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Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure Paperback – October 1, 1996
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The founder of the visionary, yet doomed, GO Corporation kept notes throughout his years at the helm, thinking that one day he would produce a book. It shows. This is a vivid and lively rise-and-fall account of a company born to create a pen-based computer. It begins on a corporate jet with the author and fellow industry visionary Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus, sharing a vision of pen computing. From there, Startup quickly leaps to the day-to-day challenges of hiring staff, constantly reassessing and readjusting goals, and coping with the stress of endless rounds of venture capital funding. That Kaplan, in his first attempt at running a company, battles with the top forces at Microsoft, IBM, and other industry giants to bring the idea to market, only makes the story more compelling. His company's ultimate failure says more about a cutthroat industry than about the quality of Kaplan's product. This is a real David and Goliath tale. If you've ever wondered why things go right or wrong, how competition can kill you, or how financing really works within a small startup, read this book!
From Publishers Weekly
Entrepreneur Kaplan describes the tribulations he faced while forming his own company in the computer industry.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
In this book, Kaplan describes the rapid rise of Go Computing, its amazing success in fundraising, but ultimate failure in the face of withering competition from Microsoft, and lack of sales. The book is worthwhile for anybody considering launching a technology company, or investing in, or working for a startup. It is not, however, perfect. Kaplan takes shortcuts -- one page they're sketching the parameters of the operating system, and the next page they're introducing two dozen independent software companies that plan to develop for the platform. Where did they come from? How were they signed up? How many ever shipped product? We know that Go shipped both its hardware and software very late, but there is basically no discussion of why. Kaplan saves most of his text for fundraising and the frustrations of working with large corporate partners, with occasional personal asides about his fiance or employees.
Kaplan seems to blame the failure of the company on competition from Microsoft and slow delivery of product, but I think other lessons can also be learned from the experience of Go. For example, though Kaplan & co. elected to build the hardware, operating system, and hardware themselves (also signing up third party developers and ultimately spinning off the hardware arm), they could probably have developed the most compelling parts of their system as applications that ran on existing operating systems, greatly simplifying their task. Their lack of compatibility with existing applications was a real problem, not just "FUD" from Microsoft.
Demos of PenPoint can be found online (check YouTube and Google Video in particular). It is clear that PenPoint was worthless for text entry, which would have made it largely worthless for e-mail as well as writing notes and memos. This would seem to render the device largely useless for their target "on the go" business customers, except for very narrow vertical applications that would generally not justify the high price that their machines carried.
Anyway, a worthwhile book, even if lacking in credible analysis.
The plot tells the story of a high profile venture in the late 90s, Go Inc., from inspiration through fund raising and product development to fame, near success and ultimate failure. Anyone who may have thought about starting a new venture who wants to sit in the passenger seat and observe the whole ride in detail (though not too much detail -- it's an easy read) will enjoy. I wouldn't say the book is highly educational in a process sense (how to do this, how to do that...), but it does give a lot of high level insight into the difficult tradeoffs and predatory practices that can be confronted in trying to grow a business in high tech. I read it in a few days and enjoyed it thoroughly.