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How do they do it? Books about not so "big tech", part 3


In the first and second parts of this series, I've suggested several books about how the biggest and the most successful tech businesses work. Here I'd like to drive your attention to maybe less known companies and their stories. 

Size and evaluation are not universal measures of success. Numerous small and middle-sized organisations proved they can provide meaning and increase the well-being of both their staff and clients alike. 


Everybody's favourite darling until the latest controversy. Nonetheless, Basecamp remains a popular alternative to growth-obsessed Silicon Valley companies. Moreover, Jason Fried and his colleagues were sharing their working ways for decades now. In terms of books, there are plenty. Starting from a social distance "Bible" "Remote: Office Not Required" that was published way before remote work was popular. Then there are two elegant short books about the ways Basecamp works - "Rework" and "Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters" that many companies these days use instead of fancy new methodologies. 

Personally, I think the most important book Basecamp creators ever wrote is "It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work". The enormous prosperity of Silicon Valley companies established this myth that the only way to be successful in business is to grow. This usually translates into taking on more than one can chew: more funding, more debt, more staff, more work. And so we have burnout, antitrust trials, data privacy scandals. Basecamp provides an alternative - mid-sized, sustainable and realistic company that provide value while not obsessing with "changing the world". 

Learn, among others - Why it pays off to hire people all around the world and paying them the biggest salaries you can no matter where they live.  


It's hard to think about Pixar as a small animation studio, even though they are still way smaller than their closest competitors - DreamWorks and Disney. One is certain - in the early days of Pixar, they were super small but dreaming big, even huge. How did they revolutionised the craft and became the most successful animation studio in the world? 

"Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration" is probably one of the best business books I've ever read. Here you find a bit of Pixar's history and a lot of real challenges they faced and overcame. There are tons of learnings immediately applicable in almost any business today, even those who don't think they need any creativity. 

Learn, among others - How to run really useful meetings. 


No, surely I am not saying Netflix is a small company. But once they were. They were not only small but tasked themselves with an "impossible" task of drastically changing people habits, introducing a new content medium and taking on one of the biggest retail companies in the world at the time. Surely you heard Netflix vs Blockbuster story a thousand times before. It's a classic "David vs Goliath" tale. But did you know how exactly David won and why? And what they had to sacrifice to be where they are? 

In "That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea" Marc Randolph, founder and first CEO of Netflix, tells the whole story from the beginning. How he and Reed Hastings discussed different startup ideas on a shared ride to work. How Netflix almost immediately failed on the initial launch. How they had to do mass layoffs to save the company and how it resulted in its enormous growth. 

Learn, among others - What it takes to step away from running your own company because someone else is better placed to do it. 


Startups, even when amazing, are not everyone's cup of tea. Like with anything, there are lots of both good and bad. Innovation, speed, purpose on one side and bullshit, discrimination and carelessness on the other. Everyone's startup experience will be different and depending on their personality, age, life situation. 

"Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble" tells a story of a person who didn't fit. It's a personal account and in no way representative of everyone's experience. However, it's a curious read where lots of people will find things to relate to. 

Learn, among others - What is the real purpose of the "relaxation pods". 

This concludes my three-part (one, two) series about the "big tech" books. Concludes for now. Every day tons of startups get created and new books are being written. So I am looking forward to reading more stories in the future and sharing them with you. If you want more book recommendations - check my Goodreads shelf

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