Blitzscaling

The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies.

Written by Reid Hoffman & Chris Yeh.

Published by Harper Collins.

The blurb.

From the authors of New York Times bestsellers, The Alliance and The Start-up of You, comes a smart and accessible must-have guide for budding entrepreneurs everywhere.

Silicon Valley is renowned for its striking number of businesses which have grown from garage start-ups into global giants; Apple, Cisco, Google, HP and Intel to name a few. But what is the secret to their outstanding success? Hoffman and Yeh explain that it’s simple: they’ve learnt how to blitzscale.

Featuring case studies from numerous prominent tech businesses such as AirBnB and WeChat, this book offers a specific set of practices for catalysing and managing dizzying growth in bourgeoning start-ups. Prioritising speed over efficiency in an environment of uncertainty, Blitzscaling illustrates how businesses can accelerate to the stage in a company’s life cycle where the most value is generated. Using the framework provided by Hoffman and Yeh, readers will learn how to design business models which simultaneously support growth at a furious pace and capture the market, as well as how to navigate the necessary shifts in strategy needed at each level of scale.

What’s it about?

It takes on the second half of the entrepreneur’s journey, what is often termed the scale-up phase.

The bit of the Silicon Valley stories that comes after discovering an incredible opportunity, dropping out of college, forming a small team, working form the garage, raising money from wise investors and before the final part of changing the world.

The book looks at how you take a great, funded idea, that has found product/market fit and scale it. The authors offers two traditional scaling choices:

  1. Efficient scaling — you prioritise efficiency
  2. Fast scaling — you prioritise speed

Noting that both rely on information that in the fast-paced internet world you are unlikely to have:

  1. Predictable costs
  2. Known competitors
  3. Stable markets

Blitzscaling is proffered as the answer to scaling in an uncertain world and defined as:

Blitzscaling is prioritising speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty.

The approach described in the book challenges the conventions of careful planning, cautious investment and solving problems in favour of rapid guesstimates, inefficient investment and letting small fires burn.

Perhaps the most striking description from the book is a play on the saying:

“Starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling a plane on the way down.”

Developing the saying to:

“Blitzscaling is like assembling that plane faster, then strapping on and igniting a set of jet engines, while still building the wings.”

Did I enjoy reading it?

It’s a a great listen if you enjoy Silicon Valley stories, I love learning about how these famous companies were founded and the ‘war stories’ of their growth. For us mere mortals I found it very reassuring to learn how much these startups got wrong and how nearly all of them survived two or three near death experiences before dominating their space.

Many reviewers praise the practical information held in the book about scaling a company, I’m not so certain of this, unless you are a tech entrepreneur. That’s not to say all of the content lacks resonance, in particular the authors views on hiring talent and managing the culture as a firm grows beyond a ‘family’ of ten to a tribe, through city to nation is very informative, practical and useful.

What were my main takeaways?

Whilst he primary focus of the book is speed, there is also an underlying message of sustainability, so to grow fast, in the face of uncertainty in a sustainable way.

Far from the first book to highlight the key ingredients for successful growth, but, worthy of repeating:

  1. Network effects
  2. Market size
  3. Distribution
  4. High gross margins

The major inhibitors of growth are product/market fit, have you achieved this? And when you have operational scalability can you land that plane you built and strapped a rocket to?

Has it helped Crawford deliver for clients?

Not in proportion to the enjoyment gained from listening to it. The main takeaways are a useful rule to run over existing client products and businesses and new ones too, I’m scratching my head a litte though to think of many/any specific ways we are using the content with our existing stable of clients.

Is it on the must read shelf at Crawford HQ?

Nope, it hasn’t made the grade.

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