I sometimes get asked about my path into the technology industry.
I didn’t come from a traditional technology background — I’m not a computer scientist, none of my friends work at startups, and I’ve never lived in San Francisco. My lifeline to learning about technology has been almost completely digital.
Unlike other industries, the playbook for understanding Silicon Valley is freely available online. This is a good thing! It gives people who aren’t already well-connected a way to learn the culture and ideology behind some of the world’s most successful companies.
I’ve collected a list of essays, books, and videos that helped me understand the ethos of Silicon Valley:
How To Start A Startup: If you’re only going to read one Paul Graham essay, it should be this one. Decades of experience condensed into one essay.
Do Things That Don’t Scale: The other canonical startup essay, DTTDS is about the nuts and bolts of turning an idea into a business with real users.
You And Your Research: Richard Hamming was an engineer at Bell Labs, one of the most inventive institutions of the last century. His essay talks about the creative process and the difficulty of building things from scratch.
The Only Things That Matters: Marc Andreessen on finding product-market fit.
Zero to One: Peter Thiel’s book on startups and how to build the future.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Ben Horowitz’s book on his experience with Netscape and Loudcloud; one of the best management books I’ve ever read.
Steve Jobs: Jobs and Apple Computer are a cornerstone of Silicon Valley history. Nearly a decade after his death Steve Jobs’ influence continues to permeate products built in the technology industry.
Jack Dorsey - Startup School 2013: Dorsey is the CEO of Square and Twitter, two multi-billion dollar companies. He’s also incredibly thoughtful. His speciality is design, and this talk emphasizes what technologists can learn from artists.
Peter Thiel - Competition Is For Losers: Thiel is a provocative thinker. In this talk, he argues that you should try to build a monopoly and that capitalism and competition are opposites.
Have an addition to this list? I’d love to see it. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.