May 30, 2023

Build The Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business If You’re Not a Rich White Guy – Review

A picture of a library
Not My Local Library

An Adventure to the Library leads to Building The Damn Thing

Wow. Build The Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business If You’re Not a Rich White Guy by Kathryn Finney is the topic of this book review. I had never read any of Kathryn’s work before, or even heard of her name before reading this book. When I went to my local library (yes, these still exist!) with my wife to return some books, I started checking out the business section to see if there were any books that might help me on my entrepreneurship and game development journey. I usually don’t see a lot of books that I haven’t heard of before, at least not in the stacks. I try to keep relatively up to date on recommendations and best selling lists. With time being such a precious commodity for us all, I have to admit that I don’t take a look at books that I haven’t heard of because I figure that there must be a reason that I haven’t heard of them, right?

I try to hedge my bets on books that will me the best bang for my buck in my limited reading time. This mindset has served me well as I try to increase my productivity. Having a full time job, trying to learn game development, attending business school, maintaining full time relationships, there is never enough time in the day to read or do everything that I want to. I’ve found that sometimes though, I have to just take the plunge on the unknown. When I saw ‘Build The Damn Thing’ sitting at the front of the new arrivals section, I have to admit that caught my eye. Any book that is confident enough to have a title like that is worth at least taking a look and reading the back right? Upon reading more about the Kathryn Finney’s background I knew that this book was going to be chock full of valuable knowledge gems.

“The possibility of creating a legacy is so great that we choose to leave the gravitational pull of a traditional career to become entrepreneurs instead. Imagine creating something you truly believe in, watching it succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and then getting paid for the value you’ve created. That’s the promise of building your own damn thing.”

Kathryn Finney

Learning about other people experience’s with motivation, self improvement, and getting things done is really valuable. I find it is a lot quicker, and less expensive to learn about the potential pitfalls and missteps that others have taken. I would rather learn about these negative moments than experience them as much as I can. I have have been focused on reading books on breaking inertia and building great habits lately for this reason. I find that with business books though, the lessons are not always applicable. I have yet to have anyone offer me a multi billion dollar company to lead, or ask my advice about how to handle complex international deals. That’s a good thing too, given I’m not qualified to help with either.

Books that talk about topics at that level of expertise are pretty much paperweights for me. The knowledge is too specialized, and what I can learn that is actually applicable to my situation is few and far between. On the other side of the spectrum though, books that are way too vague are equally a waste of time. I have read a few books, and many more articles, that try and take a 10,000 foot overview of a topic to the point of being filled with meaningless platitudes.

With ‘Build The Damn Thing’ I was hoping to find a book that would contain a lot of information for people who don’t have a huge network of business contacts, like me, and learn how someone like that can move from an idea to a product to a startup. My hope’s were satisfied, and other than a few nitpicks I feel that this book will become a staple in the library of many entrepreneurs to come.

Build The Damn Thing – This book is a must read for anyone who does not have the an entrepreneur mentor in their life!

Kathryn is a Yale educated (serial) entrepreneur who comes from such a relatable everyday background. Creating and exiting a successful web startup is hard enough, but being one of the first movers in the space just puts Kathryn’s story above and beyond most that I’ve heard. This is without even considering what is arguably a large portion of the book, and that is the bias and adversity that a black entrepreneurial woman faces.

In addition to the technical and financial challenges of creating a startup, Kathryn goes on to tackle the huge bias and opposition in the tech and VC culture that she faced I just hoped it would relate to my current goals. This is documented throughout her entrepreneurship journey, and is framed in a way that elaborates on how even people who are generally mindful about their privilege, and situation situation in life, can challenge themselves to learn more and seek diverse perspectives.

The style of this book was extremely approachable, and I found myself really connecting with the author. With books about finance or marketing strategy, I have sometimes found myself lost in all of the jargon and because the language is so halting I get pulled out and feel like I have to go find a dictionary.

Kathryn’s writing style was extremely intuitive, and took particular care to make sure that any concepts that a read may not be familiar with were highlighted with a footnote. This was something that I found extremely helpful, because even with my burgeoning knowledge of business, I would have been lost at times without these explanations.

I really noticed and appreciate this when the book started discussing all of the different ways that you can seek funding for your business. Legalese began showing up, such as the ‘simple agreement for future equity’ (SAFE), but I found the concepts were taken at a pace that slowly built up. Every new concept that was introduced built on the examples and knowledge shared before it.

Examples are given from Kathryn’s own life about the difficulties that arise in starting a business. Especially when it is your first business, and you are the first person you know to start one. These examples explain the troubles, and risks that can come from trying to build a business with one’s immediate family. Even with the best intentions, the old saying about mixing blood and money hold true. Not only do you have to worry about your familial relationships, but the books highlights all of the opportunists who are lying in wait to take advantage of your inexperience. These warnings are told from firsthand experience, and are definitely lessons that will leave an impact that will steer you clear of having similar troubles.

Final Verdict on Building The Damn Thing

I would definitely recommend checking this book out. It’s my opinion that there is a lot of value, and motivation, in its pages for those of us who are hoping to build the damn thing, whatever that thing may be, without being a rich white guy.