Faces of Entrepreneurship, Book Review: A Collection of Startup Stories


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The Face of the Entrepreneur: How Innovators, Visionaries, and Outsiders Succeed • by Jonathan Littman and Susanna Camp • Snowball Narrative Press • 256 pages • ISBN 978-1734723328 • £11.99 / $14.99

At any other time, coverage of The face of the entrepreneur It can look like a sales or growth chart; Nowadays it looks like a more casual sand and beach scene. But turn it sideways and the classic optical illusion turns two-faced. Perhaps they are two of the ten entrepreneurs described in the book – Faces – who go through seven stages in an arc: Awakening, Change, The Place, The Launch, The Money, The Challenge, and The Scale. If these deliberately stylized steps sound familiar, that’s because it’s a version of the Hero’s Journey, which is regularly used to structure books about beginners.

The authors describe each of the seven stages briefly, but mainly by following the careers of ten different people who represent archetypes and mindsets that entrepreneurs agree with: the creator, the leader, the athlete, the emergent, the visionary, the curator, the leader, the evangelist, the collaborator, and the outsider. These are actual founders, CEOs, and leaders — not all of whom come from the tech industry — and there are many famous names listed for each archetype. Sadly, all but one of the faces are male, and the only female figure is a nose that represents a guardian (“Guardians, we are told, protect and liberate people by bringing down obstacles or confronting injustice”).

There is no quiz in the book to help readers identify themselves as a particular face (although there is one on the book’s website that you can get by just providing a name and email address). You may recognize one face as familiar, but as the authors ultimately point out, the most successful entrepreneurs need to take on a variety of roles — something that may be more apparent in workshops where this book is a subtle ad.

For each step, we follow all ten faces. Jumping from one face to another means you don’t get bogged down in a specific narrative that doesn’t speak to you, and you see multiple aspects of each level of experience. But the attempt to paint a vivid word picture of each entrepreneur can lead to many clichés (eyeglass books, broad shoulders and classic athletic good looks, puckish smiles, ’80s rock-star hair, flaxen-haired pixie) that photographs or caricatures can be useful.

And jumping between faces means you can tell what happened to which person, because a job or company at the end of one episode may be long gone by the time the next episode begins, or because there are too many people to keep track of.

Some faces follow the typical startup story — taking a product design class with an IDEO founder and reimagining snowshoes so enraged that they abandon any notion of a traditional career to build a snowshoe company, for example, or pursue a law degree at Stanford but build a law library search tool on the side. Others are inspired by friends or family to create or adapt a product to fill a need: portable medicine refrigerators that use the Peltier effect instead of coolant, for example; Or low-lactose ice cream for African consumers who often lose the ability to digest milk as adults. Some move from company to company, doing what they want to do; Others push an idea that doesn’t take off much, but a pivot when the side gig is successful.

Raising money can be easy because you’re in the right place with the right connections, or it can be impossibly difficult, but you need to look elsewhere for insight into the nuts and bolts. Likewise, the coder you hired isn’t great, but there’s too much to steal and worry about in meetings, like what to say and do in meetings, or how to recommend or replace that developer.

Luck or judgment?

The authors don’t try to extract a lot of universal advice from the slices of entrepreneurial life they present, and it’s often difficult to discern the exact connections and what comes down to luck. How about taking a standing desk scale board to show a potential buyer that you work at Google and have hundreds of their colleagues try your sample and order one?

It is good that the authors understand that there is not only one way to success, and it is welcome that not all entrepreneurs are from Silicon Valley (although many of them go there or collect money there). The space can be the right focus of people, the people you meet who can help with your ideas, or the ecosystem that pushes or pushes to push face. The fact that this level can be broadly interpreted suggests that the framework within which many different journeys are being made is very clear with awareness.

Maker’s Journey feels like a bit of a scam because part of their arc is that they set up a Launchpad accelerator at Stanford University, and the students and anonymous startups go through several stages. There is much more to learn from Launchpad than can be covered here.

The narrative is sprinkled with inside stories to keep things interesting. Like Microsoft’s Innovation Outreach Program — an invitation-only forum for a handful of major companies — and how IBM invested in design to transform the company, there are often lingering references to Capgemini’s grueling negotiations. A building in San Francisco.

Obtaining a license and floor space for any business in San Francisco can be a whole chapter, as it is a problem that many business owners run into for a while after investing in projects. In the same way, it is worth noting how many faces get different aspects of a common problem. Check the production line and the products coming out of the line.

To meet ten different faces is to go in and out of their progress, and the ending is rather “and they all succeeded happily”. You’ll read this book for the breadth of situations and approaches, but the details of how to lead, but if startup founders and entrepreneurs like magazine profiles, this is the right reinforcement if you consider its slightly integrated structure. .

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