Jan 19, 2016

Venture Capital and Future Tech - a Reading List

Reinventing the Past

In a prior post, I wrote about my experience with a food startup.  It was a small window into venture capital, a small, but vital part of new economic growth.

I was reading a Harvard Business article about how venture capital works.  Among other things, I learned that being a good VC is about knowing how to take only those risks you can control and in the right industries (read, growing industries).

I shared the thought with an industry veteran, and his reply was that a lot of VC success is just "luck."   For instance, food delivery business only became a growth industry because VCs were pumping so much money into it.  He said:

"Anything looks good if you pump enough money into it."

Sounds plausible.  The disparity between skill and luck, and the dynamics involved in outcomes made me want to learn more.

In many ways, it's an old story about the force of technology driving businesses to become more efficient.  It's about the good enough solutions dislodging the best, because it's cheaper and easier.  Simply, consumers want it.  Yes, it's an old story, a la Innovator's Dilemma.

Tidal Forces of the Web

In Paul Ford's: What is Code? Ford notes how the profession of programming is very adaptable to change.  Languages written to solve one set of problems is often (inevitably) adopted to solve a problem in another.  For example, with V8, JavaScript could run outside of the browsers for which it was designed.  Now, it could read files, send emails, erase your data, and made the client a server.

In this "flow" of the river of software, we often observe trends toward:
  • abstraction (of information and processes)
  • adaptation (one solution applied to different use case)
  • universality (good patterns can be repeated anywhere)
  • acceleration (solutions enable other solutions)
These trends have resulted in pretty drastic power law outcomes, where you have few big winners, and then everyone else.  How should the modern professional adapt to this reality?

How You Can Keep Up - Great Books About Tech

Perhaps the easiest and the best thing you can do is to read good books.

Great books.  I was particularly interested to read more into the VC world, because it's a bridge to the traditional world of finance.  And importantly, I think it also sheds light to the financial incentives so key to driving change.

In a way, this is a contrast to the craftsman's focus on just building something great for the sake of building.  There are those whose reward is simply to build something great.  There are those whose reward is to get rich.  In our tech world, both must work together.

Tech, Future, Building

Bold: How to Go Big ... Impact the World.  By Peter Diamandis.

Tomorrowland: ... Science Fiction to Science Fact.  By Steven Kotler.

Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age.  By Paul Graham.

Zero to One: How to Build the Future.  Peter Thiel.

More Strictly VC

The Startup Game: Inside ... VC and Entrepreneurs.  By Bill Draper.

Mastering the VC Game.  By Jeff Bussgang.

Venture Deals: Be Smarter than ... Your VC.  By Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson.