A tale of two business books

This summer, being super excited about the Entrepreneurship class I was going to take in Fall, I read a whole bunch of books about how tech companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook got started and evolved.

Most of these companies have multiple books being written about them, some by ex employees, some by tech journalists. Most books written about the same company do offer generally different perspectives or may focus on different periods of time in the company’s evolution. I generally like to read all the books about a single company either simultaneously or at the very least back to back, one right after the other. Hey, its been a slow summer ;o)

When it came to Facebook, the two book options out there are – The FaceBook Effect and The Accidental Billionaires. And the fact that Hollywood had made a movie based on one and not the other should have told me something. Plus the fact that the tagline for Accidental Billionaires was (and I quote) – A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal.

Now, I quite liked The Social Network. Its a movie – Silicon Valley (and a little bit of Harvard too) Hollywood-ized. But oh the book its based on …. blech! Talk about a potboiler! Not for the first time have I seen a movie and then read the book its based on and wondered just how the adapting team literally pulled an entertaining rabbit out of their collective hat. For instance, have you ever tried to read the original book that the TV series Sex and the City was based on? Double blech!

In any case, what kind of book are people expecting when they pick up a book about how an amazing company got started? Are they really looking for the “dirt”, “personalities”, “gossip”? Or are they looking for how the idea got started, what strategic decisions were made and just how the company got to where it now is. Or perhaps that is just what MBA students read books for.

The Facebook Effect thankfully has plenty of the above and does not disappoint. For instance, Kirpatrick describes how Facebook was initially rolled out a single college at a time and only when the team was convinced that the infrastructure could handle the additional load (so as to not have the site ever, ever be down). And how the decision was made as to which University/college to expand to next…. and how Facebook became more popular than competing social networking sites being rolled out at the same time.

P.S. I know the media has been raving about the initial adoption rate of Google+, but comparing it to how Facebook spread is just comparing apples to oranges.


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Going, going, gone! Oh wait, there is still add-drop!

So Haas and other business schools have this exciting system of auctioning off enrollment in elective courses. You don’t have to do this in your first year (all core courses are mandatory).

The way it works (short version), is that each student starts with the same number of points (depending on which year of the program you are in). Then everyone “bids” points for the courses they want to take. The only constraint is that you cannot bid all your points for one class (and duh! you must bid at least 1 point).

(Update) And of course, its a blind auction – meaning that you cannot see what other people are bidding or what the current highest bid for a class is. Lots of opportunity to play some mind games … (I don’t think this happened at all with my Haas classmates, we are a pretty open and laid back bunch, though people didn’t openly disclose their bids to all and sundry) (End update)

At the end of the bidding, the top x bidders for a class get in (class capacity being x).

The fun part is the after-auction analysis when you figure out what the minimum successful bid for each class was. This is when you figure out just how popular the classes you want to take really are. For example I bid almost all my points to get into this one class and later found out that even people who had bid a single point got in…

But be not afeard! For the first couple of weeks after school starts are for add-drop. And all electives are (sort of) again up for grabs!

There is Corporate Finance and Designing Financial Models that Work (really!) and Mergers and Acquisitions and Strategy, Structure and Incentives. And you have had all summer to think about what you want (and in my case to confuse myself even further!)

So the first week of school (maybe more) promises to be exciting! I will be taking as many classes as I can to help me figure out what I want to do this Fall. I did watch some of the previous year class videos, but the in class experience is quite something else. So wish me luck and I’ll post about what classes I finally end up in!

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The Grandpa Box


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I’m on vacation, please hold my (e)mail…

Just read a hilarious update by a classmate on Facebook – a user asked to temporarily unsubscribe from her mailing list because she did not want to receive “impertinent” email while on vacation 😀

Now, it is common to ask the US Postal service to hold your snail mail for you when you go away for an extended period of time. Back in the day, when people still used to have those things called newspapers delivered to their homes, you could put that on hold too (with an option to donate your copies to a hospital, etc while you were away).

Email does offer you the “Out of Office” robot email. But what about all those mailing lists you are subscribed to? Why should you have to unsubscribe and then resubscribe, just so that [a] you don’t see non pertinent stuff while away or [b] you don’t come home to a flooded inbox?

Why not have your email do this for you automagically? So you just say that you will be “away” for a period of time and all subscription type emails that come in are quietly deleted for you.

I would also like my email to be intelligent and tell me something like – sweetie, you have read only 2 of the last 516 emails from this mailing list. Obviously, this is not something that interests you any longer. Would you like me to unsubscribe you?


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