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Hipster Business Models: How to make a living in the modern world Paperback – December 15, 2014
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About the Author
Priceonomics is a San Francisco-based company that writes stories about innovators and economics, and also provides data services for businesses. The authors of this book are: Rohin Dhar: Rohin is a new dad. He likes to ride bikes and drink coffee. He holds an MBA from Stanford and BA from Dartmouth. Zachary Crockett: Zack plays many stringed instruments, climbs mountains, and is working on a collection of South American travel narratives. Rosie Cima: Rosie can usually be found making slow progress on several different music, digital art, and literature projects at a time, and generally tuckering herself out. She likes punk rock shows. Alex Mayyasi: Alex enjoys hiking, good food, and the rare days when the San Francisco fog lifts. He is writing a book about the Egyptian Revolution.
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On the first, I was not disappointed to see that people sometimes succeed with crazy ideas (jellyfish aquaria!?!). The book's ~20 chapters (of varying quality) cover one case at a time. The details on how they tried one thing, then another before getting lucky are sometimes amusing, sometimes face-palming, but the overall impression is of hard work and vision leading to success.
Which leads me to reason #2: the business models, which are not always present or useful. I scanned for "fail(ure)" in the book and came up with nothing. The main idea behind a business model, of course, is that someone else can read it and use it for their own business. Although there are some models in this book (e.g., food trucks vs restaurants, phish, verynice, etc.), it seems that many success boil down to:
1. Unusual personality
2. Kooky, can't-be-real idea
.... where ??? is often "massive media coverage." That's not a model. That's hope.
Speaking of hope, the stories really do convey passion and hope -- feelings that hipsters know a lot more about than spreadsheet-obsessed, strategically-networked, wannabe-millionaire MBA grads.
Bottom Line: I give this book THREE STARS for being entertaining and potentially educational, but an entrepreneur's time is better spent on the well-worn path to business success, i.e., work hard, look for value, listen to customers, dump failing ideas, and diversify your bets so you don't starve on the path of success failure life.
-Person makes thing at great cost to themselves
-Person realizes their model is not profitable, but keeps doing it. References "passion" as the reason they continue to pursue an unprofitable business.
-Person randomly gets media attention for free.
-Person suddenly becomes far more busy and no longer likes the thing they created.
-Person has no idea how they became "successful", but references "hard work", "perseverance", and "passion".
None of these "business models" are repeatable. Every single one of them hinged on the person randomly getting media attention.
Book could have been more fleshed out with more cases of entrepreneurs and their unique business models.
One nitpick: I think the choice of "hipster" in the title is a misnomer. The book is entrepreneurship 101, but told through a collection of somewhat unconventional stories, which is exactly what makes it stand out. Great read.