Book Review: The Art of the Start

One of the nice bits about the GDC was that I wound up riding BART for 45 minutes every day, which gave me some time to catch up on reading. Not that the mighty backlog of stripped books, using-up-the employee-discount purchases, and holiday loot is anywhere near expunged, but I did manage to get through the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (which I’m not going to talk about except to say that I enjoyed Runaway America more; got to give a shout out to Yale AmStud) and The Art of the Start (which I am).

The Art of the Start is the latest book from Guy Kawasaki, who made his name back in the 80s as a product evangelist for the Macintosh. These days, he writes books and runs a venture capital firm. The book bills itself as “the time-tested, battle-hardened guide for anyone starting anything”. I liked The Macintosh Way a lot; Kawasaki has a knack for drawing expansive lessons from amusing anecdotes, and so I thought I’d give this one a shot.

Alas, the book oversells itself. The entire thing would be useful for someone assembling a startup firm; maybe half of it would be useful to someone starting any sort of organization; the first chapter or so is worth reading in the context of any major project. As I am not establishing an organization, this made it interesting but not terribly useful.

That said, it’s good at doing what it does. His discussion of mantras versus mission statements alone makes it worth reading, and the chapter on pitches is excellent stuff as well. The later chapters are solid but more mundane; it’s possible I’m less enthused simply because they deal with biz dev stuff that’s almost entirely unuseful to me. And then the final chapter is the seemingly obligatory “Oh yeah. Don’t be evil.” section that every business book seems to have these days.

Originally published on LiveJournal