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Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure Paperback – October 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure has much to recommend. Andreesen points out (and I paraphrase) that no one will tell you the real secrets of how their business succeeded; these have to be learned from observing failures and reading between the lines. Jerry Kaplan's GO Corporation was a failure -- a collosal one. At the end of GO's life, its staff were not surprised to see it go... away. The watercooler scuttlebut focused on how unusual it was that GO survived as long as it did -- considering it had no products, no market (and no marketing), constant financial troubles and, to complete the drama: Bill Gates in the role of surreptitious competitor.
Jerry Kaplan describes in diary-like detail how he and fellow industry visionary Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus) conceived the idea of portable, pen-based computers in a spontaneous moment of shared epiphany during a private jet flight. Here was an idea seemingly out of nowhere: no one had thought of pen computers up to this point. None existed, and none were being developed -- a market vacuum of seemingly unimaginable proportions. The sad irony of Jerry's tale is that when GO was finally absorbed by AT&T and immediately beheaded, only the proportions of this unimaginable market remained. The market itself and the products to drive it never materialized.
Kaplan gives a harrowing behind-the-scenes account of how startup venture capital is *really* enjoined -- and its not what you think.Read more ›
From the outset, the company faced a major problem: their main product was a pen-friendly operating system, but the device for which their software was targetted did not exist! Back then, the so-called portable computers were affectionately referred to as "luggables", and they all came with a keyboard. So to demonstrate the benefits of their software, GO was forced to spend its early precious resources developing its own pen computers. It was 3.5 years before the hardware group was spun out into a separate company called EO and bought by AT&T.
Kaplan's book is an interesting no-holds-barred account of the hectic start-up life and the cut-throat business world. To succeed, GO required a variety of partnerships, from hardware vendors to ISVs. In the course of wooing companies to help them, they rubbed shoulders with such big technology companies as IBM, Apple, HP, Microsoft, and AT&T. Negotiating with and placating the IBM bureaucracy turned into a major ordeal, and Microsoft's unethical theft of GO's intellectual property allowed Microsoft to become a competitive threat long before they otherwise should have been.
GO's other serious problem was that, in its 7+ years of existence, it never realized any significant product revenue. As a result, Kaplan was constantly scrounging for new investment money and was forced to make large concessions to get it.Read more ›
Kaplan takes us through the twists and turns of forming a company, describing, in detail, how he secured venture capital and found Go's first few key people. He comments extensively on the changing competitive landscape throughout Go's history. The EO spin-off, IBM and AT&T deals and all other major events in Go's life are detailed. The book is a quick read, written like a first person novel, not a stuffy business book.
The book's biggest flaw, however, is that it is written entirely from Kaplan's perspective. Throughout, he blames situation, competitors and others for the various problems that Go encountered; Kaplan though, fails to review his own actions and how they may have contributed to Go's demise -- unfortunately this could have been the most beneficial analysis: allowing us to learn from what Kaplan perceived as his mistakes.
Over all, Startup is well written, and a "must read" for anyone working for or contemplating starting a tech company.
Having met a lot of entrepreneurs, I find their experiences to be mostly incommunicable. Sure, they can dispense advice a la bulleted PowerPoint slides and Top 10 Lists, but the meat of the wisdom never quite make it out of their head into mine. This is where "Startup" the book excels. Because Jerry was so meticulous in recording every bit of his startup adventure (for he had intended to record GO's life in writing nearly from the very beginning), his book alone has an incredible amount of valuable detail that is lacking in other such startup "memoirs." Startup is so well-done as a "memoir" type, in leaving nothing out, that I felt like I was living through the experience along with Jerry. What is it like to operate a company with real employees, who have real personalities, real disagreements, real visions and real limitations? What is it like to have to put the rest of your life on hold to pursue your passion and what does it do to you and those around you mentally, physically? Jerry won't tell you these things, but he will show you. Because Jerry's story is real, these conflicts fold so naturally and almost imperceptibly, but often devastatingly -- just like in real life. Jerry's detractors say that he made some terrible decisions -- and maybe he did, but the only reason you know that is because he lets it be known. He really bares all in this book and I didn't feel like there was a single moment when he was trying to pull something over the reader's head.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Kaplan gives the reader an inside view of what it's like to start a new venture - the heady atmosphere, the bullying incumbents, and the all-consuming work required. Read morePublished on March 15, 2014 by Stephan Stuecklin
I enjoyed learning the story of something I had not known about before. I appreciated the information, tidbits, insights, and tips. I wish it was done a little more cohesively. Read morePublished on January 22, 2013 by Blair A. Russell
Amazing how a 80s company could have dreamed to be so innovative. Hats off to the risk taken and the tremendous journey through odds. Read morePublished on December 14, 2012 by pk
We know a lot more now than Jerry Kaplan could possibly have known when he wrote this book. We know, for example, that pen-based computing never took off the way he expected, that... Read morePublished on July 22, 2009 by Neurasthenic
This book is one of the best business tales i have ever read. Coming from a very fresh point of view and a completely different take on the usual business books that are the same... Read morePublished on July 2, 2009 by Rod James
Im reading this book on my lunch breaks and so far it's been a good one very intertaining.Published on May 24, 2009 by Jon P. Simms
I was at GO for most of the course of this book, it was my first startup. I built the User Test group, where we QA'd the pen tablet hardware and software. Read morePublished on February 28, 2009 by Devin Mckinney
Though not quite as riveting and fascinating as its author probably thought it was, this is still a passably interesting tale of a young tech company founded more on dreams and... Read morePublished on September 17, 2008 by jjlaw