Design Book


What We're Reading

One of our favorite ongoing team activities at Azafran is Book Club, where every month our team reads and meets multiple times to discuss important lessons and learnings we can bring to our portfolio companies.

Current: The High Growth Handbook

Author: Elad Gil


Highlights from The High Growth Handbook from teammates Megan Burns and Jeremy Baksht who are leading this discussion:


When we meet our potential portfolio companies they typically have 3-10+ people. There is a lot of attention given to founding a company, fundraising, team building and exiting / IPO'ing. However there isn’t a lot of real focus on the most important part…the messy middle. The hard work of actually taking preliminary traction and scaling a company to thousands of employees. Understanding company dynamics and potential is the job of the research & investment teams.


We are reading the High Growth Handbook as a team so that we have a better understanding of our founders and their journey towards scale and growth. We meet them as they have interesting technology, they are preparing to scale and the timing aligns with our focus of post seed initial investment with an eye towards growth and successful exit in 5-7 years.


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"You do not want to preserve culture; you want to collectively steer the right evolution of the culture.”

- Patrick Collison, quoted in the High Growth Handbook

Past: The Business of Platforms

Author(s): Michael A. Cusumano, Annabelle Gawer, David B. Yoffie


Highlights from The Business of Platforms from teammates Megan Burns and Zubeyda Tebra who led the discussion:


Trio of experts on high-tech business strategy and innovation reveal the principles that have made platform businesses the most valuable firms in the world and the first trillion-dollar companies.


Managers and entrepreneurs in the digital era must learn to live in two worlds—the conventional economy and the platform economy. Platforms that operate for business purposes usually exist at the level of an industry or ecosystem, bringing together individuals and organizations so they can innovate and interact in ways not otherwise possible. Platforms create economic value far beyond what we see in conventional companies.


The Business of Platforms is an invaluable, in-depth look at platform strategy and digital innovation. Cusumano, Gawer, and Yoffie address how a small number of companies have come to exert extraordinary influence over every dimension of our personal, professional, and political lives. They explain how these new entities differ from the powerful corporations of the past. They also question whether there are limits to the market dominance and expansion of these digital juggernauts. Finally, they discuss the role governments should play in rethinking data privacy laws, antitrust, and other regulations that could reign in abuses from these powerful businesses.


Their goal is to help managers and entrepreneurs build platform businesses that can stand the test of time and win their share of battles with both digital and conventional competitors. As experts who have studied and worked with these firms for some thirty years, this book is the most authoritative and timely investigation yet of the powerful economic and technological forces that make platform businesses, from Amazon and Apple to Microsoft, Facebook, and Google—all dominant players in shaping the global economy, the future of work, and the political world we now face.

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Past: Big Data:
A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

Author: Viktor Mayer-Schönberger


Highlights from Big Data from teammate Kristina Ivancic who led the discussion:


What makes our era different is that many of the inherent limitations on the collection of data no longer exist.


Technology has reached a point where vast amounts of information often can be captured and recorded cheaply. Data can frequently be collected passively, without much effort or even awareness on the part of those being recorded. And because the cost of storage has fallen so much, it is easier to justify keeping data than discarding it.


All this makes much more data available at a lower cost than ever before.


Data - companies that have the data or at the least have access to it. But perhaps that is not what they are in the business for. The best example is Twitter, which obviously enjoys a massive stream of data flowing through its servers but turned to two independent firms to license it to others to use.


Skills - Consultancies, technology vendors, and analytics providers who have special expertise and do the work, but probably do not have the data themselves. In the case of Walmart and Pop-Tarts, example: retailer turned to the specialists at Teradata, a data analytics firm, to help tease out the insights.


Big Data Mindset - For certain firms, the data and the know-how are not the main reasons for their success. What sets them apart is that their founders and employees have unique

ideas about ways to tap data to unlock new forms of value.


Example: Pete Warden, co-founder of Jetpac, makes travel recommendations based on the photos users upload to the Site.


Big data enables us to experiment faster and explore more leads. These advantages should produce more innovation. But the spark of the invention becomes what the data does not say. That is something that no amount of data can ever confirm or corroborate, since it has yet to exist.


If Henry Ford had queried big-data algorithms for what his customers wanted, they would have replied “a faster horse” (to rephrase his famous saying). In a world of big data, it is our most human traits that will need to be fostered—our creativity, intuition, and intellectual ambition—since our ingenuity is the source of our progress.

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