... where visionaries, game changers, and challengers discuss business models
I have always loved walking into bookstores just to browse - hoping for serendipity to strike - which for me is finding a hidden gem somewhere on the shelves. I find it very relaxing but exciting at the same time. Sometimes I stay for a hour or more digging deep in different sections and other times I do a quick scan of the shelves and leave because nothing jumps out at me because the vibe isn't feeling right that day to make it worth my time. As a serial entrepreneur and angel investor I often spend time in the various business sections of the bookstore. For the past 2 years I have been the catalyst behind the launch of the Stamford Innovation Center. In that context a number of times in recent weeks I have stopped by the Westport, CT Barnes and Noble thinking about buying a copy of Eric Ries' book Lean Startup to finally read it, not just read about it. My goal has been to decide if we should include a Lean Startup Meetup group as part of the education programming at the Center. For weeks the book has not been on the shelf, only available by ordering it or in e-book form. I read a lot of books on different apps on my iPhone but have been telling myself I wanted to buy a physical copy of Lean Startup but have been too lazy to place the order. It had almost become a game to see how long it would take for Barnes and Noble to restock their shelves in the Business section instead of just adding more and more toys in the center of their store as they continue to gut their book offerings.
On Thursday of this week I finally decided to try another bookstore, the new Fairfield University Bookstore in Fairfield, CT that had recently taken the space vacated by Borders in the center of town when it failed. I was finally ready to break down and order a physical copy of Lean Startup if they didn't have it on the shelf. It took me a few minutes to understand the layout of the store once I walked in. I finally found the Business section, elated that there was more inventory in it than at Barnes and Noble. I carefully scanned the shelves moving carefully through the alphabetical list of authors until I had to admit, "damn, they don't have it either!" This left me feeling very frustrated, sufficiently so that I thought I would just pull out my iPhone and order the e-book version right there on the spot. I didn't want to wait for a physical book to be mailed to me. Then I thought maybe I should go back to Barnes and Noble one more time. But I decided to scan the shelves at Fairfield one more time to make sure a copy of Lean Startup hadn't been misfiled. It was on that last scan of the shelves that Business Model Generation caught my eye. Serendipity had struck - I knew at first glance that I had found a hidden gem, something that hadn't happened recently.
Business Model Generation and the Business Model Hub is an amazing concept - a language for business model creation and a community to support those of us actively doing it. I have already devoured the book and am ready to put the Stamford Innovation Center business model on a canvas. As many businesses as I have been involved in starting, this one, about supporting entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, still needs work but I have been feeling like I just didn't have the right tools. I am also trying to help a former partner with another project, WineTable, that has had me somewhat stymied for months. Luckily, for WineTable I now have the right jargon - it is a "multi-sided platform" being created to serve numerous segments of the wine trade as well as wine enthusiasts. A multi-sided platform is an exciting proposition but in reading Business Model Generation I realized how many questions he and I have left to answer. I am really looking forward to both exercises with the tools I discovered in Business Model Generation. Stay tuned!!
PS: Last night I watched a recent talk by Alex O at Stanford University on the web which ended with a conversation between he and Steve Blank, Stanford Professor of Entrepreneurship. I quickly realized I had finally closed the circle - Eric Ries was a student of Steve Blank, Steve has been at this stuff for ever and besides influencing Eric couldn't say enough good things about Alex's work. Reading the short list of books that any entrepreneur should read posted on Steve's website - it was simple - Business Model Generation and Lean Startup at the top of the list, the one I had been looking for and the one that I discovered by accident. I just bought Lean Startup at another Barnes and Noble last night and am half way through it but I also saw that Steve has just released Startup Owner's Manual which incorporates the methods of both Eric and Alex and ordered it from Amazon.
PPS: I am really psyched because I already have a canvas up in my study for WineTable and getting ready to do a second one for Stamford Innovation Center. Between a good analog bookstore and the web, Steve, Eric and Alex - here is to serendipity!!