book

Review of the book Angel by Jason Calacanis

I just finished reading and listening to Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups, a book by Jason Calacanis.  I first mentioned Jason on this blog back in 2009, when I wrote "starting is easy; finishing is hard." Fast forward 8 years.

First Thoughts

First, let me say, this is a great book. I'm now going back, highlighting sections, and ready to put what I have read to work. I also recommend downloading the Audible version. It's read by Jason and has some extras at the end (not in the physical book).

So many other books are all hype, promising everyone that they can do anything. They promise you fame and fortune, resulting in readers changing their profiles to read "Hustler, Grinder, and Lifestyle Coach". I love that Jason didn't say everyone can be an angel investor.

Actually, he did but there were some clear caveats. If you want to be an effective angel investor, you'll need a combination of things and Jason details what they are (see chapter 4).

Though you might not meet all of Jason's criteria to be an effective angel investor, I still think you should read (and listen to) this book if you're a founder or thinking of getting into angel investing.

CONS:

  1. Jason was specific about what you need to do, to be an effective angel investor.  Right away, you'll realize if you can or can not do this.  Sorry to all of those precious snowflakes out there who think they can do anything.  If you don't have the money or stomach for high risk, you can't do this.
  2. At $1000-$2500 for each of your first 10 investments, if you don't have the money, you can't afford to be an angel investor.
  3. If you can't deploy even greater amounts of money, in the event one of your startups gets a Series A from a known venture capital firm, you'll get diluted. (do a search on Pro Rata)
  4. If you're unwilling to move to Silicon Valley, your deal flow may be limited. (I like my home in Maryland)
  5. You have less than a 1% chance of being successful. (The truth hurts)

I just exchanged Twitter DM's with Jason.  He wanted to note that he did talk about being an angel with no money (advisor shares!).  I want to make sure I properly represent the book so I'm adding this blog post edit.  Also, I plan to write other blog posts about the book.

PROS:

  1. Jason was specific about what you need to do, to be an effective angel investor.  Right away, you'll realize if you can or can not do this.  Note I'm listing this as both a Pro and a Con.
  2. He describes probably the safest path you can take if you're going to get into angel investing.  Granted, you still have less than a 1% chance of being successful.
  3. Jason speaks and writes from the heart. He sounds like a kid from Brooklyn.  He actually reads the Audible version of his book.  I've been listening to him since the beginning of his This Week in Startups (TWIST) podcast. It was good to hear his voice and not some voice actor.
  4. He has an impressive track record in angel investing so he's not like these knuckleheads you see out there trying to be "lifestyle advisors".
  5. "You only have to be right once" ~Mark Cuban

Now, it's time to put in the work.

 

Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated for the writing of this review.

How my Zombie PM Book Survived

It's been over a year since I published my book, Zombie Project Management, to the Amazon Kindle store. It was fun writing it and discovering the process of publishing a book.  So, you can image my surprise when Amazon sent me an email a few days ago.

During a review of your catalog, we found that one or more of your titles contain content that is freely available on the web.  Copyright is important to us – we want to make sure that no author or other copyright holder has their work claimed and sold by anyone else.

Zombie Project Management (ASIN:B004V1GWFQ)

If, in fact, you are the sole owner of the publishing rights for the books listed above, please provide the URLs for all websites where you have previously published this or any other Kindle content. Please respond within five business days with the requested URLs so we can verify you have the sole publishing rights, or the books will be removed from sale in the Kindle Store. If the content of your book(s) are in the public domain, please confirm this and include the information you used to make this determination.

I promptly sent them a link to The Critical Path blog. I stated the origin of my book content was from my blog (which I am the sole owner of) and I had granted syndication rights to Talking Work.  I claim to have sole publishing rights to the content in the book.

The response took just a few days

Hello, Thank you for your cooperation in providing the requested information. The following book(s) will continue to be available in the Kindle Store. Zombie Project Management (ASIN:B004V1GWFQ) If you have any questions regarding the review process, you can write to us at ...

Best Regards, Aaron W. Amazon.com

I have three takeaways

  1. Don't plagiarize. We all have something to say, write, or do.  Let your work stand on its own.
  2. If you are in the right, you fight!  Don't be shy about it.
  3. Amazon was quick and they were fair.  It was a good experience.

To close, I'm going to quote Seth Godin from one of his blog posts.

Go, give a speech. Go, start a blog. Go, ship that thing that you’ve been hiding. Begin, begin, begin and then improve. Being a novice is way overrated

Image Source: Pictofigo

My Zombie PM Book on Amazon

Zombie Project Management Volume 1

When I realized that I could publish my thoughts on a blog, I found it very cathartic.  Writing a book posed its own set challenges.  When I was halfway done with the book, I saw the forest through the trees.  This idiom personified what I was trying to communicate about project management.  I found that I had become a writing zombie.  I thought of those who came before me, putting pen to paper.  They had ideas. But, how many were able get their works published and released to the general public?  What roadblocks stopped them from making their dream a reality?

To just accept the status quo without question is one of the first steps to becoming a zombie.  Traditionally, a writer gets approval from a publisher, they plan out and write their book, someone edits the work, the book gets printed, and hopefully people buy it.  To me, the book publishing process sounded a lot like traditional project management.  Regardless of the process, I think you should always ask yourself why.  Why are you following the process?  If a process doesn’t seem to make sense, perhaps it should be changed. In my case, I decided to change the process to meet my needs, taking a more agile approach.

First, I picked a publish date and decided I would focus on whatever I thought would have the greatest value first.  I took my inspiration from Seth Godin who said to just pick a date and ship.  Next, I decided that I would publish more content at scheduled intervals, until the body of work was completed.  The book will be released in a series of sections or chapters rather than the entire book at once.  After fifteen years in the project management industry, I’ve learned that it’s possible to deliver more value sooner, by establishing a series of deadlines and delivering something at each deadline.  Lower the risk of not reaching the overall goal, by ensuring delivery of something on a regularly basis.

One of my favorite books, Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber, has 9 chapters and 155 pages.  When I purchased the book at a Borders bookstore back in 2005, it cost me $39.99.  Though I recognize the value in reading a physical book cover to cover, I would now be willing to purchase chapters of an electronic version of a book, if the author was willing to offer it.  Give me the chapters of greatest value first, at a price relative to its overall cost.  And from that, I had the basis of the book.  I intend to offer it at a very reasonable cost ($2.99) and in multiple formats.  Starting with an electronic form allows me to keep costs down and will allow it to be iterated into a better body of work.

I want everyone to know that I don't see myself as an author.  I probably don't use the best sentence structure or verb tense.  But, I want you to know that the barrier of entry in the publishing world has come down.  If you've ever been inspired to write something, just do it!  I feels great.

Direct Link to the $2.99 Book on Amazon:  Zombie Project Management (Also available on Amazon UK)

Links to both my book and Ken Schwaber's book are both affiliated links.  What can I say, I need to feed my coffee habit.

The Forest Through the Trees

Zombie PM WebsiteI'm coming down to the wire on the first installment of my Zombie Project Management book.  I look at my Kanban and all of the activities are one-by-one making it into the Done column.  It's actually quite exciting! I think back to reading several of Seth Godin's books and him writing "Pick a budget. Pick a ship date. Honor both. Don't ignore either. No slippage, no overruns."

I know that is easier said than done.  But halfway through writing my book I saw the forest through the trees.  This idiom personified what I'm trying to communicate.  I became a "writing" zombie.  I thought of those who came before me, puting pen to paper.  They had ideas but how many were able to actually offer their works to the general public?  What roadblocks stopped them from making their dream a reality?  To just accept the status quo without question is your first step to becoming a zombie.

Something in the book publishing business didn't seem right to me.  I didn't know what was bothering me until recently.  See, I don't like to ask permission and I don't like inefficient processes.  If a process doesn't seem to make sense to me, I want to change it.

Lightbulb Moment

Doesn't the book publishing process sound a lot more Waterfall than Agile? As the Product Owner, I take issue with that.
  • Step one was to not ask for permission.  I decided to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • Step two was to pick a ship date and ship whatever I thought would have the greatest value first.
  • Step three is to ship more content, once a month, until I feel the body of work is comlete.
Why release the book in a series of sections or chapters rather than the entire book at once?  You all know I’m a strong proponent of Agile approaches.  When I looked at the publishing process, I compared it to tradition project management methods.  Traditionally, you plan it all out, you build, and then deliver the finalized product.  One thing I’ve learned is you can deliver value earlier, if you establish a series of deadlines and ship something at each deadline.  In that way, you lower your risk of not reaching your overall goal, by ensuring you deliver something regularly.  This will also allow you to produce something of value others can benefit from, at a lower cost.  One of my favorite books, Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber, has 9 chapters and 155 pages.  When I purchased the book at a Borders bookstore some 6 years ago, it cost me $39.99.  Though I recognize the value in reading a physical book cover to cover, I would now be willing to purchase an electronic version of the book, by the chapter.  Give me the chapters of greatest value first at a price relative its cost of production.  At $39.99, each chapter would have cost me just under $4.45.

 

So, with that in mind, I will "ship" a series of sections or chapters each month for $2.99.  I may even bundle a few chapters at a time and offer them as printed copies.

 

HT: Zombie drawings by Pictofigo

Yes, the link to the Scrum book by Ken Schwaber is an Amazon affiliate link.

Black Friday & More

Black Friday has come and gone.  Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming a distant memory.  The TSA horror stories are rolling in.  I spent the better half of a week unplugged.  How about you?  Did you get any good deals?  Did a TSA agent touch your junk? We traveled to Bristol Tennessee to spend Thanksgiving with my wife's side of the family.  It was just a six hour drive.  It gave me some time to read a book on Scrum (I really enjoyed that) and think about my goals for the next year and beyond.

What I really enjoyed was talking with my nephews.  The two topics we covered?

  • What do I REALLY do?  What IS project management and what is Agile?
  • The zombie apocalypse
  • If you want to take a hard honest look at yourself, talk with a 19-year-old who is actually listening and asking hard questions.  One of my nephews really made me think about things.  We also debated which would be better in a zombie apocalypse, unlimited plywood and nails or unlimited ammunition.

    I'm going to have to save these topics for later posts.  But, a man half your age certainly has a different perspective on the world and it's worth listening to.

    Like the images?  Find them at Pictofigo