THE UNICORN'S SHADOW

COMBATING THE DANGEROUS MYTHS THAT HOLD BACK STARTUPS, FOUNDERS, AND INVESTORS

A book that convincingly punctures some pervasive misconceptions about startup success.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Everything you think you know about startups is wrong, according to this business book.

Not every successful startup was created by a hoodie-wearing genius spending long nights working out of his garage, argues Mollick, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who specializes in innovation and entrepreneurship. Many startup founders and investors cling to a “startup monomyth,” he says, influenced by “legendary unicorns” such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook, which have “an outsized influence over the imagination of founders and the public at large.” Yet when one looks beyond the hype and analyzes the actual data on what contributes to a new company’s success or failure, a new reality emerges. By examining a wealth of evidence and academic studies, the author moves beyond jargon and accepted wisdom to highlight the issues that startup founders need to consider and the obstacles they may have to overcome. For example, he illustrates why having a youthful founder can sometimes hinder, rather than help, a company’s chances at success; puts paid to the notion that there’s one specific entrepreneurial personality type; shows why chasing venture capital cash may not be the right choice for every startup; and explains how a company’s culture can be set (for better or for worse) in its earliest days. Along the way, he offers concrete, evidence-based advice that will help would-be founders achieve their goals. There’s useful information here for readers at all stages of the startup journey, including those who are struggling to find an “it” idea that will wow both customers and investors. Mollick includes a nuanced dissection of the idea- generation process, showing how to come up with business concepts by looking at “the means at their disposal”—what knowledge or connections they already have—rather than focusing on where they want to end up. Readers will come away with a better understanding of startup myths as well as a framework that they can use to “match the expectations of the monomyth where you can, while pushing the boundaries in areas that matter to you.”

A book that convincingly punctures some pervasive misconceptions about startup success.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61363-096-9

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Wharton School Press

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

MAGIC WORDS

WHAT TO SAY TO GET YOUR WAY

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Close Quickview