Bill Earner, Managing Partner of Connect Ventures, Uses Every Bit of His Spare Time for Reading
Connect Ventures invests in early stage businesses throughout Europe, especially those operating in mobile, internet, and digital media sectors. It also makes follow on investments through later stages of financing.
Bill has spent twelve years working in venture capital and startups. He’s specialized in early stage technology startups, and has extensive experience in marketing, product management and engineering roles.
He holds an MBA from the London Business School and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.
Keep on reading and you’ll find out more about Bill’s favorite books, the ones he’d recommend to those working in the startups business, and his go-to sources for what books to read next!
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
My favorite book is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. It’s a book that covers a vast range of topics over a fifty year period. It talks about the scientific advances that led to the bomb, the personalities that made those advances, and at the same time covers the political choices and escalation of violence over the course of the first half of the 20th Century that paint the use of the atomic bomb on Japan as an almost inevitable conclusion of that escalation. The prose is as incredible as the story. It’s really a treat to read.
If you want a business book I’d pick Certain to Win by Chet Richards. It’s a short but deep book about John Boyd and his strategies, the most famous of which is the OODA loop.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
Probably all the time but to be honest I don’t have on incident that stands out in a memorable way.
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen in order to understand what disruptive innovation really means.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel to understand power laws and why they apply to startups and startup investing.
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb to understand the underlying dynamics that successful startups exploit.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
I read constantly. I commute by subway to work every day so I have an hour or so a day to read without distraction. I also travel a lot for work so will read en route. I also end up reading a bit every morning at breakfast and at night before I go to bed. I do most of my reading on my iPad. Not necessarily because I prefer electronic books but just because it’s convenient.
How do you make time for reading?
The best way to make time for reading is to make it a priority. If you like to read and care about it you’ll find the time. If you view reading as a chore then you probably won’t.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I wish I did. I’ve got a pretty good memory but that’s not the best solution.
How do you choose what books to read next?
A combination of a giant backlog accumulated over the years, the social media hive mind, and whatever current topics are interesting to me.
Do you prioritize the books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
Jason Kottke at kottke.org and Tyler Cowen at the blog Marginal Revolution are both pretty good sources. As is Patrick Collison the founder of Stripe. And the FT does a good summer-reads and end-of-year best-of list.
Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I’m currently reading Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff and The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein. The former is just (depressing) entertainment and the latter is about personal finance. I’m not sure I’m looking to gain anything from either though Four Pillars has a good methodology for thinking about how to save and invest personally so definitely useful.
Links where you can follow Bill Earner or find out more about his projects:
All books mentioned by Bill Earner in our interview:
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters
- Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
- Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business by Chet Richards
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change) by Clayton Christensen
- The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank, Bob Dorf
- The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio by William Bernstein
- The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt