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Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure [Hardcover]

Jerry Kaplan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 2001

Kaplan, a well-known figure in the computer industry, founded GO Corporation in 1987, and for several years it was one of the hottest new ventures in the Valley. Startup tells the story of Kaplan's wild ride: how he assembled a brilliant but fractious team of engineers, software designers, and investors; pioneered the emerging market for hand-held computers operated with a pen instead of a keyboard; and careened from crisis to crisis without ever losing his passion for a revolutionary idea. Along the way, Kaplan vividly recreates his encounters with eccentric employees, risk-addicted venture capitalists, and industry giants such as Bill Gates, John Sculley, and Mitchell Kapor. And no one - including Kaplan himself - is spared his sharp wit and observant eye.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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The founder of the visionary, yet doomed, GO Corporation kept notes throughout his years at the helm, thinking that one day he would produce a book. It shows. This is a vivid and lively rise-and-fall account of a company born to create a pen-based computer. It begins on a corporate jet with the author and fellow industry visionary Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus, sharing a vision of pen computing. From there, Startup quickly leaps to the day-to-day challenges of hiring staff, constantly reassessing and readjusting goals, and coping with the stress of endless rounds of venture capital funding. That Kaplan, in his first attempt at running a company, battles with the top forces at Microsoft, IBM, and other industry giants to bring the idea to market, only makes the story more compelling. His company's ultimate failure says more about a cutthroat industry than about the quality of Kaplan's product. This is a real David and Goliath tale. If you've ever wondered why things go right or wrong, how competition can kill you, or how financing really works within a small startup, read this book! --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Entrepreneur Kaplan describes the tribulations he faced while forming his own company in the computer industry.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insider's Look at the Startup Struggle Jan. 1 2003
Startup tells the story of the rise and fall of GO Corporation, a maker of pen-based computer hardware and software. GO was founded in 1987 based on the idea that lightweight portable computers that used a pen instead of a keyboard would be quite useful devices, and that entirely new operating system software would be required to run them.
From the outset, the company faced a major problem: their main product was a pen-friendly operating system, but the device for which their software was targetted did not exist! Back then, the so-called portable computers were affectionately referred to as "luggables", and they all came with a keyboard. So to demonstrate the benefits of their software, GO was forced to spend its early precious resources developing its own pen computers. It was 3.5 years before the hardware group was spun out into a separate company called EO and bought by AT&T.
Kaplan's book is an interesting no-holds-barred account of the hectic start-up life and the cut-throat business world. To succeed, GO required a variety of partnerships, from hardware vendors to ISVs. In the course of wooing companies to help them, they rubbed shoulders with such big technology companies as IBM, Apple, HP, Microsoft, and AT&T. Negotiating with and placating the IBM bureaucracy turned into a major ordeal, and Microsoft's unethical theft of GO's intellectual property allowed Microsoft to become a competitive threat long before they otherwise should have been.
GO's other serious problem was that, in its 7+ years of existence, it never realized any significant product revenue. As a result, Kaplan was constantly scrounging for new investment money and was forced to make large concessions to get it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chronology of a Failure Aug. 25 2002
In Startup, Go's Jerry Kaplan (better known for his later success with onsale.com) recounts how he and his team built the company from an idea, and how due to internal politics and competition the walls came tumbling down.
Kaplan takes us through the twists and turns of forming a company, describing, in detail, how he secured venture capital and found Go's first few key people. He comments extensively on the changing competitive landscape throughout Go's history. The EO spin-off, IBM and AT&T deals and all other major events in Go's life are detailed. The book is a quick read, written like a first person novel, not a stuffy business book.
The book's biggest flaw, however, is that it is written entirely from Kaplan's perspective. Throughout, he blames situation, competitors and others for the various problems that Go encountered; Kaplan though, fails to review his own actions and how they may have contributed to Go's demise -- unfortunately this could have been the most beneficial analysis: allowing us to learn from what Kaplan perceived as his mistakes.
Over all, Startup is well written, and a "must read" for anyone working for or contemplating starting a tech company.
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I bought this because I read an interview with Mark Andreesen (co-inventor of the browser) in which he shared kind words for Kaplan's memoirs. Having seen the Netscape debacle from its inception to its consumption by AOL, I take Mark as a reliable source on startups and corporate deals.
Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure has much to recommend. Andreesen points out (and I paraphrase) that no one will tell you the real secrets of how their business succeeded; these have to be learned from observing failures and reading between the lines. Jerry Kaplan's GO Corporation was a failure -- a collosal one. At the end of GO's life, its staff were not surprised to see it go... away. The watercooler scuttlebut focused on how unusual it was that GO survived as long as it did -- considering it had no products, no market (and no marketing), constant financial troubles and, to complete the drama: Bill Gates in the role of surreptitious competitor.
Jerry Kaplan describes in diary-like detail how he and fellow industry visionary Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus) conceived the idea of portable, pen-based computers in a spontaneous moment of shared epiphany during a private jet flight. Here was an idea seemingly out of nowhere: no one had thought of pen computers up to this point. None existed, and none were being developed -- a market vacuum of seemingly unimaginable proportions. The sad irony of Jerry's tale is that when GO was finally absorbed by AT&T and immediately beheaded, only the proportions of this unimaginable market remained. The market itself and the products to drive it never materialized.
Kaplan gives a harrowing behind-the-scenes account of how startup venture capital is *really* enjoined -- and its not what you think.
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I've read many of these reviews where people have said they don't like Kaplan's writing style. This book is not just a business book, it's also a personal history. If you think people's real lives don't effect their business, you might want to think again.
Now Kaplan could have turned this story over to a ghost writer, and had a more polished book. But I prefer this one, almost like a diary, because it gets to the point, and shows his state of mind during many situations.
While we may see (many times over) the inventers of older technology mentioned in history, a lot of newer ones are never recognised. Pen-based computing has changed a lot of things, one of the most fundamental I think, is that there often IS another way to do it.
Inventing takes vision, and determination to get something right.
This book is a brilliant read, I read it cover to cover, with no breaks. It covers ethics, business versus personal life, friendship, trust, legal traps, pressure, frustration, determination and also an abiding respect for a technological improvement.
If more people treated invention with this sort of responsibility, we might live in a different world.
note to Jerry: it was disappointing to have an email bounce back from the published address, but it's nice to hear that you've bounced back yourself, with your new venture.
If anyone reading this does have a valid email address for Jerry Kaplan, I would appreciate it being passed on.
(email address removed)
Jerry emailed it to me himself. Rating changed from 4 stars to 5.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A highly engaging look at life inside the startup whirlwind
Whatever Jerry Kaplan may lack in business acumen--or business luck--he makes up as a writer. Many books, usually written by journalists, claim to take you inside the experience of... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2001 by "kateib"
2.0 out of 5 stars Get real, Jerry
This is a pretty good read by an exceedingly arrogant businessman who seems more often than not to forget that he failed and, moreover, is clueless why. Read more
Published on June 20 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best business history books I have read
This book provides value in a number of ways.
First, the reader is given a detailed review of the growth of a start-up. Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2000 by Eric Eskin
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent learning experience
This book was a fascinating first-person journey through the world of software startups. It includes extremely interesting accounts of the actions of big players including John... Read more
Published on April 14 2000 by P. Nash
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for VC's and entrpreneurs alike
This is an excellent case study of the hurdles a high-tech entrepreneur must jump. It provides a great insight to challenges entrepreneurs will face growing a business. Read more
Published on March 28 2000 by John F. Dascher
5.0 out of 5 stars Dignified Hardball
This is a damn good book. It's located in the business section but really it should be in the inspirational group. Read more
Published on Dec 14 1999 by Jack Jalove
4.0 out of 5 stars I was riveted to this book.
Just finished this book and found myself anticipating the next chance I could find to read what happened next to GO, a company with a seemingly unshakeable future but doomed by... Read more
Published on July 20 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A high-tech struggle with human dimension
"Startup" chronicles a tale of the late eighties and early nineties, before the Internet exploded into public consciousness (and publisher's rush-to-press lists). Read more
Published on June 15 1999 by Gautam Srikanth
3.0 out of 5 stars To GO or not to EO
I bought the book amidst lot of hype from my friends and relatives who have read this book. I didn't find it so exciting as to place it on the top shelf. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 1998
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