Feb 4, 2022

Field Notes from the Climb

Every time I’m tempted to tell another founder what they should do, I’m reminded of the adage my mentor, Dr. David Rosenbaum, lived by:

“Free advice is generally worth what you paid for it.”

With that paradox noted, I’d like to share some resources that proved useful to our Team as we built Circuit Clinical. It’s not a comprehensive list, but everything below has been helpful on the journey. If other great content has inspired or guided you, please share it in the comments. 

Thanks to audiobooks, I listen to a book on startups almost every week. The habit has been a serious commitment of my time, but it’s had a huge ROI as it helped me level up faster and avoid many classic founder pitfalls. Some startup mistakes are near-universal and well documented – reading allows you to benefit from other founders’ catastrophes and successes, which is both efficient and much easier on your nerves. 

Even with all that reading, I still make my share of mistakes as CEO - but they tend to be smaller in scale, more specific to our work, and easier to recognize, learn from, and adapt. When I meet founders who don’t read regularly, I am equal parts impressed (“how do they know how to do all this stuff?!”) and concerned. We would’ve been cooked years ago if I was always treating each “new” challenge as something unique to Circuit, rather than recognizing the deep structure of the problem and knowing what the best founder/CEOs have done in these situations.

So, in the hopes I can save you some time through curation, I present the mental models, content libraries, and skill builders that most impacted us as we built Circuit from whiteboards through our Series C. We’re still navigating Mt. Everest right alongside the rest of you, so what follows are just a few field notes from the climb.

Stuff to Read that Really Helps:

Blogs & Videos:

  • Paul Graham's essays are founder brainfood. 
    “Do Things That Don't Scale” is his all-time masterpiece and absolutely speaks to where every early-stage team lives and breathes. 
  • YC's Startup School is a chance to learn from the best of the best in Startupland. YC’s content shares are proof that in the era of the internet, you are only as ignorant as you choose to be. 
  • NFX is the startup strategy blog that will help you think deeper and better thoughts about your MVP, your product as a platform, and your defensibility. Not to mention lyric essays on network effects, VC mentalities, and the game theory of high scale. Their Founder's Library is amazing - this site is really smart people writing for other smart people and well worth the time, energy, and yes, the headache it sometimes give you.

Books / Audiobooks:

I admit I have a strong bias to reading/listening to books over spot content engagement, as over time they are more memorable and provide an expert framework to hang new knowledge on. This is probably just a holdover from my days in Medicine, but I’m not convinced social media shares alone can create depth and nuance of thought. They take more time, but books definitely do that to our minds.

Here's the two best books I've read on Product Development:  

Here's the two best books I've read on Marketing:

Here's the best book I've read on Sales:

Here's the two best books I've read on Culture - both from Netflix:

Here's the best book on decision making in startups - by FAR the most useful book I read in helping me survive the experience of starting and leading Circuit:

So that’s my V1 list – I am already fighting the temptation to add five more – what did I miss? If you’ve got a book that accelerated your climb, let me know what it was and how it helped - we can talk it over in about a week.