I’m writing a book!
The title is not yet final, but I think it will be somewhere along the lines of:
“Founder Freedom: Build a business that thrives even when you’re not around”
The subtitle might vary. “Build a business that runs without you” could be it. Or “Build a business that doesn’t need you,” or even “Build a business that runs itself”. To be seen. I’m getting rather fond of “Founder Freedom” though, as the general theme.
You might wonder how I’ve ended up writing a book… well, if you’re curious, strap in.
How? What the…? I thought you were making a YouTube channel now?
Indeed, it all started with my YouTube channel. Last year, I posted videos about NFTs and web3. But since my message was largely “guys, the tech is really cool but these ‘nft projects’ are mostly ponzis and it’s all going to collapse”, it didn’t really resonate with my audience. I can’t quite put my finger on why…
Well, it was a ponzi and it has collapsed, though I think there’s still a bit to go before it’s truly dead. But that doesn’t help me with my world domination plans (aka “build a YouTube channel that gets more than a couple hundred views per video”).
So this year I decided to get more constructive. I planned and shot a whole bunch of videos about how to start a startup. And that’s better, but… well, the first problem was, I didn’t know how to package them, and I made the classic mistake (which, ironically, I warned about in one of the videos) of making stuff before testing it. But in a way, I was really testing my limits. I recently got formally diagnosed with ADHD, and with proper medication support, I was curious if I could actually do a complex, long duration task that required sustained focus.
Well, the answer was, yes, I could do it, but that didn’t make it the right task.
So I then joined a course on how to make better packaging (aka thumbnails) for my youtube videos. And it helped. But I still needed more help. So I started really thinking about what to talk about in those videos.
See, the audience I want to reach is clearly startup founders, but not just any startup founders. People like Alex Hormozi, Gary Vee, Cody Sanchez and Imran Gadzhi are already blasting the “generic entrepreneur” niche with loads of very polished content. I may not agree with them, and I might possibly be able to compete with them, but it’d be hard, and whilst I have the utmost respect and support for everyone who wants to start any honest business, my heart isn’t really with people who just want to own a laundromat or restaurant or a gym. So that’s not my niche.
On the other side of the football field is the hardcore Silicon Valley tech startup crowd. They’re more my type, but… well, the fact is, GrantTree, while definitely a success, did not raise any money. My business that did raise angel funding didn’t do well. And in general, my advice is to avoid VC funding in most cases, because it pushes outcomes towards the extremes, whilst a good, decent, successful business like GrantTree can change your life just as much but without nearly as much stress or risk. So that side of the “entrepreneurial” niche is also not quite my thing. There are better people to cover it.
Through random chance or synchronicity, I’d recently read yet another excellent book by the awesome Rob Fitzpatrick, titled “Write Useful Books“. Rob is the author of “The Mom Test“, which I’ve recommended to just about every entrepreneur I know.
My brain put some of these things together, and landed on the idea that, hey, maybe a good way to figure out the right niche for me would be to ask myself what book I might write. So I went around a few friends who know my entrepreneurial career well enough and asked them, and they gently but firmly pointed me towards “something about the way you ran GrantTree”.
For some reason or other, I resisted that at first. I think it’s because most books written about company culture are either founder stories of mega-successful founders (like Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh or Maverick by Ricardo Semler), or relatively academic books looking at, usually, larger companies. Neither of those seemed quite right for me.
But then, digging into it more, I figured out a couple of things.
First of all, the fact that all those books are not really written for startup founders is an opportunity, not a problem. Apart from 37Signals/Basecamp, there aren’t many businesses of this kind really talking about the nuts and bolts of how to do business differently. The world could use another voice on that topic, aimed squarely at my favourite crowd: founders.
Next, the “hook” for this book is one that I resonate with very personally: freedom. Many founders start businesses because they want to be free. But in order to scale, they have to hire others, and if they build their company culture the wrong way, they end up just creating another job that takes their freedom away: the job of managing a company that needs to be controlled all the time. So then they exit, often by selling the company. But then they love creating companies, so they do it again… and then they get trapped again… and exit again… and so on.
At GrantTree, for most of the existence of the company, I wasn’t trapped. I could work from wherever I wanted and whenever I wanted. And so could everyone else! That was the “trick” – as a founder, you also benefit from all the freedoms you give others.
But getting that system right took years, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of learning. Would I like to share that with other founders, so they too can build company cultures that set them free?
So there you go. I’m writing a book. A Table of Contents is already drafted. I’ve started writing some bits of it (mostly because someone demanded one of the chapters with “I need to have read this yesterday”), but it’s still very malleable.
You can help!
If this topic is of interest to you, I’d love your input. First, about the table of contents. And next, of course, I’ll need beta readers who can help me figure out what works and what doesn’t about the book. If that’s you, please get in touch: daniel at swombat.io. Or via Twitter, or any other mode of communication that suits you.
I will be posting extracts from the book over the coming months, as it comes together. If you are receiving this by email and you don’t want to receive more on this topic, then it’s probably better than you unsubscribe for now.
Oh, and I will be relaunching a new YouTube channel focused on this new topic. I’m already planning the first short form video, hopefully to come out in the next 2-3 weeks. And, possibly, I might do longer form, podcast like interviews of interesting people who have thought about this topic. We’ll see.