Book Review: The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions (Kindle)

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I’ve been reading a lot of business and entrepreneurship books lately. I’m especially interested in ones that deal with internet companies. One book that has been sitting in my queue for a while is this one called: “The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions”. I saw that it was cheaper than the usual 9.99 on the Kindle and immediately bought it. It’s a fairly small book but I literally read it in 3 sittings. i can’t say that with many books.

The book is the story of how Gurbaksh Chahal, who dropped out of school at the age of 16 and at the age of 18 sold his first internet company ClickAgents, an ad network, to ValueClick for $22 million in stock and then at the age of 25 sold his second internet company BlueLithium, another ad network, to Yahoo for $300 million in cash.

Gurbaksh, a Sikh Indian who’s family emigrated to the US when he was 4, was amazed at the opportunities of the Internet from a very young age. His family struggled to provide for him and his 3 other siblings. Both his parents worked double shifts. His story is an inspiring true story of rags to riches.

What is amazing is that while many of the internet companies during the dot com bubble didn’t even have business models, this 16 year old’s company was keeping it real and posting profits. He had over $100,000 in his bank account when he decided to go to his father to ask his permission to drop out of school. If you aren’t from an Asian family, it is probably impossible to understand how hard that must have been and how disappointed his parents must have felt.

His book has a good mix of life story and business wisdom. You’ll also learn a lot about south Asian tradition, especially Sikh. I’ve read many business books a most are pretty dry. This one was a great read and I honestly wish it hadn’t ended so soon. I give it 5 stars.

Popularity: 2% [?]

Quotes From “Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t”

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I’ve been on a Kindle kick lately. It’s uber-convenient and I get to save money and be a bit green. I’m on my fourth book already and I thought I better jot down my thoughts and notes before I forget. This particular book is in the vein of more recent business where the title is usually a word followed by an explanatory phrase. The books are almost always paperback all in white with a simple graphic and text in black. Here are some of the passages I liked.

Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t

by Kevin Maney and Jim Collins

Adding a social dimension can change the prospect of a product or service. That’s why teens will buy a cell-phone ring tone for three dollars but balk at paying ninety-nine cents for a full song on iTunes.

The ability to say “I went to Harvard” is, for many, probably worth more than the actual experience of going to Harvard. This is part of the reason why attending Harvard is a higher fidelity education experience than attending say Penn State: the identity aspect of Harvard is worth more.

Cost is a key part of convenience for the simple reason that if something costs less, it is easier for most people to buy – which means the product or service is easier to obtain.

Never evaluate a product or service based on the enthusiasm of early adopters.

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How I Made $200 Writing a Blog Post

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Ok, before you go on reading thinking someone paid me $200 to WRITE a blog post, let me be clear. That wasn’t the case. I wrote a blog post for an online contest and won 1st prize which was $200 worth of UX (User Experience) books. However, I had to get your attention somehow so this sensational title was worth a shot. Anyways, it’s a great story so I thought I would tell it.

I blog on both my personal blog (here) and the Roundarch (my employer) blog. One of the usability blogs I follow was running a contest. I’m a student of usability and have read a couple books on the subject but I was hungry for more. This was a great opportunity for me to get in on some books without having to pay for them provided I won. All you had to do was write a blog post on “why you love usability and want to jump-start your usability training”. I thought to myself, that’s pretty easy. I can write a blog post. I write blog posts anyways.

For the last month, I’ve been pretty slammed at work, so you probably noticed tumbleweeds and cobwebs on my blog. The blog at work was also suffering a similar fate and needed remedying. So I thought, why don’t I kill 2 birds with one stone and blog about usability on the Roundarch blog. It would give others an idea of the importance we as a company place on usability (because we do), and I would have a blog post to submit for the contest. (And if by chance I won, I’d have a great blog post for my own blog in the form of this story I’m telling you right now). Mind you, I wasn’t expecting to win.

You can read the blog post and judge for yourself. I don’t personally think it’s award winning material by any means but if you looked at the competition, a lot of it was pretty half-assed. Like Woody Allen says:

80% of success is just showing up

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that I was being lazy. I killed 2 birds with one stone by writing a blog post on usability on the Roundarch blog so that I could have a blog post there AND have an entry to the competition. As luck would have it I won.

Here are the books I won:

I’ve read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Don’t Make Me Think, and Tipping Point. The person running the contest, a guy by the name of Peter Meyers, was gracious enough to let me swap out the books I already had for other usability books. I’ll give him a shameless plug. You should read his blog if you are interested in usability and UX.

So the point of this entire blog post is this: There are tons of small little contests and competitions like these all over the internet with prizes waiting to be claimed. You just have to seek them out and give it a shot. This one particular contest had 20 entries. That means you had 1 in 20 chances of winning. Why not? Anyways, if anyone did decide to listen to this tidbit of advice and actually wins something on the web down the line, please give me a shout out on this blog post and tell me your story.

Popularity: 2% [?]

How To Make Ideas Stick

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For those of you who have not yet read the great book “Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”, here’s a 10 second recap of the book. It’s a great book and I highly recommend studying it. However if you are just lazy and/or don’t have time – this quick presentation will give you a gist although it does not do it justice to say I’ve summed up the entire book in 10 simple slides.

Here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Made-Stick-Ideas-Survive-Others/dp/1400064287?&camp=212361&linkCode=wey&tag=httpfiresnake-20&creative=380737

Popularity: 3% [?]

Book Review: “Buffet – The Making of an American Capitalist”

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As of this moment, Warren Buffet is the richest man in America, surpassing even Bill Gates at a whopping estimated net worth of $62 BILLION dollars. His company, Berkshire Hathaway is currently trading at 113,000 with a market cap of over $175B. He makes Dr. Evil look like a lemonade stand. I wanted to read more about this enigmatic investor from Omaha who is an anomaly by any stretch of the word. Frugal and thrifty doesn’t even begin to describe him. He lives in a small 3 bedroom house he bought over 50 years ago. His car at the moment is a 2001 Lincoln Town Car. He likes hamburgers and Cherry Coke. I wanted to know more about this man. This book however is a biography and in no shape or way did Warren Buffet had anything to do with it. In fact, he told the author when he wanted to write about Warren that he was not going to give him anything.

This book starts off in his early years, covering his family life, his relatives, siblings and their relationship. Even as a child, Warren’s fascination with numbers and his comfort in consistency were apparent. He enjoyed the accumulation of money and did not enjoy parting with it any more than he enjoyed parting with any aspect of his life. Warren was a hard worker even early in life. I think that exemplifies what makes him so great. It was never about luck of fortune with him. It was just honest hard work and an in depth knowledge of the facts he needed to know about what he was interested in. In this case, most of the time it was money and companies. He would be able to regurgitate out the financials of any company he was interested in backwards and forwards. He probably knew more about the companies than the people who ran them. And when the emotional stock market would value great companies that were valued much less than the actual value of the company, he would scoop them up. He’s basically made a living being a bargain hunter of stocks. That’s a gross oversimplification, but it’s the best way I can put it.

This book is chock full of stories of Warren’s life. I especially appreciated learning about his formative years. He started delivering papers at a very young age and took on more and more routes and optimized them so he would make the most money. Before the age of 15, he had 5 delivery routes delivering over 500 papers each morning. In 1945, at age 14, he was earning $175 a month, basically what a young man was earning as a full time wage at the time. In his senior year, he and his buddy Donald Danly invested in a pinball machine that rented out to a barbershop. They expanded their operating adding more barbershops and pinball machines, and soon were making $50/week. Warren was just very entreprenurial from the very beginning.

The book also mentions Bill Graham, Warren’s mentor and his great influence on his investment style – of finding a great value. Bill and Warren were never fad investors but stuck to their guns in long term investment strategies. He prefererred to think of his investments as long term relationships and as such refused to sell much of his holdings. Anybody who didn’t fit his view of investing were discouraged to invest with him.

I won’t say anymore about this book. If you like what you read so far, you definitely should go and get it. I thouroughly enjoyed it. I garnered some insight in to the man, learned a great deal about his life, and took away valuable lessons.



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