My book recommendations if you want to learn something about tech, entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley (and money in Omaha and Houston)
I really enjoy reading and with Amazon’s Kindle I was able to purchase the books which were expensive in German, but cheap as an English original or where I had to wait for a translations. And it made reading much easier because you don’t have to transport a pound of paper.
What kind of books did I enjoy? Mostly non-fiction books about business, tech and history. And they helped me to learn. Here are my book recommendations if you want to go to the Silicon Valley or about money.
“The Facebook Effect” by David Kirkpatrick
A great book by David Kirkpatrick and an opposing point of view after “The Social Network” (after the movie I had the feeling that I should delete my FB-account). It tells the story of young Mark Zuckerberg and how he once created (“The”) Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard University, the basic thoughts and disputes with Eduardo Severin after he freezes the account for the young company (which began as a Florida-Corporation). It tells another story about the relationship between Sean Parker (remember when he is using drugs from a young girls belly?) and Zuckerberg’s insecurity when he got the offers for the now largest social network in the world.
You should read the book if you want to learn more about corporate structures, boards of directors, articles of incorporation, investment stages and, of course, if you love the story of a company which came from nothing but… not a garage, but a dorm room.
“In The Plex” by Steven Levy
Steven Levy gives you an inside look into the company that began as a project of Larry Page at Stanford University and immediately changed the world. At the end of the last decade of the 20th century finally it was easier to find what was relevant to your search with a search engine that was able to find itself! Altavista for example wasn’t able to find Altavista if you were searching for it. This book explains the early and later development of Google, Inc. (btw: seems most tech-companies use Incorporated instead Corporation? Maybe not LinkedIn, but feels like that). and how the startup grew up to a giant company where employees are getting the benefits of a startup. What I prefer are the chapters and lines about the technology. In Germany, where I live (unfort), many users are afraid of Google’s power, Facebook’s data treasury and generally everything about data privacy and forget to think about the tech behind. However, they still use it. Steven Levy helps to understand the technology Google is using and made it easier to me to understand the rest of tech where I was guessing how it works. Of course the China chapter is worth to be read. Read this if you like tech-stories and success-stories.
“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson
The story of Steve Jobs. Incredible. I remember that he died one or two weeks after I purchased my iPad 2. After noticing that a Walter Isaacson is publishing a biography about Steve Jobs I immediately thought: “Typical run for the money. Same shit when another celebrity died.” But I was wrong. Walter asked Steve’s friends (former and current), colleagues (same here), family members and all. He wrote an honest story of a man who was difficult, often harsh to his employees, known as visionary and who was in a conflict with himself, switching between his hippie identity and a character and a myth he built around himself, even the halo. The books is for those who are in doubt, who are looking for a way out or inspiration. I enjoyed the pages about design, the creation of iTunes. Steve was, no doubt, an incredible man. But personally I never want to become Steve Jobs. Not only because it isn’t possible, but because I don’t agree with his leadership. However, it is a fantastic book.
“Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton
The story behind Twitter is a turbulent one and I didn’t knew that before. It is the story about Evan Williams (Hi Ev, great job with Medium), Jack Dorsey (interim-CEO and CEO of Square). To be honest, I got “Hatching Twitter” as an Audible-book in German language. If you have the book or want to buy it, you will read about a startup whose developers are working on a new product and, in a kind of accident, they develop Twitter. It’s a bit like Slack, which was born during the now stopped development of a game.
But this book is more. It’s about the influence on a company, complications with many different characters and outages of servers which are stressing the company. It tells you more about the startup which has a great product, but wasn’t sure how to make money with it. It isn’t the typical glamour-story and maybe that’s the reason why you should read it.
“The Intel Trinity” by Michael S. Malone
I don’t say too much about the book because I’m reading it at the moment. But I was curious while learning how a computer really works. And it began with a documentary on TV called “Digital Revolutionaries” about the beginning of the Silicon Valley with William Shockley and the traitorous eight who left Shockley Semiconductor. Robert Noyce was one of them, Gordon Moore (“Moore’s Law”) another one, who, after working for Fairchild Semiconductor, started Intel. I enjoyed reading that both men were rich, but didn’t give a damn on the money. Instead they were normal, smart heads. I’ll update this later after I finished reading.
“A History of Silicon Valley” by Arun Rao
Maybe not the best book, but an interesting one. The story of Silicon Valley is more than Steve Jobs (and Steve Wozniak), Mark Zuckerberg and William Shockley. It’s more than Facebook, Adobe and Oracle. It began with Hewlett Packard and other companies which built electronics often for the military. The military gave a boost to the region and made the Valley as we know it today possible. Again, it’s not a great book, but you can understand how it developed itself and how the culture in the Bay Area changed, from arts and jazz to a hippie culture and gay pride.
Books I read next (after Trinity):
- “Dark Pools” by Scott Pattersonabout AI traders
- “Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff about Salesforce
- “The Alliance” by Reid Hoffman (Founder of LinkedIn)
Unwritten books I would read:
- A book about the history of LinkedIn
- A book about Yahoo!
“Snowball” by Alice Schroeder
I! LOVE! THIS! BOOK! Honestly! I read this book (in German as “Der Schneeballeffekt”) and I was fascinated of Warren Buffett even more. A man without extraordinary needs, a simple but brilliant man. He could easily be the buddy you would go around the block and drink a coke. Sure, Warren Buffett is a genius and he became one of the richest men on the planet, but he is still an original. Living in the same house, driving a normal car, is eating steaks in a small restaurant and prefers the food a six-year-old kid prefers. While reading the book I felt a kind of friendship with Buffett in the book and enjoyed his idea that we are all part of a lottery when we were born. Others were born in poor countries, we grow up in a rich one. He’s an original, a man with mistakes. It makes him so sympathic.
And the book influenced myself. As I always say: I don’t want to be rich and I’ll have the millions of dollars I know how to invest it in a way that I can help mankind. Warren, thank you for your history and your life.
“Conspiracy Of Fools” by Kurt Eichenwald
Bookkeeping has never been so interesting! I read this book two times and bought it in German (“Verschwörung der Narren”) and in English. It is about… do you remember the Enron coaster in an episode of “The Simpsons”? Wathc it right here: https://youtu.be/T3imSKAvgmY
Enron, we know it, collapsed right at the beginning of third millenium. The books has everything. Corporate structures, greed, craving for recognition (Fastow!), political influence and stupidity (Fastow!). But at least it is the story a criminal mind (Fastow!) and a boss who wasn’t introduced, not well informed about the processes within his company (Skilling!), competition and rivalries (Skilling, Fastow and Mark) and the waste of money (Azurix-disaster). This book is a monster of entertainment.
I still think that Jeffrey Skilling should have been the man who should have been released from prison ealier and not Andrew Fastow.
You are welcome to recommend books you like.