Book Review: All In StartUp, by Diana Kander

We tell stories. We like to tell stories because it is one of the ways toward knowledge. Some of us tell better the stories while other people tell better stories. Period! It is wonderful when a story conveys real experience towards real situations because it permits us to draw many conclusions for subjects of our own interest!

It is more useful when, once a while, came a story, that really can teach you a lot of things, about a business. And can make a difference! Especially when it comes from a young entrepreneur, trying to guide us at the intricacies of startups! Exactly as Diana Kander does with her new book “All In Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything Is on the Line“.

The Book: All In StartUp

All In Startup” is not just a book. It is a well-structured project and an excellent education tool, for teaching the basic principles of entrepreneurship, Lean methodology and, ultimate, business!

Diana Kander is a young entrepreneur and a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation with a lot of personal experience in startup companies and an evangelist of customer-based innovation.

All In Startup - Cover Side

Her book is a fictional story that presents the basic steps of an evidence-based entrepreneurship and lean design through the eyes of an entrepreneur trying to apply it in a real situation. And her story is an excellent one, aiming at guiding the reader on grasping and, moreover, applying the basic principles of startups in his/her situation. Diana, use the story to “lure” the reader to the field and navigating him/her smoothly, via simple and everyday conversations, to the really hard and demanding area of a startup in business. The mechanisms, Diana, uses, are old but very effective ones! As Thom Ruhe, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation illustrates:

Stories are powerful teaching mechanisms because they engage more parts of our brain than traditional educational tools. (Thom Ruhe – Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation)

It is a novel, of course, full of pointers and flags for a reader to follow through the complexity of building a product and business from the scratch! And as a good novel, it has the ability to comprise and compress so many ideas in such a simple and eligible way, for anyone to follow through!

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The book, follows the story of Owen (a prospect founder of a new startup company) s a contestant at the World Series of Poker, and of his, accidentally (!!!) found a mentor, Sam (short for Samantha!). The story evolves around the business, new ideas, products, poker, strategies and a lot of assumptions/discussions, need to be tested and verified, in a Las Vegas gambling/gaming scenery!

The book is excellent writing and very instructional, conveying all the right ideas about a multitude of subjects related to business and startups! The style is excellent, eloquent and just to the point, carrying a lot of different meaning to the reader. The purpose of the author, and of her book, is not just to develop another “how-to” book for startup enterprises, but to build a solidly based toolkit of principles and “why’s” about how to do the job done!

It is important for the reader wants to relate to a startup business, to clarify well, what, Steve Blank, points out, right at the start, at the forward of the book. That as far as startup business related:

startups needed to search for a business model rather than execute a business plan
(Steve Blank)

And that it is one of the most important lessons, someone can draw from “All In Startup“.

All In StartUp – Executive summary

The environment of the book is the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, but starting or bootstrapping an idea up and design it to be a product/service really people needs of, can take place anywhere! This is the second great lesson of the book.

That entrepreneurship and business, just “don’t happen“! You need to strive after them and design the required outputs after you carefully evaluate your premises, assumptions, and presuppositions in relation to your business. Startups need a lot of work, concentration, intelligence and awareness!

Besides that, as the author emphasizes, you need to focus, contemplate and if you are in the field or want to be, employ the following approaches, as far as startups concerns:

  1. Startups are about finding customers, not building products. It is important for you to find the problem your product would address to, and find the customers willing to pay for it!
  2. People don’t buy products or services; they buy solutions to their problems. A service/product should always answer to a “pain” related to a specific segment of the market or akin to a possible (foreseeable!) clientele. You do not build something without doing your math, your survey and your research to see, if actually, there is a market!
  3. Entrepreneurs are detectives, not fortunetellers. As a founder or entrepreneur (or as a designer of a possible future of your tomorrow self!), you do not gamble. You employ specific and carefully deliberating strategies to achieve your goals. You do not guess, what might exist or happen. You try to find what’s going on in your market!
  4. Successful entrepreneurs are luck makers, not risk takers. As an entrepreneur, you need exactly the knowledge and skills that would permit you to understand the why’s of a business opportunity, as well as the skills and the mindset to grasp the opportunity and exploit it to your favor! In such mental framework, you should always, be prepared to rely more on your careful planning and implemented a strategy, rather than luck! Luck, of course, plays an important role in the equation, but when you have prepared well, meticulously and have a vision, you develop your own confidence and luck, along with the way of building your vision!

In Conclusion

All In Startup” is a book, a guide, a reference text and an instructional material, all wrapped up in one single and easily digestible package, for everyone to understand (and participate in the process!).

Diana, make a lot of effort to reassure, that the content and context of her book can be easily accessible, by everyone and that everyone, can relate easily with the ideas organized, elaborated and processed to the pages of her book. Moreover, subscribing to the movement of evidence-based entrepreneurship, she makes what was possible to convey real “hardcore” difficult gained startup companies knowledge to a level many interested people would understand!

The “All In Startup” is a book worth every second of the time you are going to invest, for its reading. It is a current text-book and a reference guide for everyone interested in startup business and gaining in-depth knowledge of doing business in our modern age.

Definitely one of my, new, personal favorite books for business and startups!

Question: Do you like startups? Are you involved in starting something new,  now? Would you think the All In Startup Book, would be useful to your objectives? You can comment the All In Startup in the comments section in this page.

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    Takis Athanassiou is an IT Consultant, Blogger, Trainer & Writer, active in the areas of leadership, business consulting, e-Learning and social media. He aims at the development of people, business and assets! You can check out his blog, add him in Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

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