1 year, 12 books, 100+ startup book-clubbers
One year ago we launched MaRS #startupbookclubTO (BookClub) as part of our startup community outreach within the information technology, communications and entertainment (ICE) advisory practice here at MaRS.
Since then, we’ve read 12 business books about building startups, including Steve Blank’s mammoth The Startup Owner’s Manual, and the book club has reached a “posse” of over 100 “book-clubbers.” BookClub’s three pillars are:
- to learn: through what we read;
- to connect: with other entrepreneurial folk; and
- to grow: by giving purpose to our own entrepreneurial endeavours.
I could never have imagined the immediate impact BookClub would have on our work here in the ICE practice. By applying our learnings to the job at hand we’re helping build Canada’s next greatest technology startups in the “new economy.”
In fact, in a recent Harvard Business Review blog, John Coleman discusses in detail the importance of reading for developing business leadership:
“Evidence suggests reading can improve intelligence and lead to innovation and insight… Many business people claim that reading across fields is good for creativity. And leaders who can sample insights in other fields, such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, or psychology, and apply them to their organizations are more likely to innovate and prosper.”
Since then, we’ve met some incredibly bright folks from all walks of life who make MaRS #startupbookclubTO a thrill to attend today. This blog is our opportunity to shine a light on some of the folks who have made it a real thrill to be part of BookClub.
Here’s a brief snapshot of some of those incredible folks.
About Ian: Ian is an entrepreneur, advisor and investor. He recently co-founded Fitzii, an online candidate-sourcing, assessment and short-listing service for corporate recruiters. Before moving to Toronto, Ian was based in California at Velocity11, a life science startup that was acquired by Agilent Technologies. Prior to that he worked in a number of research and development roles in the pharmaceutical industry in both Sweden and the United Kingdom.
What Ian likes aboutBookClub: “I have found the book club to be a great resource on a number of levels. The books on the reading list are well selected and pretty much a must-read for anyone on an entrepreneurial adventure of some kind. The meet-ups I have made it to have stimulated good discussion, and the different insights and input are always motivating.”
Ian’s favourite quote: ‘The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.” — Charles Swindoll
About Jackie: Before she ventured into StartupLand, Jackie Chung lived and worked in France, Hong Kong, Canada and the U.K.. A self-described serial rule-breaker, Jackie started her career in consumer packaged goods as a product manager in Paris, France. She then accidentally stumbled into the financial industry in Canada, became a CFA charterholder and got transplanted to Canary Wharf in London, England, before returning to Canada.
An entrepreneur at heart, Jackie made her first sale when she was 10. She is currently starting up a venture that helps ordinary people find their strengths and reach their potential. She believes technology is an enabler that will allow her to achieve the scale and impact she wants. Jackie holds a master of business administration from INSEAD, France. She enjoys learning, travelling, meeting new people, reading and designing things in her spare time.
What Jackie likes about BookClub: “I joined the MaRS #startupbookclubTO at its second meeting and I keep coming back because each time I feel electrified by the calibre of discussions we get. And we have a good mix of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. The result is sparks of insights after sparks of insights. The learnings I get from attending the book club really help me as I go through my journey as a first-time entrepreneur.”
Jackie’s favourite quote: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay
About William: William Rose is an adjunct professor of marketing at George Brown College and a consultant at Clear Growth Marketing. He has over 20 years of experience developing and/or executing business-to-business and business-to-consumer “go to market” strategies and tactics for innovative technology firms. His consulting practice focuses on enabling organizations to find more, win more and keep more satisfied clients.
What William likes about BookClub: “Each reading in the series has provided new insights regarding strategies, skills or characteristics of how to become a more successful entrepreneur that I can absorb on my own time prior to the open discussion at the event itself. Once at the event I have experienced a broad range of opinions from a diverse group of participants who all share a passion for creating and innovating technologies, which in many instances are worthy of being commercialized and tested in the marketplace.”
About Trevor: Trevor is an avid reader with interests that range from business (innovation, startups, selling, information architecture, data visualization, mobility, consulting and management) and high-performance sports (athlete development and coaching) to United States Army Special Forces and techno thrillers.
What Trevor likes about BookClub: “What I have liked about the book club is the introduction to new and non-mainstream titles. The books and the MaRS BookClub discussions have contributed to my continual learning plan.”
Trevor’s favourite quote: “Here’s to the ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do” — Steve Jobs
About Maria: Maria Marino is an entrepreneurial project manager at 161st Story Projects and a blogger who writes and designs fun and inspirational works of HeART and greeting cards.
Happy first anniversary, #StartUpBookClubTO! None of us really knew what to expect a year ago when MaRS opened its doors to invite the startup community to delve deeper into the rich resources available. It certainly has been quite the ride growing and connecting with some brilliant and amazing people! Over the past few months we have reworked our approach, investigated ways to create demand, explored The Other Side of Innovation and taken a refreshing swim in the Blue Ocean Strategy with our Startup Owner’s Manual in hand as we hit the ground Running Lean, ready to show off our hot MVP (minimal viable product) as a toned Lean Startup.
Maria’s favourite quote: “Make your product so good, so addictive, so ‘can’t miss’ that giving customers a small, free taste makes them come back with cash in hand.”
Here is the list of books we’ve read and one statement (S) that summarizes our discussions on each bookYou can also see them all on our Pinterest board. To learn more, you’ll need to read the books.
1. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
(S): Keep it simple, sell your byproduct and planning is guessing.
2. Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian J. Slywotzky with Karl Weber
(S): Make it magnetic, build a back story and find demand triggers.
(S): Build, measure and learn.
4. The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
(S): Organizations have capabilities that exist independently of the capabilities of the people who work within them.
5. Running Lean: Iterate From Plan A to a Plan That Works by Ash Maurya
(S): Define what problem you are solving and the unfair advantage of your startup.
6. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout
(S): It’s about defining perception and owning a piece of the consumer’s mind.
7. Crush It! Why Now is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk
(S): Find your unique capability and use the free tools of the web to brand yourself.
(S): Get outside the building and test, test, test.
9. Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
(S): It’s the economics and control of the deal. Nothing else really matters.
10. The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
(S): Build a dedicated team, share resources and innovate within the large corporation.
11. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
(S): Resegment the market to find your blue ocean.
12. The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam
(S): We are visual thinkers. Solve problems visually and simply.
So what have I personally learned besides the startup principles we’re now incorporating into ICE practice advisory? It’s simple: Listen to your customers, act on what you learn and then measure. Measure everything you’ve built—from product user experience to marketing campaigns—to get your initial customers. As Steve Blank says: “Everything else is noise.”
We hope you join us as we enter the second year of BookClub. Sign up today for our next event: http://www.marsdd.com/event/mars-startup-book-club-5/
Nathan is a Sr. Strategist, Customer Development and Mentor within the Info. technology, Communications and Entertainment (ICE) practice here at MaRS. He is a Champion of Customer Development helping startups navigate the forest for the trees and reduce the risk of failure. Follow him @cowboytweets. See more…