Grit is tough because you don’t get the psychic payoffs that come with an exciting discovery or a shift in direction. You rarely get big wins to celebrate. In fact, you may never truly win. You will never have a web page that loads instantaneously or a state with no smokers. All you can do is shave a few seconds off a load time or persuade a few more rural school districts to join your campaign. And that slow, inch-by-inch progress? It’s called winning.
Wohoo! This is the last day of my four-week experiment to blog 5 days a week. I’ll have a recap up sometime next week on how it went. Feels good to be done!
When I was a senior in college, I thought I might try my hand at management consulting – you get to travel around the world and work with smart people to help businesses solve tough challenges, (at least that’s what the brochure said), sounds like a great gig right?
Top tier consulting firms have a particular way of interviewing called The Case Interview which asked you to make estimations and solve hypothetical business problems by talking outloud and running some numbers. Unfortunately I picked a bad time as the Great Recession hit that fall and very few firms were hiring.
So alas, it never came to be. But I always stayed interested in studying businesses by their numbers. So I decided to have this week’s link roundup focus on economic breakdowns various startups and entrepreneurial endeavors.
The Economics of Dropbox:This article does a detailed cost/revenue estimate of Dropbox, a very successful file-syncing/backup service. I think the numbers are a lowball because Paul Graham, who provided seed funding to Dropbox via ycombinator, has said the company is worth way more than $200 million.
Another company that operates on a freemium model is Evernote and their CEO has been surprisingly open with their numbers. They are able to provide the service for free to millions of users with less than 50k paid users (as of Jan 2010). Also see the discussion on Hacker News.
This is a two-part series by the awesome Jonathan Wegener on the economics of working for yourself. Starting your own thing can be pretty scary, so Jonathan recommends you think about doing things that can earn you $100-200 a day (which works out to $36.5k-73k a year working 7 days a week).
A TC Teardown: What Makes Groupon Tick?. As just about everyone knows, Groupon is the fastest growing company in the world. But how much money is it really making? If you’ve ever wondered what goes behind the scenes of *the* daily deals site, check out this comprehensively detailed post on TechCrunch.
The Business of Street Art: This is a post I did a while back that did a back of the envelope calculation on how much money street artists (the ones that use spray cans to make crazy 3-D paintings) could make doing their thing.
I’ve always been a reader.
Growing up, I would read everything I could put my hands on. I read 20 books one summer to win a library contest. I love reading fantasy novels filled with dragons and spells and magicians – to the point where I’d hide books inside whatever reading in English and read during class.
As I got older, I started to enjoy non fiction, particularly business, psychology and personal development. I like that I can get useful, practical and actionable knowledge that I can use to make my work and life more successful.
Earlier this year, I ran into to a VC I knew. He had a friend with him who saw that I was holding a book – The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman (a book densely packed with wisdom, by the way). This VC’s friend asked to see the book and examined it briefly.
“When I was in business school, one of my professors was an angel investor. Made over 90 major investments and lots of money. He said he never read business books – they were a waste of time.” he said, as he handed the book back to me.
“My recommendation? Don’t read it.”
That guy is a complete moron.
That attitude really pisses me off. It’s one thing to say you don’t have time to read (which I respond – do you have time to eat? to sleep? to exercise? Because reading is on that level). It’s another thing to say it’s actually useless to read.
I once heard someone say that reading a book is like having a conversation with the author. Which means I’ve been able to chat with some really smart dudes: the former/current CEO’s of General Electric, Zappos and Amgen (one of the most successful biotech companies in the world) for instance. Those guys poured hundreds of hours into distilling decades of business knowledge into books that I’ve had a chance to read.
If you’re interested in succeeding in business and that’s not worth 15 bucks and a few hours of you’re time, you’re hallucinating.
Perhaps that professor was able to succeed without reading business books but that does not at all make it a broadly applicable heuristic.
Whatever field you want to succeed in, I guarantee there are books that you ought to read that would give you immense value and a competitive edge. So make the time. It’s so worth it.
I’ll end with a quote from Mark Twain:
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
I know what kind of man the VC’s friend and his professor falls under – what about you?