What a VC is thinking, How did we get here, Where’s my inspiration
Every morning from about 5–7 AM, I block off my schedule to read; anything from business news and books on entrepreneurship and VC to sci-fi and biographies. I usually have about 5 books on rotation, currently including these 3.
I usually try and read books I can burn through at a decent pace. As I have a little bit more time now without travel, meetings and events I have added some longer form books to my reading.
Surprisingly, these three books have helped me better understand the situation we are living through right now. They have kept me motivated through our uncertain times, and they have helped me stay focused on building towards the future.
Most notable are the chapters in Guns, Germs, and Steel regarding pandemics. And the themes in Titan showing unending strength and courage in an uncertain environment.
Included in these are lessons on resilience, productivity, and fundamentals for every startup. If you haven’t yet read these, they’re worth downloading or ordering to read while you’re in isolation. Check out the free downloads below:
Guns, Germs and Steel [free PDF]
Titan [free PDF]
1. Guns, Germs, and Steel
In his 1997 book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond writes about the geographical and environmental factors that shaped the modern world. He explains how the guns, germs, and steel of early agricultural societies undeniably transformed civilization and culture.
“In life in general, though, one has to understand the enemy in order to beat him, and that’s especially true in medicine.”
Not everything is business. A book like this is a refreshing break from the usual business books. Reading Guns, Germs, and Steel has helped keep my skills sharp and, more importantly, learn about our history to understand the present situation we are living through. Especially Diamond’s Chapter 11, “Lethal Gift of Livestock,” which discusses the interaction of animals, germs, and microbes in epidemic diseases and the response of human resilience, immunity, and cures by modern medicine.
Download the ebook or PDF for free here.
2. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Titan is an in-depth biography about the life of the world’s first billionaire and the dynasty he built. Using the rich collection of Rockefeller’s private papers, Chernow paints a multi-faceted portrait of one of the most controversial businessmen in the history of the US.
“If those who ‘gain all they can’ and ‘save all they can,’ will likewise ‘give all they can,’ then the more they will grow in grace.”
Adversity fuels creativity. Chernow does an excellent job of revealing the traits that helped make Rockefeller so successful, including his tenacity, creative thinking, and cognitive planning skills. He employed a concept of “trimming the fat” to make every movement productive and efficient, which in many ways emulates current lean and agile techniques. Rockefeller also built a foundation of habits that helped his productivity, including taking regular naps and working from home. I suspect you could very easily apply these two practices today!
Download the ebook or PDF for free here.
Miles has written a clear, holistic guide on the fundamentals of venture capital that takes you through the industry step by step. Although the writing is geared more towards younger, college-aged people; the basic concepts are for everyone, making an accessible handbook for anyone interested in investing. It’s a great VC 101 course that includes strategies on how to pitch companies to investors, understanding markets, and identifying key metrics.
To me, one of the key takeaways from #BreakIntoVC is to start with your network. Not only is it important to identify key players, but also personal passions. If you read the first couple chapters and follow all of the links and bloggers mentioned, it will keep you busy for a long time. Miles directs you to a number of the masters, like Mark Suster (whom I have spoken of here) and Jason Calacanis, author of Angel.
Second, pump yourself with knowledge. Expose yourself to as much data as you can: immerse yourself in the industry and stay on top of current events with books, newsletters, and blogs.
Lastly, view VC as a long term relationship. Honestly, a large part of your portfolio will not be huge exits, unicorns, or the like and will take a long time to nurture and grow.
We’re in a very unique time. I hope these books will help you realize the power of resilience and creativity in trying times and inspire you to build a strong foundation for yourself going forward.
I’m Theron, a founder, investor, and past banker. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great companies and brands over the last 15 years like Pivotal Software and Silicon Valley Bank.
I like to write mostly based on my experiences as a founder, mentor, investor in scaling enterprise startups.
I hope my articles help you to avoid and learn from my mistakes as well as gain knowledge from my wins.
Keep shipping product and never look back!
Thanks to those that have helped craft and publish this post.