Library / Personal Development | Human Psychology

Date of review: July 2021
Book author: Suneel Gupta
Вook published: 2021

Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You by Suneel Gupta (2021)

Unlike many books written by professional writers, the author of this book, Suneel Gupta, stands out as having quite an interesting background. At a relatively young age, he has been a politician, worked in VC and founded RISE – a healthcare app.

I would recommend the book to anyone looking to start his own business

Whereas many books try to inspire readers to aim high, to embrace failure and keep going – quite general messages – this book has quite a specific plan. Even if each step in this plan sounds natural – I think it is still valuable as long as you remind yourself and practice it.

Before I summarise it, I should also note that the second part of the book is also very exciting. It contains 9 interviews with famous VC investors and entrepreneurs. I particularly enjoyed interviews with Peter Chernin (producer of Titanic among other big hits) and Kirsten Green (who decided to invest in Michael Dubin's Dollar Shave Club after speaking for 10 minutes at dinner).

7-step plan for entrepreneurs

1. Convince yourself first

It is important to fully believe in your project, be fully convinced of your idea. Then you can convince others (e.g. Jobs' first iPhone presentation was not the greatest, Musk's has not been considered to have the strongest charisma – but they both had a deep conviction in their products).

Important to take time to think about your ideas from different angles before starting discussions with too many friends and potential partners.

2. Cast a central character

Focus on a specific audience, it could be just one person, don't try to appeal to a broad group of customers.

Have a central character as the core part of your pitch. Example of Michael Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club ('imagine the embarrassment of a young male trying to buy shaving blades and waiting for a busy shop assistant to come and unlock the pack'). Airbnb's first office had illustrations on the wall that storyboarded every major detail for an Airbnb host.

3. Find an earned secret

This is the basically unique insight that cannot be easily discovered on Google. Try to find a unique edge, angle to have your product stand out from existing solutions. It is also important to 'intoxicate potential investors with effort'.

4. Make it feel inevitable

Appeal to general trends that are taking place and explain how your product fits into them. Do not try to deny big trends and offer a solution that goes against them. Examples include Airbnb, which already identified a trend of private properties listed for short stays before launching its business.

5. Flit outsiders to insiders

Gupta notes research, dubbed "the IKEA effect," from Harvard Business School that we place "nearly five times more value in a product we helped build than on a product we simply buy. 'Time spent touching objects' leads to 'feelings of ownership and value.'" Research in the 1940s revealed that consumers felt guilty that "instant cake mixes" were too easy to bake—thus dismal sales. (Read the simple solution in Chapter 5.)

To flip outsiders to insiders, you need to follow the pattern of great political speeches, writes Gupta: "the story of me," "the story of you," and most important, "the story of us"—what happens "when we join forces and work together." He notes, "I've discovered that founders often tell the 'story of me,' occasionally tell the 'story of you,' and almost never tell the 'story of us.'"

6. Play exhibition matches

This is basically about practising as much as possible before the actual presentation/meeting. Do not underestimate its importance. It is important to practice in front of different groups of family members and friends. The author also advises to build a backable circle – the four Cs: a collaborator, a coach, a cheerleader, and a cheddar (someone "who will deliberately poke holes in your ideas").

7. Let go of your ego

Dr George Schaller, who studied mountain gorillas in Central Africa, was once asked, "How did you get such detailed information?" Schaller responded, "It's simple. I didn't carry a gun." He discerned, "you could hide a gun, but you could never hide your attitude when you carried a gun. No smile or gentleness could fully cover your unease, and the gorillas could always pick up on that."

Notable quote

Suneel Gupta writes, "After many years of struggling to become backable, I came to realize that the gun inside my backpack was my ego. That my extreme desire to impress people in the room had created distance, not connection. No matter how professional or friendly I acted, people could always tell when I wasn't at ease."

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