Very concise review of the book Lets build a company (7 minutes reviews of Indian startup books- a series)
Let’s build a company: A start-up story minus the bullshit
- Authors: Harpreet Grover and Vibhore Goyal
- Pages: 256 (paperback), Printed in Oct 2019
- Languages: English
“Hard things about hard things but for Indian startups”
Objective assessment of the book:
- Value for money: 10/10
- Cost: 150 to 200 INR (PB), available on Kindle (79 INR)
- Length: 256 pages (PB)
- Time investment: Low ( can read in a single day/weekend easily 4 to 6 hours)
- Focus area in startup context: End-to end, practical, based on real life
- Readability: High (10/10)
- Talks of real life experiences? : Yes (10/10)
- Teaches concept (s) in detailed with focus? : No, focus is on day to day startup life and end to end journey of the company
- Writing/ narration style: Very easy to read and understand, honest, personal
- Would you want to read again and again?- Absolutely
- Practical in Indian context: Very relevant for Indian startups
- Concept heavy vs based on practical experiences/advises: Practical advises with introduction to concepts
- USP: chapters on company culture and people management
- Prior startup specific knowledge required?- No (anyone can read, everyone should read)
- Recommended for: Anyone who is interested in Indian start-ups
Lets build a company is a very raw, real, readable account of CoCubes, a company co-founded by two IIT grads detailing their journey from concept to selling it to India’s biggest HR company. Highly personal yet very practical and actionable. I was able to finish this book in one sitting! The book contains two parts, the first half tells of the journey of CoCube whereas the second half discusses author’s suggestions for entrepreneurs based on their experience of running a company. For me personally, very important writing skill is one where the author is able to define seemingly abstract concepts and readers get understanding of the problems with concrete actionable solutions, the book exactly did that for me. While I got many takeaways from the book, the single most important was concept of how in startup, people get paid for both finding the problems AND their end-to end solutions. In a way, this book did just that for me (defined issues very well and gave concrete answers to these very real yet hard to define problems). There were learnings as well as validations in the book (the book suggests explaining the actual monitory value of work someone is doing which I found relatable: as a fresher I never understood why they needed a dedicated person to read each and every line of drug safety reports I wrote, I was irritated (nibba/nibbi stage of career), but once I came to know actual value of the report we were working on, I was totally fine with extensive reviews and it massively improved my engagement!). I absolutely loved this book and it’s 5 stars from me!
- Curing the smartness syndrome (hiring smart people and solving exotic complex problems as opposed to simple problems generating sustained revenue)
- How co-founder dynamics is analogous to marriage ( clear division of labor, ask/take opinion/ hear the other person but final decision to one spouse/co-founder, uphold dignity in front of a third person, never disagree in front of others, how families compound marriage/startups, unable to speak mind leads to divorce/startup-failure)
- The difference between startup and corporate work and work cultures
- The review system and growth plan they discuss in the book
- The seven values with rationale behind all of them
- The nine points of leadership code
- Role of families in startups (spouse and parents, how they can make or break startups)
- The USP of this book were chapters related to hiring/ managing and firing people and The WHY and the HOW of company/work culture ( Common values à Consistent behavior à Company culture) and employee engagement which are best explained in the book in a very actionable way and implementable both in startups and corporate teams
- The hard times and day to day difficulties of running startup operations, existential crises and comeback
- Dealing with VC and other investors
- The exit- selling of the company and intricacies thereof
What readers are saying about this book? (Amazon and GR reviews analysis)
- Hard things about hard things but for Indian startups
- I felt like I am talking to the founder himself.
- Beautifully written, honestly accounted.
- The soul of the book lies in the approachable tone and and irrefutably good take aways.
- The candor is surprising! There is a lot of insider information that people rarely get to know.
- A great story book and manual at the same time
- Authentic to its journey
- The chapter around the relationship with his wife really stuck with me.
- Information about US startups is so overpowering that it gives Indian entrepreneurs “valley-sightedness“ but this book is on Indian startup specifics
Quotes from the book that capture its soul
• Both of us had graduated from college eight years ago. Most of our batchmates were doing well and going on foreign vacations. And there we were, taking money from our parents to run our houses, because CoCubes was failing. I remember going to the ATM to withdraw 2000 bucks and getting a shock when the receipt read: insufficient balance.
• I remember going to the ATM in 2013 to withdraw 2000 bucks and realizing I couldn’t. And now all the wealth managers in India were writing and calling. Money management was a new skill that we would need to learn.
• But I think at the earliest stage, the only people who can invest in you are the three Fs: friends, family and fools. All angel investors are fools in that sense. Because the return on capital invested is rare for most angels
• Early-stage entrepreneurship is about waiting at the reception of your client’s office, going to conferences and trying to make contacts, then following up with them to get meetings, hoping they remember you, trying to convince people to join your start-up and then figuring out, each month, how to pay salaries. This is what will mostly happen when you start a company.
• Three months passed. I was alternating between not missing her and really missing her. Everything started getting to me. It was good to have all the time in the world, and there were weeks when I wouldn’t miss her at all. But then, not having someone to smile at you when you are finally home after a long day was a let-down. We were speaking to each other but we had not talked in a long time.
• We were profitable because we had no other choice. Being profitable is a different feeling. It has the power to make you feel free.
• I think the fact that we could afford not to sell the company was the reason we were able to sell it. We had the power to say no at all points in time. We were growing and profitable. Our plan B was to continue running the company. This gave us the confidence to push back on the clauses we didn’t want to accept.
• We do many things in life just because we can. Is this the best use of my time as an entrepreneur? Doing all these small things gives one the illusion of being productive without really making a material change to the fate of the company.
• In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. In a poor organization, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting and broken processes.
• There are two sure-shot ways of mismanaging your best people:
1- Giving them more than what they can handle and leaving them on their own.
2- Putting them in roles where their skill sets don’t match.
• Like most other start-ups, we had no credibility when we started, and everyone we met asked us the same question: ‘Do you work with someone right now? Is someone using your services?’ Saying ‘no’ would not get us anywhere.
• Companies run on the money that customers choose to pay.
• When we were close to selling the company, I had met an acquaintance who had sold his company to LinkedIn for a few hundred crores. I asked him what really changed after selling the company. He replied that he didn’t need to worry about spending small bits of money. That he wouldn’t care about the food bill in the restaurant, or be okay with paying for a seat with more leg space on a flight. Everything else remained the same. This is something that really changes — the knowledge that you won’t run out of money by spending it as change. So that cognitive load of keeping a tab on small expenses goes away.
• We should never have assumed that the deal was done until the money was in the bank. Make your plans, but don’t end up committing to future investments based on a verbal agreement. Wait for the money to hit the bank.
How to get the best out of this book:
It’s a very readable and highly actionable book. You can finish even in one go (4 to 6 hours) or over a weekend. The second part of the book gives the how and why of life at startups. Taking notes from the book and implementing them in your professional life is very doable.
Author’s LinkedIn page:
Goodreads for the book: Lets build a company
Amazon.in Link for Lets build a company