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Book Review

Eric Sink on the Business of Software
by Eric Sink

ISBN-13: 978-1590596234
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 320

This book is a collection of articles from, quite obviously, Eric Sink’s webpage. Eric has successfully started and grown his own company and this collection contains many of his hard-earned wisdoms. The book covers a broad range of subject; all the things you need to know and partly master to run a successful start-up, which includes finance, hiring, marketing, and product strategies.

In fields where I lack personal experience, I try to get more than one view on the problems, which is why I’ve been reading different books and articles on start-ups lately. And it is quit fascinating how different authors, with very different backgrounds, differ in their advices and opinions. Considering Eric Sink, most striking is the contrast to Paul Graham’s writings and this book even includes an article written in response to Graham’s Great Hackers. Eric calls his piece Great Hacker != Great Hire and the title pretty much summarizes his view. One of Eric’s points is that technology choices have marketing implications and, as a small ISV, you don’t want to hire someone that puts his own preferences over the ones of the customers and refuses to work on certain platforms or using less powerful languages. While this is probably true for Eric’s business (writing desktop applications for Windows) it is far less important for the domain most of Graham’s writing focuses on: web-based software.

Another striking difference is the opinion on how many founders you need. Graham has been stating several times that unless you have at least one more co-founder you’re doomed, whereas Eric believes you’ll actually be able to make it on your own. These differentiations in opinion are hardly surprising as all authors base their writings on their own experiences, but it also states the importance of not blindly following the first advice that pops up.

To summarize, if you have any interest in starting your own company you want to read this book. It’s full of good advices and Eric Sink is a good writer that presents his ideas in a clear style blended with a humorous touch. The usual criticism on essay collections is the repetition and that applies here too. When you publish articles with months and years between them, most of the time it is better to repeat a few sentences from a previous article rather than referring to it. In a collection, however, where all articles are read sequentially it gets disturbing. Further, the technical parts of the book are limited to Eric Sink’s professional world of desktop software, which is fine because he knows the subject. But, as I pointed out above, be careful to generalize his advices to other domains.

Reviewed November 2007

©2005 Adam Petersen