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4.4 out of 5 stars
Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure
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on August 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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on September 23, 2000
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.
Edit:
(email address removed)
Jerry emailed it to me himself. Rating changed from 4 stars to 5.
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on April 14, 2000
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 Doerr, Bill Gates, and several groups of principles at IBM, Apple, and elsewhere.
I would say this is a painless way to increase your knowledge of the startup process and the magnitude and type of pitfalls you may encounter (including incurring the full embrace-and-extend wrath of the biggest bear in the market space) but it wouldn't be true -- the story feels so honest and absent of coloring emotional commentary that you can feel the excitement, joy, frustration, and eventual devastation of the author and his compatriots.
This book takes you through all the ups and downs of a new software company. If you're in the business, you would do well to read it and hopefully learn from it. It's especially relevant as an example of the type of behavior Microsoft is currently being sued over.
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on June 15, 1999
"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). Maybe that accounts for its unusually well-rounded portrayal of the *human drama* in Kaplan's David-and-Goliath struggle. Whatever the reason, I hope the story's humanity expands its readership, from its natural base of businessmen and gearheads to everyone who's ever cheered for an underdog.
Although "Startup"'s wisdom alone justifies reading it, as others have pointed out it might seem a bit dated amidst the flood of books on the subject these days. It's Kaplan's warm, candid, savvy style that truly singles it out. Highly recommended.
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on April 11, 1998
Startup detailed the life of a technical venture from birth to death in a fast-moving and entertaining style. Kaplan does a great job of explaining what it was like to be there and what obstacles they faced in their journey to bring the first pen based computers to market. Kaplan gives an appropriate level of detail when descibing situations without being 'dry'. While another reader didn't like this book because of the superfluous descriptions, I thought this made the book even better -- it gave me a *feeling* of what it would have been like to be there in person. I missed many "bedtimes" when reading this book and I highly recommend it if you're interested in business stories, start-ups, or technology stories.
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on July 28, 1997
Kaplan's brief book about a massive failure is a quick read. His suave writing allows him to portray his competitors as evil barons -- I pitied him many times throughout the book. Yet he does not pity himself, which is important, or this type of book could turn into a personal sob story. Perhaps most importantly, Kaplan demonstrates through his mistakes that a customer segment must be defined before a product is built. GO never clearly targeted its customer base and thus never had one. I am personally happy to see that Kaplan's new company, Onsale.com, which hosts auctions online, is doing much better. If you're low on time, low on sleep, and need an exciting business book to read, this is the one
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on April 28, 1998
Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure is a must read for anyone interested in starting up their own technology company or anyone interested in how Microsoft, IBM, AT&T and Apple operate and how much power they can wield to help, steal or destroy new technologies. Kaplan takes you through from the inception of the hand-held pen computer idea to the completion of a workable product and all the trials and tribulations in between. You get an insider's look into running a startup as Kaplan deals with venture capitalists, customers, employees, product development and meeting schedules. A very easy reading book! A definite MUST READ - I highly recommend it!!
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on March 28, 2000
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. It is a real eye opener for anyone think about starting a technology-based business.
It also is a case study for investors to see what is really happening behind a start-up's doors during a funding round.
Lasty, this book is not only educational but it makes entertaining ficton-like reading. Since the book was writen recently, there are many familiar people, companies, and events that bring this story to real life.
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on September 22, 2000
This book provides value in a number of ways.
First, the reader is given a detailed review of the growth of a start-up. One feels the struggles and victories of the organization. Second, the speed of change in the technology industry is clearly communicated--not an easy thing to do in a book. Finally, the author provides an excellent overview of the frustrations of raising capital. For anyone involved in a small organization with aspirations of an IPO--this is a must read.

Unfortunately, this book is hard to find. LOOK, it is worth the effort.
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on June 17, 1997
This book provides value in a number of ways.
First, the reader is given a detailed review of the growth of a start-up. One feels the struggles and victories of the organization. Second, the speed of change in the technology industry is clearly communicated--not an easy thing to do in a book. Finally, the author provides an excellent overview of the frustrations of raising capital. For anyone involved in a small organization with aspirations of an IPO--this is a must read
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