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The Start-Up J Curve: The Six Steps to Entrepreneurial Success Hardcover – August 30, 2016
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''...This, quite simply, is the most impressive, actionable, and valuable business book I have read in a very long time. It's extraordinary. I read it in a single sitting. I'm ordering copies for my partners and executives….This is a incredibly valuable resource and an invaluable read. Wow!''
--Eric Sinoway, CEO, The Worth Group/Worth Magazine
''The Start-Up J Curve will train you how to get through your early business challenges, and get to the fun terrain that is sustained business growth as soon as possible.''
''A must read for every entrepreneur. Knowing where your company lies on the J Curve will help you understand where to focus your current resources and help you prepare for the future.''
--Jeff Rayfield, Founder & CEO, 10 Foot Wave
''Howard's book is engaging, thought-provoking, insightful, and easy to read. Founders will relate to the tangible stories and examples. This book is fuel to accelerate up the curve to success.''
--Larry Marcus, Managing Director, Walden Venture Capital, and founding investor in Pandora
''I've been lucky to collaborate with Howard as an investor, advisor and co-founder - he's made me a better entrepreneur, and by reading this book, he'll make you one too.''
--Sam Shank, CEO, Hotel Tonight
''The J Curve is a must-read for any entrepreneur, whether first-time or seasoned! Howard's genius is that he understands and empathizes with the entrepreneurial experience—and how humbling it can be—while also giving insight into and support as to why the challenges are of crucial benefit to the process of building a truly successful company. Entrepreneurs can use Howard's practical insights to better understand the realistic stages to expect in starting a company in a way that is demystifying and empowering, and quite honestly, provides an appreciated element of sanity to the often crazed entrepreneurial experience. Highly recommend!''
--Sara Sutton-Fell, CEO, Flexjobs
''Howard Love is a deeply experienced entrepreneur and early stage investor. This book is a culmination of many years of seeing successes and failures, what works and what doesn't. I highly recommend this book to entrepreneurs who want to make their own unique mistakes, rather than repeating the mistakes of others.''
--Bill Ericson, General Partner Mohr Davidow
''As I begin another ''pivot'' in my own business, I find myself wishing that Howard had written this book years ago...when I began my own entrepreneurial journey. It would have been a tremendous roadmap and guide for the many twists and turns I faced. The J Curve is a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur, yet I am confident that start-up vets like myself will also find many new insights as well. Howard presents a fresh and spot-on approach to understanding the growth stages, and do's / don't's for each stage, of the entrepreneurial process, all based on his own vast experience starting and backing multiple companies.''
--Mark Divine, founder of SealFit, The Coronado Brewing Company, NavySEALS.com, and NYT Best Selling author of The Way of the SEAL and Unbeatable Mind
''Howard gives you an invaluable framework for understanding where you are with your startup and how to progress to success.''
Pete Flint, Co-Founder of Trulia
About the Author
Howard Love has been starting companies for more than thirty years, even prior to his graduation from Colgate University in 1983. He has founded or co-founded over fifteen companies and invested in over fifty early stage start-ups. He has led several of these companies himself as well as advising many others. He has served on numerous public and private company boards and is currently on the boards of directors of FlexJobs, Dealbase, HotelTonight, 10 Foot Wave, and Knowingly. Mr. Love also owns and operates LoveToKnow, a digital media publisher that he started in 2004. LoveToKnow's primary media properties are LoveToKnow.com, YourDictionary.com, Trails.com and GolfLink.com. He has lived in Silicon Valley for the past twenty-five years with his wife, Harriet, and three children. For more information, visit howardlove.com.
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I run a company in the late stages of the long slog phase (bottom of the J curve) and I've discussed this book with my senior team as a way to help orient them on where we are relative to the next oasis and I think they found that helpful and encouraging. I also just took a call yesterday from someone who wants to help us expand our business to Spain and Latin America and I cited the book to explain that we are waiting until we're in the Harvest stage before we internationalize. Simple rule of thumb but it's useful! Founders are constantly tempted to do things out of order (like ramp up marketing prematurely) and the core theme of this book is: get the order right.
Normally I'm suspect of investors' "pattern recognition" since they tend to have too few data points to draw from and love to leap to conclusions like "we tried that at another company and it didn't work so don't bother." This book identifies some bona fide patterns. Its advice on when to do what feels genuinely helpful to me. Ignore it at your own peril!
It's also a fun read with some great quotes -- some classic Jobs plus I like this one from Love's partner: "perseverance through adversity leads to success". I'd be happy to adopt that as my motto as an entrepreneur.
The book also makes a strong case against raising venture capital too early. Too many first-time entrepreneurs are swept up in the race to raise more money at higher valuations from brand name VCs ... as if raising money were an end unto itself! Love makes the counterintuitive point that taking too much too early actually *lowers* your chances of success (since it pressures you to ramp up before you're ready). He cites GigaOM as one of many examples of this. In my own experience, I have seen many entrepreneur friends go off a cliff because they filled their minivan with investors all shouting directions at them (and shoving broomsticks at the accelerator). With some exceptions it's better to take your time to get your model working in a small scrappy way before wasting time courting VCs (he argues that if you do bring on VCs, do it at the Scaling phase).
He also makes the case that you should resist selling during the Model/Scale phase as this is when you will get unsolicited flattering offers (what my friend calls UFOs) from competitors who would like to take you out cheaply. He argues Buffett-style that if you have a good business time is on your side and you should wait until the Harvest stage (when life is filled with "heads you win, tails you win more" decisions). As a founder crossing the desert myself it's easy to imagine taking the first life-changing offer but I grant his point that this isn't the way to get really rich (by harnessing compounding interest, Einstein's "eighth-wonder of the world"). Plus, if you're a true entrepreneur and sell out, you're going to start another company. Are you really read for another brutally long winter at the bottom of the J Curve?
Some caveats: this book is really written for "Silicon Valley style" entrepreneurs who aspire to be the next Uber or Facebook. It's not as useful if you have a more conventional startup. You can also see Love's bias as an angel investor who has watched his companies sell out too early. Not everyone has a business with an impenetrable moat where time is truly on your side so proceed with caution before you turn down a $30M offer because you think it'll be 10x of that in a few years!
Reading this book helped me understand why certain things happened as my business evolved and I see now (as a result of this book) some things that could have been done differently that would have had a positive impact.
Even though I have now been in business for more than a decade, I feel like the information I learned from reading this book will help me and my company continue to grow and become more successful moving forward. And, it was great to see that my company is not the only one that ended up pretty far away from its original business plan - and that there is a good reason why that happens.
It is wonderful to have access to expert advice from someone like Howard Love, as his perspective is really unique. He has had the experience of working through the start up process for his own companies, as well as in the position of being an investor. He is able to provide insights that someone who hadn’t seen all sizes of the startup process – and what happens afterwards – would not be able to do.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about entrepreneurship. It would be ideal to read it before starting your business, then re-reading it or referring back to it along the way, particularly when you are feeling frustrated with how things or going or experiencing a decline or growing pains.
I know time is always a concern for busy small business owners, but the time you spend reading this book is definitely time well spent. I suggest considering it professional development/training. It is an easy read. It is written in a very conversational tone so it goes quickly and is easy to understood. I read it from cover to cover in about 4 hours on an airplane.
I am currently on the 3rd phase but getting closer to the 4th one (Business Model). Now, I know what kinds of traits, strategies, and signs I should look for to identify my start-up situation. As Howard Love said, "Time is an enemy for start-up". As an entrepreneur, you need to be honest with yourself when you encounter backlash from market. You should respond quickly to operational failures and change you market, strategy, product, or all of them when your product doesn't get much customer traction.
Finally, I want to recommend this book especially to teenage entrepreneurs. I was 18 years old when I started my company. It has been very difficult times to manage start-up, school, and my family issues. I have survived so far and I will be in the following start-up steps(4,5, and 6). For those of you who are beginners in the start-up journey, YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. I guarantee the invaluable lessons you will learn.
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