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October 9, 2008

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Reality Check

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 5:41 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by Guy Kawasaki, Portfolio, 496 pages, $29.95, Hardcover, November 2008, ISBN 9781591842231 Guy Kawasaki gives entrepreneurs two options when they ask him about their ideas--"the truth or 'feel good' pablum." Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition offers no such choice. It is a book of smart and brutally honest advice for entrepreneurs. As a venture capitalist, Kawasaki has witnessed scores of entrepreneurs pitch their companies, and it's not often pretty. Mr. Kawasaki wants to help, possibly so he doesn't have to sit through so many awful pitches. When discussing how to put together an executive summary for possible investors, he counsels:
Do not attach a presentation. Save your presentation for the face-to-face meeting. It probably sucks anyway, so you're only burying yourself if you attach it.
and:
Do not brag about an MBA degree. Most venture capitalists want to invest in hardcore engineers, not overhead--also known as, MBAs. ... focus on engineering and sales experience, because in the beginning, all you need is someone to make a product and someone to sell it.
The author doesn't pull any punches, even on himself. In explaining his decision on whether to call Chapter 10 "the top ten lies of investors or of venture capitalists," he writes, I chose "venture capitalists" because they lie more often and are better at it. If you can handle their lies, you can handle any investors. Although a long book, the chapters are short and bullet-pointed for easy digestion. He also has prominent guests in the book such as the author of The Elegant Solution, Matt May, Made to Stick authors Dan and Chip Heath, Influence author Robert Cialdini and author of The Strategy Paradox Michael Raynor, among many others. Many are Q&As, such as Chapter 13: The Inside Scoop on Venture Capital Law, in which Guy asks Fred Gregarus of the Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick and West "the most common questions entrepreneurs ask their attorneys--or that they don't ask their attorneys and later regret not asking." Considering the $500 dollar an hour cost of most corporate lawyers, Guy suggests that the chapter with Gregarus alone is worth the cost of the book. I would argue that many chapters in this book are worth that cost, and there are 94 chapters, all clear and concise and addressing a new issue. Reality Check is a very practical, yet highly entertaining book. If you're looking for a self-help book that coddles your entrepreneurial fancies, this book is not for you. If you're starting a business and looking to understand the world you're walking into, you won't find a better, more honest and enjoyable guide than Guy Kawasaki.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.