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Bookshelf: David S. Kidder’s ‘The Startup Playbook’

By: 31 January 2013

The startup ethos is something that a lot of companies want to emulate: the constant drive and hustle, passion and ruthlessness of it all. We are many years from the first dot com explosion, but I still have a habit of checking corporate parking lots after dinner to see how many people are doing all-nighters.

What can we learn by talking to the “winners” in business about their startup experiences? How can we transform what we focus on, how we scale for growth — and how we work with our colleagues?

These are questions not only for the Future Stars of local media and commerce, but for all the established companies that would like to reinvigorate their dusty, musty ways. And they are the questions posed by serial entrepreneur David S. Kidder.

After raising $32.5 Million for his startup, Clickable, from the likes of Amex (and then successfully exiting with a sale to Syncapse,) Kidder says he had come to realize that he had to update his “playbook.”

Kidder’s solution: go out and talk to 50 business and philanthropic leaders about what their playbooks were for success. And failure. Among the executives were many of the tech luminaries who may have known once who have gone on to spectacular success: people like Elon Musk, of Zip2, PayPal, Tesla and Space X fame; Kevin Ryan, from DoubleClick and Gilt City; Reid Hoffman, from LinkedIn; and Steve Case, from AOL and Living Social.

The results are captured in his new bestseller, The Startup Playbook. Topics range from product development to team building and HR; from investors to culture, design, marketing, finance, crisis management and more.

“The playbook I began with simply wasn’t robust enough to capture all the extremes of taking a company from its fledging roots, when you are solving five to ten challenges at a time, to a much larger company, where you are suddenly required to juggle hundreds of problems, often instantaneously,” Kidder writes.

Kidder confirms many things that I have long suspected in this totally fascinating book. Among them: That startup people are completely irrational and self deluded; that they will do anything to keep ALL of their options open. And with the expansion of tech tools, they are the stuff of the next generation’s success. As Kidder cites blogger Chris Dixon: “building a startup will be the homeownership of the next century.”

Kidder is customizing highlights from The Startup Playbook for his Keynote at BIA/Kelsey’s “Leading in Local: The National Impact” conference in Boston March 18-20. You can register here.


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