Sramana writes very well and the book is a breeze to read; it is also easy on the eyes thanks to the big font
used to print it. The book is a collection interviews that Sramana did with entrepreneurs most likely
between 2007 and 2008. Her own story is also there as an introduction. So, one key thing about the book is
that it is written in the interview format with each interview reproduced verbatim. I have a comment on that
but we come to that later...
The stories are classified under the following sections in the book
Taking on Giants (Desperately seeking a David for Google the GooGoliath)
Disrupting Business Models ( mainly SaaS)
Addressing Unmet Market Needs
Tackling Planet Scale Problems (Energy, microfinance)
The primary objective of the author is to present inspirational stories to the reader to motivate them to
begin their own entrepreneurial journeys. I must say that some stories are truly inspirational; my favourites
are Philippe Courtot (Qualys), Hans Peter Michelet, Energy Recovery Incorporated (ERI) and Harish
Hande (SELCO). All three of them have displayed the same core values – fearlessness, perseverance and
willingness to take extreme risks because they believed in their own mission irrespective of what the others
thought. Each of them is engaged in solving planet scale problems.
A couple of common themes that emerge from the experiences of the 12 entrepreneurs are:
Most of them bootstrapped their companies instead of going for VC money.
In fact this is a key recommendation from the author herself: At early stages of a venture bootstrapping is a
better path than dependence on Venture Capital because it (VC money) robs you of the flexibility to run
your business. At the same time good VC's could sometimes be valuable mentors if they have the patience.
Spend your cash on perfecting your product and service instead of burning it on marketing.
The best example of fiscal discipline in the book is Sridhar Vembu of AdventNet/Zoho who says 'There
should be a better way of doing business than charging the customer for acquiring him.”
There are a couple of stories most notably that of Russ Fradin, Adify which could easily have been
avoided. I suppose she included Adify because it was the only worthwhile example she could find of
Vertical Ad Networks which she says is an emerging trend. It rambles on and I quit somewhere in the
middle of it. Thankfully, it was followed by the awe inspiring story of Philippe Courtat.
This interview along with some of the others also highlights the problem with the interview format. The
risk is that the author has no control over the flow of the narrative; in fact there is no narrative at all in some
cases. In the Fradin interview, it takes her 4 pages to get the answer to the question 'What is your business
model' after asking this question twice. I feel that Sramana could have judiciously chosen to narrate some
of these interviews in her own words to give the true sense of their journeys. Not every entrepreneur can
narrate their journey in an inspirational manner. And without a good narrative there is no excitement.
Overall the book contains some really useful lessons for entrepreneurs at any stage of their journeys. It is
also full of ideas that can be converted into full scale - SaaS, verticalized search engines and educational
communities (like HotChalk) to name a few.
- Shashank Mohan
While “road not taken” is quite a romantic concept in itself, many a times it is highly essential to know
whether someone at some point have taken that road. If they have, to know how they fared and what are the
signposts or pitfalls to watch out for. Obviously it reassures people of their direction and also probably
saves them from getting lost! Sramana Mitra’s “Entrepreneur Journeys – How to stop looking for a Job” is
essentially multiple roadmaps (albeit concise ones) rolled into one. Hence it is with great delight I bought
the book the first instance I saw it in the stands. It quite aptly starts with details of her own ongoing journey
with entrepreneurship and goes on to explain the paths others have taken to reach various goals.
Organized into five distinct flavors the book showcases examples for “Bootstrapping” (Zoho, Finisar),
“Taking on giants”(Adify, Kayak), “Disrupting Business Models”(Quails, Concur), “Addressing unmet
markets”(MercadoLibre, Hotchalk) and “Tackling planet scale problems”(ERI, Obopay, Selco). One aspect
which makes the book easily readable is Sramana’s introduction to the subject and context setting before
each story and the interview. It is highly educative to read her insights of various domains (web2.0, web3.0,
SaaS, Search, Mobile and Energy) and the business opportunities they present.
Somewhere along the discussion Sramana states that “VC motivation is always very well defined and
known, while Entrepreneur’s motivation is quite varied and needs to be analysed”; throughout the book
there is this underlying curiosity; She probes and tries to go beyond the entrepreneur tag and look at the
personalities of each one of them. Through the dialogues she brings out the entrepreneur journeys of “the
rebel”, “unassuming person who keeps a low profile”, “the romantic”, ”The techie”, the MBA”, “The
explorer”, “The career Ivy Leaguer”, “Contrarian” and even “the plain vanilla” types. That makes the book
very interesting and highly agreeable!
Although the book is primarily US centric, the diversity of the entrepreneurs that she interviews makes up
for it. As in any good entrepreneur related book, this book also breaks many myths while re enforcing some
good old values for entrepreneurs. One fact it emphatically proclaims is that “there are no thumb rules for
Entrepreneurship but only general guidelines”. The book is highly conversational in nature and is almost
like a drawing room discussions with close friends, yet highly profound in content and details. Must read
for people who are hardcore travelers, people who are planning the journey and as well as the armchair
travelers of Entrepreneurship!
- Manjula Sridhar
This book invokes craziness in ideas at the same time represents importance of implementation. Author has
unique feature of asking window questions to the Entrepreneur. Those window questions are always
unanswered in Company profiles and Company balance sheet. Those questions hit the balance of mind and
heart. Those questions allow company owners to answer their unique quality. This is the most important
aspect of the book.
Amazing choice of entrepreneurs. They all have different socio-economical backgrounds. Author has
focused upon socio-economical backgrounds, which is good part to represent holistic view of idea and
company they own.
Thanks for your time and effort to write this book.
- Virat Singh Khutal
Twist Mobile Pvt. Ltd.
Entrepreneurship can never be taught; it can only be experienced. And the only way to learn about it is
through stories. Entrepreneur Journeys brings twelve such stories alive. What is remarkable in these
journeys is not where these businesses have reached, but the process of getting there – the role that
individual conviction played.
Sramana combines the stories of entrepreneurs with her take on some of the spaces these businesses
operate in. While in some cases, like Adify, the consultant takes over and indulges into a deep discussion
on how the online advertising space is evolving, in other stories like that of Qualys, she focuses intensely
on the entrepreneur and brings out the personality that makes them successful.
An important side effect of this reading is that it captures the hottest areas in venture investing today –
even when it is describing entrepreneurs who never raised external capital. That focus on scalable and
capital efficient businesses will allow first time entrepreneurs to dream big and execute efficiently.
This is just first of the many volumes that Sramana has planned on this theme – what would make these
even more valuable is more global coverage and synthesis of stories into key learnings. Definitely worth
- Alok Mittal
I will not get into specific interviews because if I do that, it would take away the fun from reading this
book. I would rather you read the interviews, laugh with them, get amazed with them, get jealous in some
cases and take lessons from all of them by yourself. Coming to the good and bad, in bullet point, for the
sake of brevity. +s,
Easy Read. Since the book is essentially an compilation of interviews, it is very easy to read. One thing I
noticed is the clarity of thought that these guys have. And how they lead the interview to things that they
want to talk about loud. Their answers are fun to read and not verbose. They are non-technical with
minimal use of jargon.
Interesting People. The choice of companies and entrepreneurs is interesting. They represent a wide range
of disciplines and they tackle wide range of problems with their solutions.
Tough interviewer. At times, Sramana asks absolutely brilliant questions. She is very good when it comes
to getting out the answers. And knows when to stop pestering. There is a thin line and she knows it.
Hidden Gems. Wisdom, if may call it, isn't exactly spelled out loud. You would have to dig out for those
nuggets of wisdom from these interviews. You have to read every word and try to put the answers in
context to their industries to appreciate the interviews.
And few things that could have improved upon are
Most of the people interviewed, I hadn't even heard of them.Then may be its just me.
Most of these interviews were conducted well before 2008. It would have been interesting if there was a
end note for each company/entrepreneur talking about how his company/idea is doing when the book went
for publishing. May be limitation of the print medium but am sure a blog/website could have been created
to complete the loop.
Also is there a way to validate claims, forward looking statements made by them in those interviews? With
the advantage of hindsight?
Highlighted text. At places, some text has been highlighted by the author/editor. I, as a reader could not
understand their relevance. In my humble opinion, they are at best common-sensical observations. If I as a
reader is expected to dig out relevant things from the interviews, these highlights seem out of place.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. These interviews actually gave me lots of ideas (another post on
that soon) to work on. I look forward to other volumes.
Although I can be a really harsh critic, I could not find more places where I could point my finger. Will
give the book a 3 on 5. Recommend it to friends, and hope the other volumes come out soon.
- Saurabh Garg