Startup Nation

Startup Nation

Reading is my new found hobby. I have a stack of print books (probably 50) and another 30 on Audible. After reading my first few books, I felt like I grew by 10 years with experience and within 18 months, my personal library grew from 0 to about 70-90, cutting across everything from religion, startups, personal development, politics and Marketing. Yeah... it's shocking, I don't have tech books. I mostly read documentation, StackOverflow, crash courses and articles. I have a ton of courses on Udemy.

I just listened to Startup Nation on Audible, and I'd be writing a review, i.e My personal notes of important things from the book. I won't call it a summary, the book itself is rich in information and would recommend you read it for yourself, or you decide on that after reading my personal note.

Let me start with one of my favourite quotes

Hybrids are like mermaids. When you want a fish you get a woman and when you need a woman you get a fish.

This was in the context of cars that run both on fossil fuel and on batteries. But that quote cracks me up anytime I read it again. Now, to the order of the day...

Lesson 1: Failing isn't enough reason to give up, but society matters

According to the book, the Israeli culture did not condemn failure, rather it was embraced and seen as a learning opportunity. The book further mentions that if you ran a startup and failed, it's a lot easier to succeed in your next attempt, and it was a lot easier to get funding in Isreal. The culture didn't support excuses either when you fail you should learn from that failure and strive to not stumble on that same mistake again

Lesson 2: No gossips

The book emphasized why gossips (sidewalks) aren't commonplace in Isreal, they had a flat structure which comes from their mostly military background, a Sergent could request a General to fetch him a cup of coffee provided he's closest to the coffee pot. In a startup environment, this translates to junior developers being able to point out design flaws by the CTO without fear of being ridiculed. It also meant everyone could say their mind without it falling on deaf ears. In summary, they discussed their concerns as they arise, they don't allow small issues to build into a toxic relationship. This is my personal favourite.

Lesson 3: Anything can be achieved, you can make it work

The book started with a narration of how Shai Agassi wanted to make electric cars, and the first expert in the automobile industry told them, it couldn't be done, a more suitable approach was hybrid. That was the basis of the quote earlier. I've faced this several times, and right now have every physicist telling me perpetual motion isn't possible, well... there should be a way to make it work, and that's going to mean free energy. Another scenario was when the Israeli team at intel wanted the company to dump the current approach of "the more the processor speed, the more electricity you have to put in". Sometimes, you have to change how you think and approach the problem. A senior politician didn't also get funding & approval to start nuclear research/plant, funded it off-budget, got students to do the research and had a nuclear plant at the end of the day.

Lesson 4: Don't plan too much, be prepared for surprises

I study a bit about the military, firearms and missiles and how they work, and a trend I spotted is... the more autonomy an officer has, the better the overall military performs, of course until it gets to a point of diminishing return. The Israeli army was very understaffed, that meant one person wore many hats, and information was democratized. During air strikes, everyone was prepared for the worst and everyone knew what was to be done, anyone and everyone was responsible for neutralizing the enemy. It worked for them, I believe it should work anywhere.

Lesson 5: When life throws you lemons, make lemonade

Other than the fact that the Israeli nation learnt to become independent because of the relationship with its neighbours on all fronts, they also used that opportunity to make the country into a lab for testing ideas. The craziest being, fish farming in the middle of the desert. After digging about 500 meters to find water, the salty water. Rather than just abandoning the search on heading straight for desalination, they used the water to raise fishes which couldn't ordinarily be domesticated.

The book holds some interesting treasures, and I wouldn't want to bore you with too much information. If you found this interesting you might consider reading the full book.