Book Club #1

Have you heard about how Mark Zuckerberg crowdsourced his 2015 resolution? it was pretty cool. After bombarded by thousand of ideas such as releasing hip hop albums or planting trees for every facebook user, Mark Z chose to read new book every month. Surprisingly his resolution got so popular, every book that in Mark’s reading list become instant best seller.

I love books. Seeing Zuckerberg being the newest authority on book reviews tickled me to write my own version of this. So heres the first post of Book Club, a yet another column in my blog where i write about interesting books that i recommend.

Book Club #1

Heres the thing, according to Kemdiknas only 1 out of 1000 Indonesians have serious interest in reading. Im not aiming to achieve the same gravitas as Mark Z but if i can make a person read one new book, thats already count as my personal achievement.

Books are awesome, lets make more people read good books. Here we go

Zero To One – Peter Thiel & Blake Masters

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Peter Thiel is one scary man. As an serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, aiming low is a cardinal sin. In his first book Zero To One which was co-written with his ex-student Blake Masters, Thiel wrote several notes and guides related on startups.

In the book, Thiel bring a very interesting idea : competition is for losers hence startups should aim to be a monopoly. There are four traits which define a monopoly : Proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale and strong branding. A monopolistic startup also operate in the market which previously underserved. By becoming a monopoly, startups protects itself from competition, achieve higher profit margin which in turns enables them to deliver better value over a long term.

Apart from the monopoly concept, several of other ideas were presented in the book such as the fundamental problem of “green energy” , characteristic paradox of startup founder and whether artificial intelligence will ruin humanity. Personally, i couldn’t tell whether the ideas are very visionary or just borderline weird, but still its a good read nonetheless.

Zero to One delivers comprehensive explanation for each ideas while still being enjoyable to read. Its also relatively short, only 200 pages. Highly recommended.

The Everything Store – Brad Stone

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Everything Store is a comprehensive book documenting Jeff Bezos and his billion dollar e-commerce mammoth, Amazon. Taking the third person view, the writer Brad Stone delivered balanced narratives of personal journey of Jeff Bezos and the chronicles of Amazon.

Just like Steve Jobs, Bezos is notoriously famous for his self deemed necessary ruthlessness in running the business. Amazon currently is 140 Billion USD business yet Bezos still makes his employees pay for their own parking. Such an anomaly, considering other tech companies like Google were showering their employees with perks and benefits. Another example of his vaudevillian behavior  is when Amazon warehouse was having extreme heat in the summer, Bezos opted to stand by an ambulance instead of paying for extra air conditioners.

Everything Store is a business book written like an epic tale. Brad Stone portray both good and bad side of Jeff Bezos in a story telling narrative. It has the same tone as Ben Mezrich’s Accidental Billlionaire a.k.a  The Social Network.

Remote : Office Not Required – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

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Remote Working is probably one of the most divisive issues in startup and tech scene. Paul Graham of the YC strongly advised startups to avoid remote working citing that technology still cannot duplicate the effectiveness of face to face communication. On the other side of the spectrum, Matt Mullenweg (founder of Auttomatic and WordPress) is one of the vocal champion of remote working. From day one, He put remote working as the soul of his companies (location agnostic, as per his definition). Matt and Paul had a very civil arguments recently which bring remote working discussion to the broader audience.

Triggered by this event, i borrowed a great book on remote working from Didit to find out more about this alternative way to work.

Remote is written by Jason Fried founder of 37signals (the company behind well-known collaboration tool, Basecamp) and David Hansson, the creator of Ruby On Rails. From addressing the critiques of remote working, handling common issues up until the best method to hire remote workers, Remote delivers comprehensive reading on remote working. Chapters are written in a blog post style which makes it very casual and fun to read.

If i had one thing to complain about the book, it is the lack of depth and details on the implementation of remote working such as how to transition between office work to remote work or how to divide the work between teams.  Nevertheless the book is a great starter material if youre considering to do remote working or you want to pitch the ideas to the management.

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