Category: Business

Book Review: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

scrum coverI first came in contact with Scrum when I was working at Google and since then, I’ve been applying it to the startups I co-founded with good outcomes. Since I was searching for a job, I kept seeing “Scrum Master” come up over and over and I thought it was about time that I learned all the details of Scrum to be able to be a proper Scrum master. Well, in only a couple of ways I finished the book and discovered I was already a proper Scrum master, having learned all the details about it from my time at Google and blog posts.

About the book itself, it’s short and entertaining with enough story telling to keep you engaged even if you only have a passing interest in Scrum. The system is rather simple, with only a few moving pieces and I’m glad of that. Simple systems tend to work better. The testimonials of how much productive a team is with Scrum feel exaggerated completely out of proportion, but then again, some companies are so terrible at producing anything at all, being the cradle of dysfunction, that is no surprise their productivity can be doubled or quadrupled.

★★★★☆

Buy The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time in USA

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Book Review: Build the Fort: Why 5 Simple Lessons You Learned as a 10 year-old Can Set You Up for Startup Success by Chris Heivly

build the fort coverThis is a short and sweet book that compares the act of starting a company, a startup, with that of building a fort. It’s a very enjoyable read with the childhood stories of building a fort and it reminded me of those days in which it seemed easier to find a co-founder.

I’m not sure the book had anything new to me having already read so many other books about starting companies but it was still an enjoyable read and it’s good to get concepts refreshed. This book puts a lot of emphasis in socializing the idea and indeed that gave me a lot of food for though regarding how I’m going about my own startup.

I think it makes a very good first book about startups or a refresher for someone that’s been doing it for a while and needs a refresher.

★★★☆☆

Buy Build the Fort: Why 5 Simple Lessons You Learned as a 10 year-old Can Set You Up for Startup Success in USA

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The $10 weekend (or why selling to techies is sometimes so hard)

The first version of Dashman didn’t have a centralized configuration system to control a lot of displays at once. It was a one time fee software to run in one computer. Its price was $10.

I started networking, going to events, trying to find customers. I’m a techie, but I cleaned up, trimmed my beard, combed my hair, put on a suit (well, most of one… I still have issues with ties) and off I went, looking like this:

pupeno6

Techies stopped identifying me as part of their crowd which was enlightening. I was the target of so much condescension. It was funny. I still remember the face of a coder that told me he was building his application on Lisp and I asked “Which one?”. His face lit up when we discussed Common Lisp vs others, or SBCL vs other Common Lisp compilers. We became friends, but I digress.

One of my most enlightening discussions was with a developer that told me that he didn’t need my product because he could hack something together in a weekend. Let’s assume this is correct. He preferred to work for a weekend over spending $10. Or put in a different way, his weekend rate was $0.42 per hour. “Excuse me, can I hire you?”

Building something because it’s fun or educational is obviously a very rewarding activity and everybody that wants to do it should do it. When it comes to business, the equation of whether to build or buy should be a financial one.

Book Review: Small Giants by Bo Burlingham

519jtUnq-eL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_I’m glad I read the 10th Anniversary Edition of the book because I think the extra chapters or modifications make for a much different book. Throughout the book, as he was describing what the small giants do to be giants, without disparaging what they do, I was thinking: “that only works if your profit margins are big, very big”. The new chapters follows up on some companies and what happened to them when those margins become smaller. Long story short: it’s not pretty.

The range of covered companies surprised me. I knew this was not about big companies, so, no Apples, Googles, Microsofts or Facebooks. But still, the range of employee size was from 1, yes, 1, a single person company, to a over-1000 employee company. It’s clear that towards the extreme of the scale, many of the ideas and principles don’t work as well and it might be a stretch to call them small giants but it is exactly that that makes them interesting on this book as it shows the boundaries you could expect if you try to create a small giant.

Reading this book made me think that maybe I don’t want my own companies to be small giants. Maybe I want one of my companies to be one but not the others, I’m not sure yet. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with or without being a small giant but if you expect your company to behave like one when it’s not, you’ll be thoroughly disappointing; and for me, that’s the big lesson.

★★★☆☆

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Book Review: Product Demos That Sell: How to Deliver Winning SaaS Demos by Steli Efti

51JWygnFx1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’m new to demoing so I don’t have a lot of references to judge this book and its contents. Everything that I read makes sense.

If we are going to judge by authority, Steli Efti, has the track record to write this sort of book.

I think it’s interesting how much it covers around the demo, how much is about qualifying the attendees, scheduling, etc. It seems like a lot of what’s involved in having a successful demo is not the demo itself.

One issue I had is that the book sometimes have to get very descriptive. Maybe a book is not the best source to learn how to demo and this is something that should instead be delivered as a video course or in person.

★★★☆☆

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Book Review: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

81SLYRdcbaLThis book is a sort of different explanation of the concepts of Stoicism. The book claimed the original works by Seneca and others are very accessible but I found The Obstacle is the Way way easier to digest.

This books claims obstacles are a good thing and tries to prove it with many examples of people that achieved great things thanks to their obstacles. I’m not sure I agree. I think there’s a survival bias I that analysis similar to the one the author points to when looking at a list of millionaire college drop outs.

I wish the book would prove things by using data instead of anecdote but I’m giving it four stars because it this book made me think. It made me think about my current obstacles and the attempt of thinking of them as a positive thing made me find new solutions (or reconsider previously discarded solutions). I still thing they are obstacles and that they are bad for me, but they seem more surmountable. That’s no small feat for a book.

★★★★☆

Buy The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph in USA
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Book Review: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People 3I think I had my expectations wrong for this book. I was expecting it to focus on business and professional growth when most of its focus is on relationships and families. And when it addresses the professional life, it’s from the point of view of a manager/leader of a big company.

It has some interesting concepts such as the emotional account that I think if everybody followed them it would make the world a happier place. But I strongly disagree that there’s a correlation between following those values and one being more effective. For example, the book asserts that if you treat people respectfully, they’ll respect you back. This is not true. This is not how the world works. This is not how the brain work either and some of the facts about the brain that this book cite have been proved false.

Lastly but not least, the book gets awfully preachy, jumping into religion like if that was fact or proof of anything.

All in all I think the book pretends to be scientific but it’s very dogmatic. I’d recommend avoiding it.

★☆☆☆☆

Buy The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change in USA
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Book Review: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight

71KkAKYWcuLI always saw Nike as this faceless, soulless multinational corporation. I never thought it’s origin was not dissimilar to Apple’s: they were rebels. They fought tooth and nail against incredibly bad odds and prevailed. This book eradicated my dislike for this company.

★★★☆☆

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Book Review: Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz

71VbPsg3rfL._SL1500_Definitely interesting and a recommended read for any small business owner. I listened to the audio-book and it was compelling enough that I bought the hard-cover to give it a second read and look at the charts and tables.

Profit first is essentially taking the profit out of revenue before your company eats it away. Obviously there’s a lot of nuances and techniques to make it work and that’s what the book explores and exposes.

★★★★☆

Buy Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine in USA
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Screensaver Ninja might be coming back

Since discontinuing Screensaver Ninja, I have received many messages asking when it is coming back: over Twitter, Facebook, email, and even one person tracking me down on Reddit..

For those of you who don’t know what Screensaver Ninja is, here is the old explainer video:

It has been very painful to read these messages for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I strongly believe in the product. I want to have it; use it; and enable others to use it. I constantly see expensive and badly designed dashboards or wasted screens, which my product will address. Secondly, judging by the requests, other people want this just as much as I do. Not proceeding with Screensaver ninja could be a wasted business opportunity; although it is hard to tell if the demand is enough to support its development right now.

I set up a landing page explaining what happened to Screensaver Ninja and a form for people to register for notifications of its potential comeback. This was a way to save everybody’s time and frustration; for those emailing requests for up to date information when I could only say, with sadness, “it’s over”. To my surprise, this form has been gathering five or so leads a week, which is rather a lot for an abandoned product.

I have started playing with the idea that I might revive Ninja: This time I have designed a bigger system that covers many more use cases and allows me to support both Windows and Mac OS as well as other platforms just as easily.

During this process I identified the technological bottlenecks; the aspects to product creation that can take months to negotiate and solve, such as hacking Apple’s cookie jar or packaging Chromium. In doing so, I have built a selection of prototypes testing my choices – and everything is working beautifully.

So that’s it: I have decided to revive Screensaver Ninja. I have emailed all of you whom have shown interest to tell you the good news, and have received an overwhelmingly positive response from both individuals and corporations; some wanting to run hundreds of instances.

I want to be completely transparent with my supporters; I am building Screensaver Ninja by myself in my spare time between long days and after hours work at two different consultant gigs. Whilst I am looking into the options of partnerships, developers, and marketers, I have decided not to wait for these additions to the team in order to make progress. I’m very excited about this phase both from the technical as well as the business points of view so Screensaver Ninja is moving forward and I will have frequent updates.