Legendary computer scientist Donald Knuth on “the strange kind of brain-organization” that marks “geekhood”:
The main characteristic is an ability to understand many levels of abstraction simultaneously, and to shift effortlessly between in-the-large and in-the-small.
In a world of exponential complexity, this ability has become the uberskill. Not just for technology—for law, business, and everything else.
- Jerry Kaplan, Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure (1994). The story of Go Corporation, founded in 1987 to develop one of the first tablet computers. Go had every advantage: Experienced entrepreneurs, brilliant technologists, and $75 million in venture capital, back when $75 million was Uber money. Yet it failed. A fascinating story in light of the spectacular success of the iPad some twenty years later.
- C. Gordon Bell, High Tech Ventures: The Guide for Entrepreneurial Success (1991). Bell was one of the engineers who built Digital Equipment Corporation, the disruptive innovator of its day. A useful guide to understanding what it takes to turn a promising technology or product into a successful business—the first does not automatically generate the second.
- Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm (1991). The classic analysis of the cycle of technology marketing. Coined the phrase “crossing the chasm” for the difficult task of moving from tech-savvy early adopters to the mainstream market. [Update 5/17/20: Now in its third edition (2014).]
- Bob Zider, How Venture Capital Works (Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 1998). A primer on the venture capital business and the economic realities that drive it.
- Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson, Venture Deals (2012). An up-to-date compendium of everything you ever wanted to know about venture capital, including valuation, term sheets, and how venture deals are structured. [Update 5/17/20: Now in its fourth edition (2019).]
Not a great ad, but I love Ozzy’s lament about the relentless march of technology.
Raise capital and get big fast like Amazon.com? (The “big bang” model.) Or grow organically like Ben & Jerry’s? For a discussion of the pros and cons of each model, see Strategy Letter I: Ben and Jerry’s vs. Amazon – Joel on Software. Required reading for entrepreneurs.