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This book begins in Myanmar, where a monk purportedly poses this riddle to Randy Komisar: How do you drop an egg three feet without breaking it? Komisar, a self-described "virtual CEO" whose background includes stints at Claris, Crystal Dynamics, GO, LucasArts Entertainment and WebTV, provides an answer to that riddle in his book's epilogue. In between, Komisar recounts his hypothetical conversations with Lenny, an enthusiastic -- and annoying -- entrepreneur. During his first appearance, Lenny makes this elevator pitch for venture capital: he would "put the fun back into funerals" by starting a web site that sells items most people buy at a funeral home when a loved one dies. Drawing on his two decades of experience in Silicon Valley, Komisar eventually steers Lenny and a partner into reconstituting their concept as the Circle-of-Life.com, a site where people could find resources for coping with death and dying. Komisar's basic message is "the journey is the reward." In keeping with that philosophy, his book takes readers on a thought-provoking, inspirational ride.
- Describes the new investment model that has taken hold in Silicon Valley. "Fill each startup with rocket fuel as fast as possible and blast it into space. The ones that fly, fly, and if the rest of them blow up, c'est la vie."
- Outlines the belief that business is primarily a creative institution. "Like painting and sculpting, business can be a venue for expression and artistry, at its heart more like a canvas than a spreadsheet. Why? Because business is about change."
- Details the distinction between managing and leading. "Managing -- vigorously driving execution-- is a rare skill ... but rarer still is the ability to lead, inspire and motivate."
- By interspersing accounts of his sessions with Lenny with musings on his own experiences, Komisar creates an entertaining tale that's interwoven with useful advice.
Komisar has a love for motorcycles and unwinds by reading the works of Zen masters. Those two elements are also paired in the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Another Silicon Valley insider, Elton Sherwin, offers advice on preparing an elevator pitch and dealing with other entrepreneurial dilemmas in The Silicon Valley Way: Discover 45 Secrets for Successful Start-Ups. The communal role that Komisar envisions for the Internet is also explored in The Social Life of Information, The Control Revolution: How the Internet is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know and The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual.
Reviewed by MH - April 6, 2000