Uncommon Stock : Version 1.0 is a riveting piece of fiction by Elliot Peper. Mara Winkel and James are students at The university of Colorado, Boulder. Mara is a law major and James is studying computer science. James comes up with a pattern recognition algorithm nicknamed Mosaic that can identify fraud in accounting. Being childhood friends, James asks Mara to be his partner in building a company. Bored by the idea of being stuck behind a desk, Mara took the plunge. Trouble arises when James hacks into the Center for Mathematics and Society’s systems to gather data for testing his algorithm. Mara is furious at James for putting the company in jeopardy. Together they decide to bury the issue. Craig, Mara’s boyfriend decides to investigate the discrepancies flagged by Mosaic. Things take an ugly turn. How James and Mara go on raise funds and keep the company going while the perpetrators try to get back at them forms the plot.
An interesting character in the story is David Grossman. He is a successful entrepreneur and an angel investor. He mentors Mara and guides her through choppy waters. His interactions contain profound revelations about starting up a company. These are some of the best ones.
- Founding a company with someone is like a marriage. You’re going to have to dig through mountains of crap together and it’s a long-term commitment. It can be one of the most rewarding relationships out there but, like a marriage, it needs to be based on a strong foundation of trust.
- Most startups fail because their teams implode, not because their products sucked.
Worth the pain
- Hold on to that fear. That’s an important feeling. That fear is part of what will drive you to figure your shit.
- It’s not an easy life. It breaks you down, builds you up again, and crushes you flat. Great works require great sacrifice. It can be addicting as all hell and I can’t imagine anything more satisfying.
Venture Capitalists and hostile takeovers
- Don’t worry, they always have a way to justify themselves to themselves. They’ve got good reasons. In their own minds, they’re benevolent conquerors, not malicious raiders.
- Don’t spend your time dicking around. Wordsmithing and number crunching is about as useful to a startup as theoretical physics to a newborn baby.
- Guesses and plans don’t matter in business; results and outcomes are what count.What you need to do is figure out how you can validate what you’re working on. What are the specific milestones that will prove that what you’re doing is valuable and that people will pay for it? If you focus on that, you’ll end with a successful business as an outcome.
Fail fast and pivot
- It is dangerous to start chasing different verticals at the same time when you’re just getting started.
- Realising a dream isn’t easy, so it better be a dream you really fucking care about.
The explanation of several terms related to raising funds such as pre and post-money valuation, lead investor, etc are quite useful to budding entrepreneurs. The tiff between Mara and James when he insists he should hold the majority stake in the company because he is the technical founder highlight the common cause of contempt among co-founders.
People do not buy algorithms, they buy products. Running a business and crunching numbers is no less than important than technical prowess.
The Uncommon Stock feels like a primer on startups disguised as a novel. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.