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  • Writer's pictureViknesh Silvalingam

Recommended books to read when building a startup

When the inspiration came upon me sometime last year to start building my startup, I was immediately facing my first hurdle; How does one build a company? Thank goodness for the internet I was able to reach out to entrepreneurs via social media platforms for advice and the countless number of start-up blogs (hopefully this blog will be one of them) Though convenient to be researching in cyberspace, many defining principles of the startup and software-as-a-service business model come from old fashioned paper and ink books. Below are 3 books that I have read so far which have influenced the creation of my startup.

A research conducted by Harvard Business School’s Shikhar Ghosh in 2012 shows, 75% of all start-ups fail.(1*) The concept of the lean startup is inspired by the lean manufacturing processes developed by Japanese conglomerate Toyota. It outlines a framework for rapid, iterative business development, a constructive critique system, and constant experimentation to test and improve ideas. This is in contrast to the old formula you may have learned in business class, where you would write a business plan, pitch it to investors, assemble a team, introduce a product and start selling as fast and hard as you can. The Lean Startup favors experimentation, feedback loop, repetitive design development over elaborate planning, intuition, and big previsualized development. This methodology has given birth to popular and cliche terminologies such as "minimum viable product"(MVP) and "pivoting" to the tech world.

The core lean startup principle of the MVP has helped The Martini release an app that is more of a prototype with sufficient features to illustrate its goals and ambition rather than an elaborate product that would require a vast amount of time and money to produce. Furthermore, by encouraging our early adopters to provide feedback constantly we are able to learn and iterate more quickly, thus creating a product that people will be willing to pay for.

An organization that is filled with politics, silos, dysfunction, and confusion may be profitable but it won't be sustainable because there will be a high turnover of staff. This book helps the leadership team make their organizations healthier. It envisages the importance of creating clarity about the simple stuff everyone should know, but often doesn’t like: What are our values? How will we succeed? Who does what? We are all aware of the Vision, Alignment, and Execution that our bosses may have instilled on us during our townhouse meetings or one on one, but the book reinterprets them with more purpose as, Create Clarity, Overcommunicate Clarity, and Reinforce Clarity.

Having a strong leadership team is one characteristic that I want to instill in the company from the get go. Apart from the members being good at their roles (which is obvious), they need to be in sync with each other, willing to challenge each other for the greater good of the company. This is where I believe the challenge lies. The level of personal strength of character that it takes for a leadership team to be both open and vulnerable to one another is strikingly uncommon in my experience. Lencioni lays out a set of five behaviors that he believes will build a cohesive leadership team (2*) – which I agree that if done right, you’ll get a cohesive leadership team. The behaviors to be paying attention to are being able to Build Trust, Master conflict, Achieve commitment, Embrace accountability, and Focusing on results.

The Devil's Candy is about the making of Bonfire of the Vanities, a disastrous flop of a movie in the 90s starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith (All of them were already bankable actors back then). It also had Brian De Palma in the director's chair, fresh of his Scarface and The Untouchables success. So it was pretty shocking to the studio executives, the stars, the film crew, De Palma, and the author herself Julie Salamon when the movie open to scathing reviews.(3*) The gifted financial reporter that she is, Salamon walks the reader through how this deal-centric mentality led studio executives not only to lavish multi-million dollar salaries on the movie’s director and stars but also to squander many more millions satisfying De Palma’s every artistic whim.

The Martini is a film production software, so it's only right that I include a book that highlights the struggles that a filmmaker would go through albeit this book is about a film by the great Brian De Palma. However the question of why good people make bad movies has never been answered more persuasively than in this book. It’s a question worth asking because, as a general rule, movies have become increasingly banal as they’ve become more expensive to make. The Martini hopes to assist filmmakers in bring more efficiency both cost and management wise.

These 3 books would make a great Christmas gift for everyone not just for someone building a business. As I go on with this start-up journey, I will be more than excited to share my book recommendations with you. If you want to stay current on our development please do subscribe to the newsletter and social media accounts, Twitter, and Instagram.

Author’s Notes/References


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