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Ilya Grigorik "igrigorik" RSS Feed (San Francisco, CA, USA)

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Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the OligarchsA True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder
Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the OligarchsA True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder
by Ben Mezrich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.89
64 used & new from $9.55

5.0 out of 5 stars The behind the scenes story of Russian business and politics, July 19, 2015
A rare glimpse into the early days of the perestroika, with all the expected drama: politics, alliances, and fortunes (and human lives) made and lost in the process. Ben Mezrich follows the rise of Berezovsky and his subsequent exile: taking advantage of hyperinflation to make his first fortune; becoming one of "Yeltsin's family"; helping nominate and elect Putin; falling out with Putin and his switch to the opposition; life in exile in the UK.

"Once Upon a Time in Russia" reads like a thriller, except that it's based on real events and characters -- well, at least as far as we know. The book covers many politically-sensitive topics so take the "provided facts" with a grain of salt. That said, a captivating and educational read for anyone who's interested in Russian business and politics (the two are, for good or worse, are intertwined).


Alibaba's World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business
Alibaba's World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business
by Porter Erisman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.40
62 used & new from $9.56

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The founding story of the largest company you've never heard of..., July 19, 2015
A first-person account of the founding and early growth (2000~2008) of Alibaba, before it broke all the IPO records ($25B) and became the mega "holding group" that it is today (Alipay, Taobao, UCWeb, etc). Porter Erisman does not shy away from sharing both the ups and downs of early days of the company: the free-for-all management (or, lack of thereof), the thrashing to find a monetizable product, the "fight" against EBay, negotiations with Yahoo, and much more.

In some ways, the story is like that of any startup, albeit this one is storming and forming in a rapidly evolving Chinese market. The author does a great job of explaining the context (e.g. why simply transplanting Ebay's model into China is not enough to succeed) and offering a glimpse into the forces driving the rise of commerce in China.

In short, a great startup story with lots of insights on what it takes to succeed in China's market. Great read.


Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain
by Steven D. Levitt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.61
52 used & new from $9.27

5.0 out of 5 stars A vitamin boost for your curiosity, July 13, 2015
Not as pithy or catchy but perhaps more appropriately titled as "How and why you should identify and question the many hidden assumptions for just about everything about us". In the similar vein, how do you keep others engaged and get them to participate in this process; how do you know when to quit; how do you know which questions to ask; and why would you want to do all this in the first place? As a bonus, all of this is packaged in a series of fun, hands-on, and educational stories illustrating each of these principles at work. In short, "Think Like a Freak" is a vitamin boost for your curiosity.


The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership
The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership
by Bill Walsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.20
65 used & new from $5.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Champions behave like champions before they get there, July 13, 2015
A hands-on guide for how to build a process, team, or organization that performs at its highest potential. You can't control all the outcomes, but you can strive to eliminate all the variables under your control through preparation and practice: culture is critical, champions behave like champions before they get there; deliberate practice at all positions in the organization is critical; repeat things often, don't assume. At the same time, you can't expect everyone to be perfect (including yourself), and you do need to account for the many uniquely human frailties: a well timed motivational speech can do wonders, but use them sparingly; stay humble, don't let success get to your head; a good leader leads by example.

The book is about football, but the lessons apply equally well in any context - sports, business, and personal. The book is light on jargon, full of great and engaging stories and offers a great glimpse into the life and work of Bill Walsh. If you hesitate about this book because you're not a "football fan" (like I did) then you definitely shouldn't. Great read with many great lessons for business, sports, and our personal lives.


Essays in Love
Essays in Love
by Alain de Botton
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from $15.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, educational, and easily (sometimes scarily so) relatable book., June 14, 2015
This review is from: Essays in Love (Paperback)
"The unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates. If that rings true, then "Essays in Love" is a book with your name on it: part love story, part self-study, part philosophical examination of both. Alain De Botton is, as usual, witty, insightful, and thought-provoking, as he takes us on a tour of all the highs, lows, and paradoxes of falling in love. For example, why do we fall for and appreciate the flaws (we all have them) of the other, but then fight about minutia that we're happy to overlook in others? An honest, educational, and easily (sometimes scarily so) relatable book.


The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money
The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Money as (and is) a great teaching tool., June 14, 2015
In most households, money is a taboo subject around kids. For some reason, we feel that talking about it is either not appropriate, or worse, will somehow corrupt them. Except, is that really true, or are the parents simply avoiding the topic because they're afraid to face the valid and important questions being posed to them? How do you explain why their friends live in a smaller or bigger house, why can't they have that toy, and why are there homeless people?

In fact, as Ron Lieber points out, money is a perfect tool to teach kids about importance of delayed gratification, generosity, entrepreneurship, and other vital skills that we all aspire to -- i.e. opposite of spoiled. The trick is to know how to approach the common subjects and face them head on: allowance, chores, savings, holidays, bank accounts, and so on.

The book provides practical, useful, and much-needed advice. You may not agree with all of it, but that's not the point, the goal is to break the taboo around the subject of money, and this book offers a great guide for how to do so, and why.


Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead
by Laszlo Bock
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.84
69 used & new from $11.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adding science to HR: people operations!, June 14, 2015
Disclaimer: I work at Google; I enjoy it; I think they got many things right (more than most companies), but no one is perfect. The key difference is, as Laszlo demonstrates, that Google is driven by a strong learning culture that's enabled it to continually measure, debunk, revise, and iterate on every aspect of its operations. Hence "people operations" instead of "HR", and Laszlo is not shy about describing both the failures and the successes of his team at Google - e.g. the negative press about the hiring process and subsequent turnaround, and much more.

The book does not shy away from tackling contentious topics: the power curve of pay (and how to reward to performers); the relentless focus on hiring best practices; the importance (and science) of performance reviews, and the many ways they can go wrong; the art and science of measuring culture and habit change within the company; and much more.

The particular policies may not apply at every company, but the important part is not "how Google does something", but rather the process at which it arrived there and why. A great and educational read, even for someone who has an insider's perspective.


Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Price: $9.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone curious about this beautiful city., June 14, 2015
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Every once in a while you get lucky and get tour guide that may look a bit grumpy at first, but then turns out to be a gold-mine of stories and facts that can bring any subject to life. Of course, that's not to say that San Francisco lacks in sights or character, but Gary Kamiya is that very guide that you've been looking for this particular city. You're in for a treat... history, politics, geology, philosophy, and more, all rolled into one engaging read. A must read for anyone curious about this beautiful city.


Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!
Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!
by Nicholas Carlson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.84
65 used & new from $5.64

5.0 out of 5 stars History of Yahoo in a form of a business thriller, May 3, 2015
A history of Yahoo in a form of a business thriller. Carlson covers it all: the early days, the meteoric rise to the “homepage of the internet”, the near-decade slump into irrelevance, and the more recent “revival” with Marissa’s comeback. That said, despite the title, this book is not about Marissa. Yes, it covers her tenure at Yahoo, but it does so on equal terms with all of her predecessors, and Carlson offers an upfront and frank perspective into the inner politics and dynamics of Yahoo. It feels like you're in the boardroom, and I am both surprised and delighted to see that perspective and level of access. Fascinating read and perspective on one of the iconic internet brands.


A Short History of San Francisco
A Short History of San Francisco
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A must read book on San Francisco, May 3, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
San Francisco is like no other city. Up until 1849 it was a remote — and mostly decrepit — outpost that lived by its own rules. Then, the gold rush came in 1849, and the quiet missionary outpost quickly grew into one of the largest and rowdiest cities in North America: fortunes were made and lost, and accompanying debauchery ruled the land. From there, the natural and men made disasters, the discovery of the silver ore and the economic ups and downs, the associated politics, and much more, have shaped the city into what it is today — still a recognized outpost for its unique values and culture, but now on a global scale.

A short but highly rewarding read, both for residents and curious tourists. My only regret is that it took me so long to discover this book!


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