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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Review: Uncommon Stock, Version 1

Business novels are rare, and rightly so. They're impossible to get right, and most are simply downright boring. For instance, I love DeMarco's Peopleware, but The Deadline is boring and insipid. Typically, the best way to get good ideas about leadership and management is to read fiction that's not intended to be about business. (Battlestar Galactica's first two seasons, and any of the Horatio Hornblower series come to mind)

Uncommon Stock, therefore, surprised me in being readable. Not only is it readable, the characters are well-written and not completely stupid. The conflicts between the technical co-founder and the business co-founder is well-done, with very well negotiated scenes, and the exposition about term sheets, venture funding, and angel investors (as well as the worthlessness of startup competitions) is interesting. Complete with the baggage that the startup is about accounting, and you've got challenging material that's surprising that the author managed to make interesting.

There are a few gotchas in the book. The first is that the novel is clearly setup for sequels, and that makes the novel weaker. The author felt obliged to stick in a long running plot-line (some obvious bad guys who are dumb enough to send thugs solo to kill people) that's not resolvable in one novel and that "spices up" the startup process. This betrays a lack of faith in the topic of the novel not being exciting enough by itself. The second is that the fifty-fifty split in a startup is an inherently unstable structure (as Raising The Bar describes), and you'd expect it to cause trouble, but it doesn't.

Regardless, though, the novel is an achievement in that it's interesting to read, doesn't have too many stupidities, and if you don't know much about the startup world, does a good enough job at explaining the necessity of a vesting schedule for founders, for instance. It's worth a quick read.

Mildly recommended.

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