Two Business Books (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my previous entry, a book review on James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds.

Here I am going to write about Reality Check, written by blogger and tech guru Guy Kawasaki (not of the motorcycle family). He is one of the most famous and respected tech bloggers out there. You can read his blog, “How to Change The World”, here. In between blogging and giving talks on technology, Guy runs Garage Technology Ventures, a venture capital company. He used to work in Apple Computer, Inc. and at Apple he was a pioneer of technology evangelism (see all those annoying Applebots out there? You can thank Guy for that :)).

For those of you who know Guy and have been following his blog, expect a bit of disappointment when you read this book. You see, most of the content are standard Guy-isms taken from his blog posts. Remember the 10/20/30 Rule? Top 10 Lies of Entrepreneurs/VCs? All that are reprinted in the book.

Reprinting articles in a different format hardly disqualifies this book from my list of all-time great business books. There are original contents as well. At 461 pages, the range of the book is quite epic (so to speak) for a mere business guide.

The book is divided into 94 chapters, each running for an average of 5 pages. The chapters are grouped under 12 parts, with titles like The Reality of Raising Money, The Reality of Beguiling, and The Reality of Doing Good. All the parts start with “The Reality of…” which gives this book a feel of candidness.

And Guy is very candid. And he does it without being mean or condescending. In fact, he is quite the opposite, assuring readers that they are not alone in facing the types of problems entrepreneurs face. When he wants to say that something is bullshit, he says that it is “bull shiitake” instead. That’s how nice a guy Guy is.

The scope of the book is too large (from social entrepreneurship to how to get standing ovation to the art of schmoozing) for me to give a meaningful summary. But let me focus on the first part, one of the shortest in the book but the most important. It is called The Reality of Starting, and is further divided into five chapters: Flounders (sic) at Work, The Inside Story of Entrepreneurship, The Art of Entrepreneurship, The Art of Commercialization and Mantras for Dummies.

In this part of the book, Guy talks about the pain and reality that startup entrepreneurs face. The takeaway from all this is that the perfect entrepreneur is young, hungry, willing to put in long hours, and passionate. Proven track record, Ivy League degree or cutting of teeth in the corporate world is not a prerequisite for a successful entrpreneur. Tech, as Guy tells us, is an industry operating on a true meritocracy, so graduating from the top schools and knowing people are less important than having sales skills and hardcore engineering prowess.

He also talks about venture capitalists and ventures into their mindset: what kind of companies they are looking for, and what is the main motivation (hint: it’s not to change the world. it rhymes with “making honey”). All that is typical pablum you can find in any business/tech how-to books, but the real gem in this part is the third chapter, The Art of Intrapreneurship. Intrapreneurship is a coined word to mean the art of entrepreneurship inside a company. Now that “innovation” and “creativity” have been made corporate cliches, people inside established companies often face a great dilemma: how to maintain the entrepreneur work ethics while working inside a bureaucracy. This short chapter (only four pages in length) is something everyone should read if you are working in a large company, as engineers or their managers.

So who should read the book? If you work in a company, you should buy it. If you are an entrepreneur, you must buy it. If you are a tech entrepreneur, drop everything and buy it at once.

A question might be raised whether this book, written by a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is suitable for Malaysian entrepreneurs, who operate in a totally different environment. I have to appeal to my own judgment call here, and my answer is yes.

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