buy in.

In closing If you are not “Freaking Out” regularly, then you’re probably not taking enough risk to succeed” 😈 . Also, if you’re having this day today, you can look forward to the ~17 good days per month where “you truly believe that you’re gonna change the world” 😎

Note: I found the above more important when I was a low level manager …. ’cause I didn’t think I was an executive yet. I may have been far down the food chain and closer to my team, but I had little information with respect to the “whole project” and hence got myself in even more trouble when I tried to directly address a “Freak Out”.

Dark Side Please take the time to track your “Freak Outs”. If they start to become too frequent, it is time to move on. I made this mistake in the fall of 2000 😦 Your health is more important than your dream.