Posts in “Books”

August 6, 2012

Venture Deals explains it all

Venture Deals, by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, is a highly useful, and highly readable, overview of how venture capital works, with lots of very-specific examples and descriptions.

This isn’t a high-concept book full of abstractions; it’s a detailed explanation of the people and vocabulary you’ll encounter in the VC world. And it’s more than definitions: it also explains the reasoning and motivations.

I have been building a startup for twenty years, have been involved in several acquisitions and funding events, and I learned a lot from this book. It got me thinking about my business in a new way. If you’re at all interested in raising money for a business, or even if you just want to understand how this important part of our economy works, I highly recommend it.

Nota bene: This isn’t any kind of coded message about Logos. It’s just a book I read and really liked.

June 16, 2009

On Writing Well

Phil Gons put me on to 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice, a delightfully-testy attack on Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.

So I won’t be spending the month of April toasting 50 years of the overopinionated and underinformed little book… English syntax is a deep and interesting subject. It is much too important to be reduced to a bunch of trivial don’t-do-this prescriptions by a pair of idiosyncratic bumblers who can’t even tell when they’ve broken their own misbegotten rules.

Alas, The Elements march on unmolested. A testimony to the convenience of their form, the boldness of the assertions, and the continued strength of the brand.

In that spirit:

  1. Throw away your Elements.
  2. Purchase On Writing Well, by William Zinsser.
May 26, 2009

Bouts-rimés (Fr., literally, “rhymed ends”)

“A form of literary amusement in which rhymes being given the participants, they fill up the verses. According to Ménage, the notion of this frivolity was derived from a saying of the French poet Dulot, whereby he accidentally let the cat out of the bag, or, to change the metaphor, let the public in behind the scenes. Complaining one day of the loss of three hundred sonnets, his hearers marvelled at his having about him so large a collection of literary wares, whereupon he explained that they were not completed sonnets, but the unarticulated skeletons, – in other words, their prearranged rhyming ends, drawn out in groups of fourteen. All Paris was in a roar next day over Dulot’s lost sonnets. Bouts-rimés became the fashion in all the salons…”

From William S. Walsh’s fascinating time killer, Handy Book of Literary Curiosities, 1906, kept dangerously in reach of my chair.

What can you do with pen, scuffle, men, ruffle?

“One would suppose a silly pen
A shabby weapon in a scuffle;
But yet the pen of critic men
A very hero’s soul would ruffle.”

“I grant that some by tongue or pen
Are daily, hourly, in a scuffle;
But then we philosophic men
Have placid tempers naught can ruffle.”

“Last night I left my desk and pen,
For in the street I heard a scuffle,
And there, torn off by drunken men,
I left my coat-tails and shirt-ruffle.”

But the best is a “rhyming end unto itself,” if you will:

“Boy,
Gun;
Joy,
Fun.

Gun
Bust,
Boy
Dust.”

April 19, 2009

McDonald’s: Behind the Arches, by John F. Love

BehindTheArches It has been years since I read McDonald’s: Behind the Arches, but I still find myself reflecting on and sharing the lessons I learned from it. McDonald’s is so familiar to all of us that it is tempting to think we understand it and its place in our culture.

But behind the arches there is more than palate-numbing homogeneity: McDonald’s is a fascinating business, and one that is full of surprises. I was fascinated with the real estate component of the McDonald’s business plan; I had not realized how difficult it was to fry a consistent fry (oil temperature is changing constantly); I didn’t know that McDonald’s (poster child for unhealthy eating) instigated significant improvements to our food chain, enforcing its own regulations on slaughterhouses and farmers alike.

Today we bemoan the fact that you can travel 10,000 miles (or to the next freeway exit) and find the hamburger exactly like the one at home, served in an identical setting. What a curse, in a world where we might otherwise eat local, organic beef and vegetables served with a unique local touch . But what a blessing and innovation it was in a world where ground beef meant whatever was on the floor, where local vegetables might make you sick, and where sanitation wasn’t on the task list.

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December 29, 2008

Read for Cash

Every year I run a “Read for Cash” program to encourage employees to read about business. Employees choose a book from a huge pile in the conference room, read it, then email a short review to the whole company. We pay 15 cents a page, up to $175.

The program lasts 5-6 weeks, and every day new book reports arrive. I read them all, and they are fantastic. Many employees report enjoying books they otherwise would never have picked up, we get multiple perspectives on new books and ideas, and the whole company spends a month thinking and reading about how to improve our business.

The best part? When the reading inspires a sharp insight on one part of our business from someone who works in a completely different area.

(I previously posted other details on the program.)

December 18, 2008

Fire Someone Today in Russian

FSTRussian

Fire Someone Today is out in Russian… and with a five star rating, too! Now if I can just figure out how to order a copy…

(FST is also available in Korean… and even English!)

Practical wisdom on growing your business that you can start using today.

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