When I began to read Jason Fried and David Hansson’s Rework, my first impression was: here we go again. As the book opened up, it had a lot of the tired old rants that reminded me of the part of 37 Signals I like least, as well as some of the same nonsense that Tim Ferriss spewed in his Four Hour Work Week.
To my mind, 37 Signals engages in what I think of as lowest common denominator software development. There’s something to be said for this philosophy — up to a point. Much software is indeed bloated with features only a small segment uses. It’s hard to argue with their success, but it seems to me they unnecessarily relish a certain level of user frustration with the feature paucity of their applications.
But as I got deeper into the book, I found more and more that I agreed with. In particular, the notion of starting a business, not a startup is something that I think more entrepreneurs should heed (and I have no issue with the entrepreneur term, though the authors seem to). Far too often I talk to folks who are starting out and want to talk about exit strategies from the outset. Build a strong business and opportunities come along; focus on creating to flip and you’re much more likely to be disappointed.
The book is structured as the ultimate in “snackable content” — essentially a collection of items that could be standalone blog posts. It makes for quick, easy reading — and helps to ensure that you can move on quickly from points with which you may disagree while still taking in the good stuff.
Brad Feld takes issue with their view on bootstrapping versus venture funding, and I agree that there are good cases for both. I have never taken outside investors in my companies, but that doesn’t make such financing evil. It’s just something to consider the pros and cons of each. I certainly would never rule up starting a company with angel or venture funds.
One final point. This is one of the books I had in mind when I wrote my “Potty Mouth” post recently. The authors make silly and gratuitous use of cursing. I suspect that it is an attempt to be “real” and to demonstrate the rebellious nature of their overall work. Their good ideas (and even some of their less good ones) do this already without the need for extraneous foul language.
If you’re interested in creating and building businesses, especially ones that are technology-oriented, Rework is worth a quick read.