Reader’s digest: 8 books for techies

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Readers rejoice. The season of book shopping is here. The Colombo Book fair may have ended. But excited readers, will find that there are more offers just around the corner. There’s bound to be an enticing read for everyone. So we thought of sharing a few of our favourite books for techies.

1. Hatching Twitter

This is perhaps one of the most interesting origin stories in terms of tech companies. Remember when we all watched Mahagedara on Sirasa (admit it, you did) back in the day? Twitter’s origin is no less dramatic. The company’s story primarily revolves around the four founders, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, Noah Glass and of course, Jack Dorsey. 

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Inside you’ll find the origin story of Twitter. It’s a dramatic one akin to Mahagedara (Image credits: WIRED)

There’s a general sentiment that it’s often unwise to start a business with your friends. The twitter story is one example that proves this point. From figuring out the platform’s monetisation strategy to dealing with the drama between the founders, and more. There are lessons to be learnt from Hatching Twitter. It’s amazing to think about how the company has survived amidst all the internal drama, to become the social media powerhouse it is today.

2. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX. It’s hard to miss Elon Musk’s name being left out of the news on a regular basis. But the billionaire’s story wasn’t always one of luxury or comfort. This book emulates the hardships Elon had to go through building his companies. This might even make you question his founder status on some of his companies like Tesla. But that’s not to take away the fact that this is a fascinating read.

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It’s hard not to see Elon Musk making headlines. But behind those headlines are fascinating stories of overcoming hardships (Image credits: Book Video Club)

His story is one of persistence and arrogance. Reading through the journey, you might question his risky attitude. But Elon Musk has often been rewarded for his approach. Sometimes it’s in the form of personal branding, other times its for the pure ambition of Musk’s initiatives. Regardless of what your opinion is on the billionaire, this is a brilliant biography if any.

3. Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends

As the title implies, Small Data pivots from all the attention big data has been getting in recent years. Martin Lindstrom’s point is that there’s a lot of value in paying attention to the little things, how “small data” can offer unique perspectives. If that doesn’t intrigue you, perhaps this excerpt from the book will pique your interest. 

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The book pivots from all the attention big data has been getting in recent years. (Image credits: Brandon Schmittling)

As Lindstrom puts it, in this book, “You’ll learn……

• How a noise reduction headset at 35,000 feet led to the creation of Pepsi’s new trademarked signature sound.

• How a worn down sneaker discovered in the home of an 11-year-old German boy led to LEGO’s incredible turnaround.

• How a magnet found on a fridge in Siberia resulted in a U.S. supermarket revolution.

• How a toy stuffed bear in a girl’s bedroom helped revolutionize a fashion retailer’s 1,000 stores in 20 different countries.

• How an ordinary bracelet helped Jenny Craig increase customer loyalty by 159% in less than a year.

• How the ergonomic layout of a car dashboard led to the redesign of the Roomba vacuum.”

4. Zero to one

If you’re even remotely interested in business and startups, Peter Thiel’s book is a must-read. The book opens up as follows,

“Every moment in business happens only once.

The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”

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Reading about the ‘PayPal Mafia’ is always a fun tidbit. (Image credits: The CEO Library)

This iterates one of the points Thiel drives through to the reader. Zero to one also offers insights on how different markets can be approached, the impact of culture, hiring, etc. However, it should be noted that this isn’t necessarily an A-Z guide on building startups. But it makes for an insightful reading regardless.

5. Six Billion Shoppers: The Companies Winning the Global E-Commerce Boom

This book focuses on the global eCommerce industry the past, present and a glimpse of the future. There’s a chapter dedicated to some of the most active eCommerce markets today. The book talks about how the different dynamics of eCommerce are playing out in the emerging markets as compared to Western counterparts. 

Take China for instance. The country was slow to adopt eCommerce and internet in general. Early eCommerce companies that adopted Amazon’s B2C model failed to attract neither profits or even traction. But over the years, thanks to a number of factors the country became a massive market for the industry.

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The book talks about how the different dynamics of eCommerce are playing out in the emerging markets as compared to Western counterparts

Porter Erisman walks through the other markets in a similar fashion throughout the book. If you’ve ever been curious how India is such a competitive space today, or how Africa is showing promise for the future of eCommerce, this is one not to miss.

6. Hit Refresh

Compared to the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Satya Nadella was a relatively unfamiliar character. When he took on the role of Microsoft CEO in 2014, not much was known as to how the tech giant will move forward in the coming future. Over the past few years, Microsoft has managed to change people’s general perception of the company and has managed to make a killing while doing so. A lot of this can be attributed to the attitude and the direction of Satya.

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Empathy is a key selling point in Hit Refresh (Image credits: Microsoft)

The book focuses on Satya’s perspective regarding certain strategies the company has adopted in recent years. One such approach is how Microsoft diverted its focus towards the mobile market after giving up on Windows Mobile phones. In the book, Satya recollects the iconic moment where he, the Microsoft CEO pulled out an iPhone in front of a Salesforce conference and presented MS Office apps on iOS for the first time. 

7. Greatest business decisions of all time

We’re not sure if “greatest business decisions” is an apt title for this one. Nevertheless, this book runs through some of the most intriguing business decisions made by companies over the years. These range from how intel got consumers to love chips to Tata Steel’s novel downsizing approach.

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The title might be stretching things but inside you’ll find case studies of intriguing business decisions (Image credits: islamopedia.se)

The book itself is more of a collection of case studies than the usual read. It contains 18 stories, with a short chapter for each case study. One downside is that all these stories lack a certain depth and only focus on them at a surface level. On the other hand, this makes for a perfect quick read.

8. Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years

This is more of a history book. It primarily focuses on ancient times, on the birth of some of the concepts behind modern social media. Of course naturally one might think social media is a modern concept that was born out of the technological advancements we have today. This book proves that we’re wrong.

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This is more of a history book that’ll show you how social media isn’t a novel modern concept (Image credits: Near St)

If anything, this is a walk through history on how communication and technology have progressed with human evolution. Majority of the book focuses on ancient forms of communication such as papyrus rolls and “journals” in the days of ancient Rome. In case you were wondering, yes the author does talk about modern social media. But not until the latter half of the book.

So who is this book for? We recommend this one if you’re a history buff or someone just curious about the historical version of social media

Which book is on your list?

So those were some of our favorite reads around technology and the startup space. If you’re like us, you’re probably waiting to hit this year’s Big Bad Wolf. After all, it’s only a few weeks away. One thing we did notice a bit different compared to last year is that, this year’s sale will not entirely be 100% 24 hours. Irrespective, it’s that time of the year for all bookworms out there. So do let us know what’s on your list. We’re always looking to expand ours. If you’ve read any of the above, feel free to share your thoughts below 

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