THE ART OF THE START
for Anyone Starting Anything
By Guy Kawasaki
Portfolio -- $26.95
RAISING THE BAR
Integrity and Passion
in Life and Business
By Gary Erickson with Lois Lorentzen
Jossey-Bass -- $24.95
Are entrepreneurs better off taking advice from a way-cool venture capitalist or from a bootstrapping entrepreneur who made it big? In the case of two new books, the question is moot. The views of these very different authors are uncannily similar.
Guy Kawasaki is the way-cool author of The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. Back in the 1980s, Kawasaki helped launch the Macintosh for Apple Computer and later founded Garage Technology Ventures, a venture-capital firm. Kawasaki's book reads like a hipster's guide to the startup universe, but don't let that dissuade you. It's chock-full of tidbits from the sublime (how to create the best pitch presentation) to the ridiculous (how to make cool, rather than dweeby, T-shirts to advertise your brand).
Kawasaki writes that "entrepreneur isn't a job title" but the mind-set of people who want to change the world. Don't bother trying to start a company, he writes somewhat awkwardly, if you can't "make meaning" -- that is, create a product or service that makes the world better. The next steps are to "make mantra, get going, define [a] business model, and weave a mat," which is comprised of milestones, assumptions, and tasks. (Bear in mind that the author has spent his adult life in California.)
Kawasaki brings the venture-capital world down to earth. He doles out such brotherly advice as what to wear when pitching to investors (at least if you're a guy): jacket and tie on the East Coast, casual shirt and khakis on the West. He describes the pitch and the business plan as art forms, and the ruling aesthetic is keeping them short (10 slides in 20 minutes) and cutting the baloney. "Investors don't care -- and you have no way of knowing -- how much you'll spend for pencils in the 11th month of the fourth year," he writes. The author also covers partnering, branding, and rainmaking, and he includes reading lists.
Occasionally, Kawasaki manages to contradict himself. He writes that you should hire a lawyer who'll get the job done rather than going for a big name. Later he points out that you need a big name to make good contacts. And his humor may be a little over the top for some readers. But he knows his field well, and his passion is undeniable.
Gary Erickson didn't take the venture capital route, but his story could be an Art of the Start case study: Passionate guy follows his dream, makes classic blunders, fulfills demand, does the hard work of grassroots marketing, listens to his gut, and gets it right. In Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business, Erickson and co-writer Lois Lorentzen describe how Erickson went from baking energy bars to running a $100 million company a decade later. What makes it fresh is Erickson's honesty and humility.
A fanatical cyclist, rock climber, and amateur jazz trumpeter, Erickson was parking cars for a living when, on a bike trip in 1990, he decided to make an energy bar more palatable than those on the market. The Berkeley (Calif.) Clif Bar, founded in 1992 and named for Erickson's father, took off, doubling its sales each year between 1992 and 1997. But such growth led to complexities that made Erickson turn operations over to his partner. In 2000, Erickson was poised to sell Clif Bar for $120 million. But after some 11th-hour soul-searching he chose to stick with the company, despite having to borrow millions to buy out his partner.
That decision was Erickson's crucible, and it crystallized the lessons he had learned on countless extreme bike rides and climbs: self-reliance, perseverance, control of your own destiny, and respect for others. "One hundred percent ownership is unencumbered like an alpine climb and adventurous like a first ascent," he writes.
How Clif Bar made successes of its eponymous product and the follow-on Luna Bar is well documented, but products that flopped get little explanation. True, stumbles were rare. Clif Bar is the only private, independent company among the top 20 energy bar makers. That's a story worth reading.
By Marilyn Harris