Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Before heading back to Taiwan to visit my family during my vacation, I decided to change up the pace and pick up some books that aren’t learning focused like the management books that I’ve been reading so far. One of the books on the discount section that immediately caught my attention was the Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. The movie was released just a few months ago and I’ve already been hearing great reviews from my friends who’ve watched it. I was able to finish reading it during my vacation and I’ll say it’s a great read especially when you are looking to unwind and relax.

Plot Summary

Rachel Chu and Nick Young are a young couple living in the States who are both professors at the New York University. They have been dating for a few years and are still madly in love.

When Nick invited Rachel to visit his family in Singapore and to attend his best friend’s wedding, Rachel accepted without any inclination of what is about to happen. As Nick has been raised up to not discuss his background, Rachel never knew Nick’s family along with their background and the tradition that comes with being in a crazy rich family.

Nick’s family is among the top 10 wealthiest in Asia. With the amount of wealth and the associated social status that comes with it, the vast majority of Nick’s extended family grew up with a sense of entitlement and materialism that Rachel is unaccustomed to and disliked. Before Nick and Rachel even set foot in Singapore, Nick’s Mom, Eleanor Young, as well as numerous women who are obsessed with prestige and pride have begun to scheme against Rachel and her relationship with Nick. Rachel and Nick’s relationship is challenged as they have to navigate through the obstacles that come from the cultural difference as well as the disapproval from Nick’s family.

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Book Review

The book started out introducing numerous characters that are in Eleanor Young’s social circle. It is hard to follow the storyline at times as too many characters are being introduced around the same time. However, as the character development of Rachel and Nick strengthens, it becomes clear how each character is related to Nick’s family and the story really starts to kick off.

The Crazy Rich Asians shows the different people dynamic of a crazy rich Asian family. Growing up in an environment surrounded by wealth, it shows how people can have a sense of entitlement and even look down upon those who come from families who are less fortunate financially. Despite that, although the environment you grow up with can strongly affect your value system, there are also people like Nick who are down to earth and modest.

People often focus on the positive impact that comes with wealth. Whereas this novel also demonstrates the negative impact it can have on your value system and social circle. It uses different characters to explain how each person handles wealth and its impact on their lives.

I’ll refrain from spoilers, but I do not particularly enjoy the ending. I’ll prefer it to focus more on the relationship between Nick and Rachel and how they face and resolve the obstacles that Nick’s family presents. However, all in all, I really enjoy the book and the change of pace from the usual management type books that I’ve been reading. Here’s a link of the book and as always please let me know your feedback and your thoughts. ūüôā

I’m currently reading High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove.

Rese√Īa: Aleph de Paulo Coelho

Sinopsis

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La autobiograf√≠a de Paulo Coelho, Aleph, narra su viaje recorriendo Europa y Asia en el tren Transiberiano. Aunque Paulo fue un autor de renombre, sent√≠ incompleto y infeliz. En su viaje, conoci√≥ a Hilal, una joven violinista a la que am√≥ y tracion√≥ 500 a√Īos antes. Por causa de este acto de traici√≥n, Paulo todav√≠a no pod√≠a encontrar la verdadera felicidad. Juntos descubrieron sus pasados y se ayudaron mutualmente a recuperar sus vidas y vivir en el ahora.

Opiníon Personal

Aleph es una toma √ļnica de autobiograf√≠a de Paulo. Permite que los lectores entienden sus pensamientos, sus creencias, y la din√°mica que tuvo con las personas que lo rodean. El argumento principal de la historia gira alrededor a √©l comprendiendo su pasado con Hilal y pidi√©ndole perd√≥n.

Encontré la conversación espiritual sobre universos paralelos y el autodescubrimiento un poco arrastrado y redundante a veces. Prefiero sus otros libros como La Espía y El Alquimista que me trajeron nuevas experiencias y conocimientos. Este no es un libro que recomiendo, pero aquí está si eres fanático de su estilo de escritura.

Estoy leyendo High Output Management de Andrew S. Grove.

Rese√Īa: La Esp√≠a de Paulo Coelho

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Sinopsis

Paulo Coelho narra una historia sobre Mata Hari qui√©n termin√≥ siendo ejecutada como esp√≠a en la Primera Guerra Mundial. Mata Hari, cuyo nombre real es¬†Margaretha Zelle, fue una bailarina muy famosa que alcanz√≥ la fama debido a su belleza y su deseo de cumplir sus sue√Īos.

Todos sabemos que no morir√© a causa de este alegato est√ļpido de espionaje, sino porque decid√≠ ser quien siempre so√Ī√© y el precio de un sue√Īo siempre es alto.

Por causa de las limitaciones impuestas a las mujeres, Mata aprendi√≥ muy temprano c√≥mo seducir y manipular a los hombres para obtener lo que quiere. Fue una luchadora capaz de superar todos los obst√°culos que se presentan en la cumplimiento de sus sue√Īos. A medida que envejec√≠a, su fama desvanec√≠a con su belleza. Atrapada en tiempos de guerra, accedi√≥ a ser una esp√≠a para Alemania para escapar de la pobreza y regresar a Francia. Como Mata no ten√≠a la intenci√≥n de ser una esp√≠a, nunca proporcion√≥ informaci√≥n √ļtil sobre Francia a Alemania. Sin embargo, cuando Francia vio indicios de que Mata era una esp√≠a para Alemania, fue ejecutada a pesar de no tener ninguna evidencia concreta en su contra.

Opiníon Personal

Esta ficci√≥n hist√≥rica est√° narrada desde dos perspectivas, una carta de Mata Hari a su abogado y otra carta de su abogado a Mata Hari. La carta de Mata Hari ofrece una gran perspectiva sobre c√≥mo se convirti√≥ en la persona que era y las luchas internas que ten√≠a. Se√Īala la desigualdad que enfrentaron las mujeres y el precio que las mujeres necesitaban pagar para cumplir sus sue√Īos. Para la carta de su abogado, ofrece una perspectiva diferente y muestra c√≥mo el mundo estaba tratando a las mujeres como Mata Hari.

Disfrut√© mucho el desarrollo del personaje de Mata Hari. Te hace pensar en la desigualdad y los desaf√≠os de perseguir tus sue√Īos. Te recomiendo este libro si te gusta el desarrollo de personajes en un contexto hist√≥rico.

Estoy leyendo Aleph de Paulo Coelho.

Book Review: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is an international bestseller on the history of humankind. Sapiens is categorized into four parts: The Cognitive Revolution, The Agricultural Revolution, The Unification of Humankind, and The Scientific Revolution. Yuval studies how humans have evolved into the most powerful animal on earth and the impact of it.

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The Power of Shared Myths

One of the most important things that set us apart from other animals is our effectiveness in cooperating in large numbers, which Yuval argues is due to our unique ability to believe in shared myths. Ants and bees can cooperate in large numbers but can only do so with close relatives and in a very rigid manner. Chimpanzees can cooperate more flexible than ants and bees but mostly with those who they know intimately. Humans, on the other hand, can cooperate on a much larger scale and even have the ability to cooperate with complete strangers. Thousands of people have worked together to achieve the vision of their corporation. Millions of people have cooperated to fight for their country or to defend their religious beliefs. And billions of people are able to exchange goods and services without knowing each other. This is all possible due to our ability to believe in shared myths.

What are corporations? Unlike things like bananas and refrigerators that have intrinsic value, corporations aren’t tangible things you can see or touch. It is simply a shared fiction defined by legal documents that exist in the mind of people. Even though nations and corporations are shared fictions, it is the reason why my co-workers and I can cooperate to achieve a common mission and why millions of people support and cheer for the same national team.

The most powerful shared myths above all are perhaps money. People work in exchange for money which in today’s age mainly refers to cash or electronic payments. Why would anyone work for the majority of their lives to get “colored papers” or electronic payments which don’t have any intrinsic value? This is all due to our shared belief in money and the value that it has. If tomorrow, nobody believes in the value of the dollar bills that you have or in the banking system, your savings will essentially be almost worthless.

There are other factors such as intelligence and communication that contributed to humans rise to power. But without the ability to believe in shared beliefs, our ability to cooperate will be greatly reduced and we’ll not be where we are today.

Human Happiness

Since 500 years ago, we have had numerous technological advances. Transportation is much more convenient with cars and planes. Communications is much quicker with the invention of phones and the internet. And with a global economy, a product that is only produced in certain parts of the world can easily be attainable via online shopping.

But are we any happier than we were 500 years ago? As there is no way to measure happiness, nobody can say for sure. With so much scientific and technological advances, one would think that humans are happier now. After all, what is the value of these technological advances if it makes our lives more miserable? I’m sure most people have either complained about the transportation system or heard about these complaints. When your commute to work gets delayed by 1 hour due to public transportation, you most likely won’t feel any less frustrated if someone were to remind you that 500 years ago your commute would’ve taken 10 times the time it takes now. That is because happiness is not really dependent on objective conditions such as wealth, but more so on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations. So even though the scientifical and technological advances have brought us greater objective conditions, it also raised our subjective expectations too. With social media, people can be more expressive than ever, but it also exposes ourselves to others’ opinions of us. With phones and emails, we can communicate with our friends and loved ones instantly. However, because of these communication tools, people nowadays expect you to reply instantly as well.

More and more scholars have begun to study the history of happiness, so maybe one day we will be able to measure and understand the factors that impact happiness and how the factors have evolved over time.

Natural Selection

Natural selection : the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring

We have gained so much power that you can arguably say that we have affected natural selection. The evolution of other animals is increasingly impacted not by their natural environment, but by the needs of humans.¬†It would be rational to think that chickens on average will become faster as the slower ones will have a harder time to survive and therefore not make it through natural selection. However, due to our chicken consumption, selective breeding is done where the fattest hen are mated with the slowest cock. And throughout history, it’s shown that once humans set foot in an area it drives most large animals of that area to extinction. On the other hand of the spectrum, domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, and pigs grow in numbers.

With the advances in the field of biological engineering, we have even gained the ability to genetically modify animals. This raises questions that pertain to our responsibility towards the planets and especially the other animals that are negatively impacted by our behavior.

Summary

Yuval discussed the history of humankind and offered his unique perspective on it. It puts into perspective how long humans have been around and makes you think about the impact we are making and the history we are leaving behind us. It’s a very thought-provoking book and I’ll recommend it to people who are interested to learn about the history of humankind and its impact.

I’m currently reading La Esp√≠a by Paulo Coelho.

Book Review: Rework by Jason Fried

If given a choice between investing in someone who has read ‘Rework’ or has an MBA, I’m investing in ‘Rework’ every time. – Mark Cuban

Rework by Jason Fried is one of the books which Mark Cuban credits his success to. Due to that (along with the great looking book cover) I was very excited to start reading it. I’ll say this is by far the most enjoyable read I’ve ever had, especially considering it’s business related. Every chapter is an insight which is usually covered within 1 – 2 pages. There was really no dull moment throughout the entirety of the book. Nothing is dragged on and just enough context is given to illustrate each insight.

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Build half a product, not a half-assed product

When building a product, don’t focus on trying to give your customers everything all at once. You simply won’t be able to focus on everything and do them well with the limited time, resources, ability, and focus that you have. Prioritize the most important features first and build it well.

Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good.

Most things get better when they are shorter or simpler. Great producers cut good scenes to make great movies and great speakers cut out good content to give great speeches. Jason Fried and his team cut this book from 57,000 words to about 27,000 words. Give this book a read and you will understand how less is more.

Do it yourself first

Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first.

For any tests, if you see “never” or “always” as part of an answer on a multiple choice question, you can usually rule out that answer right away. The same thing applies in this case as there are usually exceptions to the rule. However, what is important is the message behind this quote. If possible, spend the time to understand a given role before you delegate or hire someone to do it. It’s even better if you can spend a day working in that role. This way you will have a good understanding of the role and the challenges that come with it. This can make you a better manager as you will know what to evaluate people on as well as give yourself a more holistic view of your organization.

Own your bad news

When something bad happens, own it and apologize. Don’t try to hide bad news from your customers if they haven’t discovered it yet. In today’s day and age, bad news can only be hidden for so long. There will always be a narrative whether it comes from the press, your competitors, or from you. So own your bad news and apologize, you’ll be better off if you’re the one telling the story.

And just like giving a speech, what draws people’s attention is usually not the mistake, but the reaction to the mistake. People can always tell when an apology is sincere or not, so be honestly concerned about the impact of your bad news and apologize like you will to a real person.

We have probably all heard or seen a variation of “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused” as an apology. I’ll admit that I’ve used a variation of it myself to clients over emails. Besides sounding generic and templated, this specific example is bad for a number of reasons. First, when you apologize take ownership of it, so rather than use “we” use “I” instead. Second, if the client depends on your services then your impact is more than just an inconvenience. And lastly, “this may have caused” implies that there might not be anything wrong at all. Either there is something wrong or there isn’t. And if you find the need to write an apology, that is a good indication that there is something wrong. So own the responsibility and apologize in the right way.

Inspiration is perishable

Inspiration is a magical thing, a productivity multiplier, a motivator. But it won’t wait for you. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.

Inspiration doesn’t last forever. So if you are inspired and feel like doing something, do it now. Even if you are inspired to take on a time-consuming project, do the things you can do right now to put that project in action.

This is something that I can really relate to this past year. I was inspired by my ex-girlfriend to start reading more regularly. On the very same day, I researched a list of books that I wanted to read and by the following day, I have put in my order for 8 books. This has since led me to read almost every day for 6 months straight and counting.

One of the very first books I read is Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk which inspired me to start my own blog. I immediately looked into the different options for setting up a personal blog and within a week I’ve set up my own blog on WordPress. I’ve been blogging once every two weeks ever since. If I hadn’t acted on my plans when I was inspired immediately, chances are I’ll not be motivated enough to carry out my plans and will not have learned so much by reading so many great books.

Summary

Rework by Jason Fried is a great read that is applicable to everyone. The insights I share are by no means the most important, just the ones that are more applicable to me. Definitely give it a read if you get the chance, it will be a quick read where you can get ideas or be inspired.

 

I’m currently reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

Rese√Īa: El Alquimista de Paulo Coelho

Hola a todos! Antes de leer este libro, he escuchado cosas buenas sobre eso. El Alquimista РUna Fábula Para Seguir Tus Suenos ha sido aclamado como una de las novelas más importantes de la década. Es asombroso cómo Paulo puede demostrar sus ideas como una fábula tan emocionante e encantador.

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Sinopsis

La historia es sobre un muchacho se llama Santiago, un joven pastor en Andalucia, quien tiene un sue√Īo repetido en el que encontrar√° un tesero escondido en las Pir√°mides de Egipto. Para entender su sue√Īo, viene a una adivina que le dice que va a encontrar un tesero en las Pir√°mides de Egipto. Despu√©s de hablar con la advina, se encuentra un anciano, el rey de Salem, quien le dijo sobre la Leyenda Personal y la importancia de seguir sus sue√Īos. Santiago decidi√≥ ir a Egipto y vendi√≥ sus ovejas para obtener el dinero necesario.¬†¬°El viaje comienza!

Opinión Personal

Leyenda Personal es lo que una persona siempre quiere cumplir. Esta f√°bula demuestra la importancia de seguir sus sue√Īos. Se necesita ser paciente y continuar trabajando para sus sue√Īos. El viaje para alcanzar sus sue√Īos no es facil, pero si trabaja duro y cree en su sue√Īo, puede alcanzarlo. El historia tambien muestra por qu√© tanta gente no puede alcanzar sus sue√Īos. Necesitas creer en tus sue√Īos y en ti mismo pero tambien necesitas tomar la decisi√≥n de seguir tus sue√Īos. Durante el viaje de seguir tus sue√Īos, hay muchas cosas que pueden detenerte. Por ejemplo, muchas personas est√°n contentas con sus vidas y no quieren arriesgarse mucho por sus sue√Īos. En otros casos, las personas dejan de seguir sus sue√Īos cuando se encuentran una problema. El libro nos ense√Īa a no darnos por vencidos en nuestros sue√Īos incluso cuando nos encontramos con problemas. Cuando sigues tus sue√Īos, es tan importante para centrarte en tus sue√Īos como en disfrutar el viaje.

 

Esta es mi segunda rese√Īa en espa√Īol! Es un libro que recomendar√©. Perdoname otra vez por los errores en mi espa√Īol, es una idioma muy dif√≠cil para m√≠.¬†Gracias por su tiempo para leer mi rese√Īa y quisiera saber tus pensamientos de este libro tambien. ūüôā

 

Estoy leyendo Rework de Jason Fried.

Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban

Para mejora mi espa√Īol, he leido algunos libros en espanol. Y esta vez termin√© leer Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban. Le√≠ todos los libros en la serie de Harry Potter cuando era un estudiante para la escuela secundaria. Pero en aquel entonces le√≠ los libros en ingl√©s para mejora mi ingl√©s. Despu√©s de todos estos a√Īos, regres√© a leer Harry Potter y a√ļn me da mucho gusto.

Es mi primera vez que escrib√≠ un post en espanol, entonces perd√≥name si encuentras muchos errores con mi espa√Īol. Lo agradecer√© si dejame saber mi errores. Entonces, compartir√© contigo un sinopsis y mis pensamientos de este libro.
!Atención: contiene spoiler!

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Sinopsis

Harry Potter y el Prisionero de Azkaban es el tercero libro de la serie Harry Potter. Harry Potter tiene 13 a√Īos y esta estudiando en un escuela para magos que se llama Hogwarts. Durante el verano, vives con tus tios que son muggles, no se pueden hacer magia, porque los padres de Harry fue asesinado por el malvado Voldemort. Mientras tanto, un asesino serie con magicos poderes, Sirius Black, ha escapado Azkaban. Sirius Black ha ayudado Voldemort y ha tracionado los padres de Harry.¬†¬ŅCon Sirius Black centrado a Harry, como puede Harry queda en salvo de Sirius Black en su tercer a√Īo en Hogwarts?

Opinión Personal

Todos, incluido Harry, creen que Sirius Black he tracionado los padres de Harry y quiere matarlo. Cuando Harry descubri√≥ que Sirius es su padrino y el mejor amigo de su padre, Harry odiaba Sirius a√ļn m√°s. Solo hasta cerca del final del libro, fue relevado que Sirius no tracion√≥ los padres de Harry y es el otro amigo de su padre, Peter Pettigrew, que los tracion√≥. Para la sorpresa de todo (incluy√©ndome debido a mi malo recuerdo jaja), Peter ha vivido con las familia de Ron, el amigo de Harry, por doce a√Īos como una rata. Me gusta mucho estos giros inesperados y los desarollos de personajes de Harry y los amigos de su padres.

 

No puedo escribir bien en espanol ahora, entonces mi rese√Īa en espanol es muy corto. Espero que puedo mejorar rapido y no escribo como un ni√Īo jaja. Gracias por su timepo para leer mi rese√Īa y quisiera saber tus pensamientos de este libro tambien.

Estoy leyendo El Alquimista de Paulo Coelho.

 

Book Review: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Around 5 years ago while I was working as a marketing intern at a startup called The Social Art Movement (TSAM), I was exposed to the Lean Startup’s methodologies. TSAM consisted of a core team of 4 employees supplemented with 8 undergrads, including me, as marketing interns. The startup was trying to create an online artwork shopping platform that charges a low commision. The startup was at the very early stages as the online art platform was still being developed, so we have no customers, let alone revenues (you can probably guess by now the internship was unpaid). The founder, Justin Day, was a practitioner of the Lean Startup’s methodologies. He will tell us to go out on the street and start surveying art lovers and artists to learn about their hobbies, demographics, and interests in different art-related events. Even down to social media, different posts were A/B tested to see what has more reach and engagement. I was glad that I was exposed to how an early startup operates but I didn’t realize that I was practicing some of the Lean Startup’s methodologies until I read this book.

Fast forward to 2 years later while I was working as a user research coordinator, I saw the book again being passed around among my coworkers. I started thinking… maybe I should eventually find time to read this book. And fast forward to now… I have finally finished read it and I’ll say it’s the top 5 books I’ve read.

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Entrepreneurs Are Everywhere

At this point, you might be thinking, “What is the Lean Startup?”. But before I get to that, let me first get to how Eric Ries defines a startup.

A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

The most important part of this definition is what it excludes. It doesn’t specify anything about the size of the company or the time that has elapsed since the company was founded. Even if you are working at an established company like Google, as long as you are operating with extreme uncertainty about who your customers are and how to build a sustainable business, then you are an entrepreneur.

The Lean Startup, which took its name from the lean manufacturing revolution at Toyota, is a set of practices for helping entrepreneurs increase their odds of building a sustainable business. It is the application of lean thinking to the process of innovation and it includes practices like validated learning, feedback loop, and innovation accounting.

Validated Learning

Validated learning is the process of demonstrating empirically that a team has discovered valuable truths about a startup’s present and future business prospects.

Everything a startup does should be an experiment designed to achieve validated learning.¬†Going back to my time at The Social Art Movement, one of our first goals is to figure out what’s the target segment for our online art platform. Surveys were designed with just enough questions to understand the potential target segment’s demographic and it’s potential interests.¬† All of us marketing interns then surveyed art lovers and artists in different areas of the city. It was a good exercise as we were able to speak to potential customers early on and narrow down the target demographic that will sell or pay for artworks. However, looking back now, we didn’t have an MVP (minimum viable product) when we were conducting the surveys and that cost us opportunities for more validated learning which would have increased the odds of the startup succeeding.

Eric stresses the need of having an MVP early to help entrepreneurs start the process of learning as soon as possible. And anything that is outside of the learning goals of the experiment is a waste and shouldn’t be included in the MVP.

During my internship at The Social Art Movement, the product was never built. If we wanted to learn whether there is a market for an online art platform that charges a low commission, we can build an online platform that has some placeholder artwork that can be found on google images along with a checkout button that does not work. This MVP will be enough for us to get the learning we seek as we can perform usability tests to see whether our target segment will use it and proceed to checkout. However, even this first version of the online platform will require weeks of dev work and will prove to be wasteful. If the learning we seek is simply to learn¬†whether there is a market for an e-commerce platform selling artwork for a low commission, then why do we need to build out the e-commerce platform to learn that? Why can’t we simply use a video that shows how the e-commerce platform will work or perhaps have an interactive mockup that doesn’t require a single line of code?

Startups are scarce in resources, so keep in mind that any learning you seek will need to be able to be obtained as effectively as possible to increase your chances of becoming a sustainable business. So when you are designing an MVP, be clear on what learning you are seeking, define a hypothesis, build the absolute minimum product for you to obtain that learning, and go out and talk to your customers directly by seeing how they use your MVP.

Build – Measure – Learn Feedback Loop

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The Build – Measure – Learn feedback loop is at the core of the Lean Startup model. “Build” is going from ideas to a product (can be a feature or service) that the customers can interact with. “Measure” is using that product to get usability feedback and data from your target customers. And “Learn” is using that feedback and data to get actionable insights that can either shape the idea or go in a different direction altogether. To improve the chances of becoming a sustainable business, we need to minimize the total time through the feedback loop.

Even though the feedback loop is stated as Build – Measure – Learn, the process starts in the reverse order. We first figure out what we need to learn, decide what we need to measure to know if we are gaining validated learning, and then figure out what product we need to build to run that experiment and get that measurement. Once you go through a loop, the hardest decision that an entrepreneur needs to make is whether to persevere or to pivot. Persevere is to stick with the original strategy, whereas pivoting is to switch to a different strategy and go in a different direction (ex. changing the segment you’re targetting or the type of product you are providing). Persevere for too long then you will burn up resources and lead your team to failure. Pivot too early then you might be giving up on a winning strategy before it has an opportunity to develop. This is why it’s crucial at the beginning to establish what are the metrics that will be measured and what are the hypothesis for those metrics. The decision to persevere or pivot is always subjective but with concrete and actionable metrics, you will then be able to make a more informed decision.

Innovation Accounting

Innovation accounting is the process of defining, measuring, and communicating the progress of innovation to hold entrepreneurs accountable.

Innovation accounting has 3 learning milestones:

  1. Establish the baseline
    Use an MVP to determine what’s the startup’s current baseline. Don’t use gross numbers and instead focus on actionable metrics such as¬†customer sign up and retention rate which measures per customer behavior. So for example, if you expect 10% of your website’s visitors will become registered users, use an MVP as soon as possible to find out what are the actual numbers right now. Without real numbers, you won’t be able to know how far you are from your goal and cannot begin to track your progress.
  2. Tune the Engine
    Make product development changes that are not designed to drive huge gross numbers but to make those conversion numbers closer to the ideal numbers. This can take numerous iterations until the company reaches a decision point, to pivot or to persevere.
  3. Pivot or Persevere
    Schedule a meeting in advance to discuss whether to persevere or to pivot. With the different iterations of MVP and the associated metrics, you will have the data to help you decide whether to continue to tune the engine or to pivot. If the company is making good progress towards the ideal scenario, then it makes sense to continue. If not, the management team must eventually conclude that its current strategy is flawed and needs to pivot. When a company pivots, it starts the process all over again, reestablishing a new baseline and tuning the engine from there. The sign of a successful pivot is that these engine-tuning activities are more productive after the pivot than before.

Summary

The Lean Startup laid down the core foundation to build a sustainable business. The materials are easy to grasp and the examples are relevant and engaging. And as Eric mentioned, entrepreneurs are everywhere. This book can be applicable and beneficial to you as long as you are working to deliver a product under extreme uncertainty.

Here’s The Lean Startup talk that Eric gave at Google. I’ll still recommend getting the book but the Google talk summarizes the key insights at a high level.

I’m currently reading¬†Harry Potter y el prisionero de Azkaban.

Book Review: The Outsiders by William N. Thorndike, Jr.

The Outsiders:¬†Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by¬†William N. Thorndike, Jr. details the commonalities among the 8 CEOs (also referred to in this book as the outsiders) who significantly outperformed their peers. William stated the commonalities right off the bat and used the remaining chapters to go over each outsider’s experience much more in-depth.

You can tell that a lot of work went into this book. Many interviews were conducted and a lot of financial data were analyzed and presented.

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Capital Allocation

Capital allocation: the process of deciding how to deploy the firm’s resources to earn the best possible return for shareholders

CEOs have 2 key responsibilities: running their operations effectively and deploying the cash generated by those operations

CEOs generally have 5 choices for deploying capital:

  1. Investing in existing operations
  2. Acquiring other businesses
  3. Issuing dividends
  4. Paying down debt
  5. Repurchasing stock

And 3 options for raising it:

  1. Tapping internal cash flow
  2. Issuing debt
  3. Raising equity

The outsiders are focused primarily on making capital allocation decisions and usually delegate running the company operations to a trusted partner. When making capital allocation decisions, these CEOs are very aware of the various tax implications. And contrary to their peers, they did not avoid repurchasing stocks and also did not pay any meaningful dividends.

There is no right option for deploying capital. The key message here is to evaluate all the available options and its implications for your organization.

Develop and Trust Your Analytical Skills

One of the key differences between the outsiders and their peers is that the outsiders trust and act on their own analytical skills. They do not fall prey to the Wall Street’s conventional wisdom and their decisions aren’t impacted by the public opinion. The outsiders have their own method of determining whether a business including their own is under or overvalued. Once they determine a business is underpriced, they are able to act swiftly and acquire the business or its shares if it’s the best capital allocation option.

William examined the stock repurchases events made by the outsiders and these events all happened when the share price was undervalued. On the other hand, when the shares were expensive, they often used it to buy other companies or to raise inexpensive capital to fund future growth.

Decentralized Organization

There is a fundamental humility to decentralization, an admission that headquarters does not have all the answers and that much of the real value is created by local managers in the field.

Besides allocating financial resources, CEOs also need to allocate human resources. The outsiders all emphasized decentralization except when it comes to capital allocation decisions. They hire the best people and give them the responsibilities and authority to do their job. The goals set for the local managers are clear and if they meet their goals they often won’t hear from the headquarters.

Turnovers are costly. So when you hire great people, let them do what they do best. Giving them the responsibility and opportunity to learn and grow will be one of the best ways to retain your talent.

Investor Temperament

In both insurance and investing, Warren Buffett believes the key to longterm success is ‚Äútemperament‚ÄĚ, a willingness to be ‚Äúfearful when others are greedy and greedy when they are fearful‚ÄĚ.

What set the outsiders apart from their peers is their temperament. There are numerous CEOs who have the analytical skills who make poor capital allocation decisions. Like in life, it’s one thing to know what the right thing to do is, it’s another thing to do it. Going against the public opinion isn’t easy and this is what the outsiders have done throughout their careers.

Often times, the popular decision is the wrong decision. Be able to evaluate the options yourself and understand that your job is not to please the public but to bring value to your company and its shareholders.

Summary

The book is very organized and does not stray away from the key messages. However, I also find that too many examples are used to convey the same key messages. It’s not a book I’ll recommend but if you are interested in the insights I discussed and the numbers behind it then this is a book you might enjoy reading.

 
I’m currently reading The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.

Book Review: Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Zero to One is based on a startup course Peter Thiel gave at the Stanford University in 2012. Peter is a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir and an investor in startups, which includes Facebook and SpaceX.

With a commerce undergraduate degree, I have taken a few courses in economics and entrepreneurship. I’ll say a lot of the info relayed isn’t different from what can be learned in these type of courses. Rather than sharing some of the overlapping concepts, I’ll share the key insights that I took away from this book.

Zero

Image source: http://yourstory.com/2014/12/peter-thiel-startups-tips/

Competition is not good, differentiate yourself

Zero to One. It’s the idea of creating something new of value rather than improving on an existing product or service.

A market can be categorized by the characteristics of its competition. On the one extreme, there is perfect competition. This is when there are numerous buyers and sellers and all firms sell an identical product or service in a market where there is a low barrier to entry. In this case, no firm can influence the market price of a product or service. And in the long run, all companies only earn enough profit to stay in the business. If companies are enjoying a profit, other companies will enter the market and drive down the profit.

On the other extreme, there is monopoly. Monopoly happens when only one firm sells a product or service to numerous buyers. This is often due to competitive advantages, such as proprietary technologies, network effects, economies of scale, and/or branding, that the company has that prevents other companies from entering the market.

All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.

We grow up in an environment that focuses on competition.¬† Whether that’s in school through the forms of report cards or sports activities or in the workforce competing for more responsibilities or promotions, we are constantly competing with each other.

When it comes to businesses, Peter Thiel stresses the importance of escaping competition through differentiation. Be mindful that any differentiation that your business has must be relevant and significantly better in both perceived and actual value than the next best option in your market to lead a real monopolistic advantage.

Every startup is small at the start. Every monopoly dominates a large share of the market. Therefore, every startup should start with a very small market.

Aim to dominate a niche market first and once you do, gradually move into other related or broader markets. Starting in a niche market allow you to test out your value proposition as well as not overleveraging your resources.

Invest your time wisely

When you choose a career, focus on something you’re good at doing. But before that make sure that the skills you are developing will be valuable in the future.

Even though startups is the theme of this book, Peter Thiel also cautioned about starting businesses. There are numerous ways to have a successful career and joining a great company while it’s growing is often times a better alternative.

If you can’t count durable relationships among the fruits of your time at work, you haven’t invested your time well, even in purely financial terms.

This is my favorite takeaway from this book. Time is our most valuable asset, so make sure you are spending it with people who you can develop a long-term relationship with. It won’t just make you happier and more productive at work, but also enrich your lives off of work. The more bonds you create the stronger your network is.

Importance of setting a good foundation when starting a business

The founding moment of your business only happens once, so use it to build up a great foundation. First of all, make sure that that you have a history with your partners. Having great synergy is very important. Bad partnerships alone can often kill a business no matter how valuable the product or service is.

Hire people who enjoy working together and share the same vision the company has. If people aren’t aligned, there will eventually be discontent and productivity will suffer as a result.

Summary

The core theme of this book is on creating businesses that go from Zero to One. This book is very well received, however, it’s not a book I’ll recommend to my friends from commerce. It’s more valuable if you have less exposure to economics and startups concepts. If you have a different take on this book, please share it with me as well. ūüôā

I’m currently reading The Outsiders by William N. Thorndike, Jr.