There are a lot of books that look dated seven years after publication, especially when linked to start-ups and technology. This book is still vibrant and up-to-date in its core message. Reid Hoffmann and Ben Casnocha published the “The START-UP of YOU“ in 2012. The financial crisis of 2018 was still impacting the job market negatively. So acting entrepreneurial and maybe founding your own company was of critical importance to many — the right book at the right time. So let’s explore and link it to online resources that have been published since then.
Who wants to enjoy an animated summary of the book can watch it here:
All Humans are Entrepreneurs
The underlying assumption of the book is that we are all entrepreneurs. That does not mean that we have to be self-employed or own a company, but that we act entrepreneurially in our careers. This mindset is part of the DNA of the USA but it has an opportunity for improvement in Europe where many countries have a much stronger social support system and labor protection laws that do not encourage entrepreneurship. Safety nets have value, but where they function as cages, they are not helpful for a successful or even meaningful career.
Learning from Start-Up Companies – Basic Approach
Reid Hoffman has a successful history in Silicon Valley (PayPal, Linkedin) and brings his start-up expertise to the table and leverages it for careers. This is even more valid seven years later. The impact of artificial intelligence, robots and the fourth industrial revolution on the job market and the skill requirements is challenging career paths. For those who do not have the right skill set the “career escalator” (Brownstein, R. 2010) is still jammed. Organizations becoming flatter in structure and more process, network and team-oriented make vertical careers less likely.
“Permanent Beta” – Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’Hoffman, Reid, & Casnocha, Ben. 2012, p. 22
A key principle they promote is the “Start-up “, being in “Permanent Beta.” The term refers to the software industry were software is labeled “Beta Version”, when it is not fully finished and maybe a little buggy. Today, the software is continuously updated and rarely ever considered finished or complete. The Apps in your phone are updated in the background at, and Microsoft sends you an update for its 365 Office version every other week (bug fixes, incremental improvements).
“Permanent beta is essentially a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth. Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’. If you are not growing, you’re contracting. If you are not moving forward, you’re moving backward“ (Hoffman, Reid, & Casnocha, Ben. 2012, p. 22)
Summary / Intro
Here, a helpful summary from the authors:
“Develop your competitive advantage in the market by combining three puzzle pieces: your assets, your aspirations, and the market realities. (Chapter 2) Use ABZ Planning to formulate a Plan A based on your competitive advantages, and then iterate and adapt that plan based on feedback and lessons learned. (Chapter 3) Build real, lasting relationships and deploy these relationships into a powerful professional network. (Chapter 4) Find and create opportunities for yourself by tapping networks, being resourceful, and staying in motion. (Chapter 5) Accurately appraise and take on intelligent risk as you pursue professional opportunities. (Chapter 6) Tap network intelligence from the people you know for the insight that allows you to find better opportunities and make better career decisions. (Chapter 7)“ (p. 22)
Invest in yourself
The engaged reader might find it helpful to see a section “Invest in yourself “at the end of each chapter.
Here is an example: “Update your profile on LinkedIn so that your summary statement articulates your competitive advantages. You should be able to fill in this sentence: “Because of my [skill/ experience/ strength], I can do [type of professional work] better than [specific types of other professionals in my industry].” (p. 43)
The tips are well thought out and actionable. They are organized for the next day, next week and next month.
Another example: “Meet with three trusted connections and ask them what they see as your greatest strengths. If they had to come to you for help or advice on one topic, what would it be?“ (p. 44)
A highlight of the book is chapter 4 about networking. Their approach is based on building genuine relationships. This should be of help to all who believe networking is inauthentic and solely transaction based. They differentiate well between different degrees of networking contacts (p.110).
First degree Professional Allies and friendly contacts whom you can ask a lightweight professional favor.
Second degree Friends of your first-degree friends
Third degree Friends of your second-degree friends
There are limits to how many first degree friends you can have. But these are your personal connections you have direct contact with. You extended network social network are the second and third-degree connections. They help reach out indirectly. Everybody who was involved in Crowd Funding knows how valuable they are. Let’s do a little math. You have 40 first degree contacts; the same applies to your second- and third-degree contacts. 40x40x40 add up to 64.000 contacts. If you have a relevant and healthy network, this can be quite powerful to reach out.
The more academically inclined reader might want to study Granovetter’s “The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited” (1983) for the historical roots of the rather practical theory.
It is interesting to see that although Hoffman was so deeply involved in LinkedIn, he stresses the critical importance of personal contacts “One lunch is worth dozens of emails.” (p. 126) I support his position. I am enjoying the communication opportunities of the Internet since 1993 and find meeting a person at least once physically of critical importance to build a lasting relationship either as an ally or a lightweight professional contact. In a time of growing disinformation and fake-news, this increases in importance.
A website accompanies the book: It includes some resources. These include a slide set that serves as an Executive Summary.
Sources – Links
Browstein, Ronald. (May 5, 2010). Children of the Great Recession. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/05/children-of-the-great-recession/56248/
Casnocha, Ben (Producer). (2015). Animated Summary of The Start-up of You. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/3GgEXdrO4_I
Hoffman, Reid, & Casnocha, Ben. (2012). The START-UP of YOU(1st ed.). London: Random House Business Books.
Granovetter, Mark. (1983). The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited. Sociological Theory, 1, 201-233. doi:10.2307/202051
Granovetter, Mark. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380.
The “START-UP of you – Excutive Summary. Retrieved June 19, 2019 https://www.slideshare.net/reidhoffman/startup-of-you-visual-summary