Book-Talk with Bogdan Iordache, TechHub Bucharest Co-Founder
We’ve known Bogdan Iordache for a long time. He’s one of the key tech entrepreneurs in our home country, Romania. He’s also an investor and helped build the local entrepreneurs community.
Just a few of the superlatives related to Bogdan’s career: he co-founded How to Web Conference, one of the leading tech conferences in the South-Eastern region of Europe. He’s also the founder of TechHub Bucharest, the biggest co-working and event space for tech entrepreneurs in Romania, part of the TechHub network. Bogdan is currently managing director of MVP Academy and MVP Angels.
We wanted a behind-the-scenes peak at what books influenced him throughout his life, what he learned from them, his reading habits and how he chooses what books to read next.
Here’s what we found out...
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
My favourite book is “On the road” by Jack Kerouac. Apart from being probably one of the best well written books in the world, I appreciate Kerouac’s philosophy to dedicate himself entirely to what was important to him, something that I have applied in my life as much as possible. I’ve simplified my life in many ways, and stay focused on what I think it’s really important. For Jack it was the experimentation of life with friends, drinks and jazz, and the dedication he put into it is simply transformative. For me it is a very different mix, though, but doing things your way will make your life meaningful and unique. Obviously, first of all you have to decide what is important for you, that’s a process in itself.
Also, I loved the “own less, live more” approach he took at life. I don’t plan to be a bum, but even if someday I will own billions of dollars I don’t want to worry about a yacht in some harbour, I find it meaningless. But I know that’s also a trait of our generation, to pay for experience and not for ownership.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell us about it?
There are many micro-decisions you take based on the books you read, but that’s generally from business books. One specific book that had a big impact on me when I was young and studying in France was “An autobiography” by David Ogilvy. Turns out this guy was a successful chef at 20, and a loser at 25, and again a successful person at 30 and then a loser at 35, and then he founded “Ogilvy & Mather” and became successful again at 40.
It’s a short book, I read it in one night. Turns out, doing things your way may be difficult sometimes, but if you keep doing what you think is right and learn from your mistakes and successes, everything will be alright in the end. I was wondering whether to stay in France and settle for a developer job (though I did not like programming very much) or return to Romania and start something on my own (I did not know what exactly). I made the right decision to return.
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
I knew I wanted to do things related to computers since I was a kid, I always thought technology is like magic. So I owe to the books I read the good things I’ve done in this period, but I owe my career to chance.
“Just Kids” by Patti Smith – Patti Smith is a poet and singer, mostly known for her debut album, “Horses”, said to mark the beginning of punk music. I read the book after seeing Patti perform live a couple of years ago, and it was amazing. As a tech founder / investor, the vast majority of my friends are also people involved in the technology world. We have the same problems, the same points of view, you basically live in a bubble which narrows a lot your understanding of other people. Yet Patti wrote about her artistic beginnings and she described such a different world – the early ’70s in New York, the emerging punk scene around CBGB, and Andy Warhol’s entourage. The book is so candid about those people’s values and choices is almost disturbing. Loved it.
“Guns, germs and steel” by Jared Diamond – a slightly more complicated anthropology book which pleads the idea that the development of human society and domination of Eurasian societies was mostly determined by environmental factors (geographical, biological, etc.). It’s an excellent written book and, while I don’t necessarily agree with it, I find it to be very explanatory about how the humans have colonized Earth, the development of agriculture and the rise of the first societies.
“My years with General Motors” by Alfred P. Sloan – if you have to read just one business book to understand the global corporate world we live in today, I think this is it. And I think Bill Gates said this first. Alfred P. Sloan was the CEO of General Motors in its early beginnings, and he went through all the stages of the growth, going bust, growth and then consolidation of the beginning (when some companies were creating mechanical horses – no kidding) to the ’60s, when he retired.
All the lyrics of Nick Cave.
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
There are quite a few good business books on technology, and I’ll list below some I find to be a good starting point. Personally, I like biographies a lot and I mostly read biographies of dead people, because those are the most honest ones. So because the computer age is still very young, there won’t be a lot of biographies in my list.
Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
Good to Great – Jim Collins
King of Capital – David Carey and John Morris
Barbarians at the Gate – Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
Founders at Work – Jessica Livingstone
The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
Crossing the Chasm – Geoffrey Moore
The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
Zero to One – Peter Thiel
Blue Ocean Strategy – Chan Kim
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
I read only on my Kindle, I am unable to read paper books anymore. Kindle is so comfortable and practical, being able to take notes and all, I think it’s almost perfect.
The volume of reading is not very big, but I try to read constantly. There are periods when I was reading 3-4 books per week (and doing mostly that), and sometimes when I don’t read a book for a couple of months because I am in execution mode on a project and that’s that. However, nowadays I’m almost always reading before going to sleep, so I manage to make some time every day.
When I was younger, I was measuring my reading based on quantity, now I measure it based on quality. I’m doing my best to read things which are very relevant to my interest and can have an impact on the way I do things.
Do you have a favorite place where you read or are you able to read just anywhere?
No, I can read anywhere. Airport lounges are a favourite place, by the way. I like the places where I have no other option than to read, it helps me focus.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
Yes, I always take notes and then do a summary of the book at the end in my Evernote app. I rarely revise it, it’s mostly for the purpose of putting some conclusions into writing.
The most efficient way to remember a book is by putting that knowledge to work right away, if possible. Sometimes it applies to day to day tasks, sometimes to decision making on a professional or personal level, but if you ask yourself what decision would you change based on what you learned, you almost always fit a small piece of information from that book into your brain.
How do you choose what books to read next?
Choosing a new book depends on many factors: priorities, mood, objectives, so I don’t have a very well defined system for it.
What I do have is an immense list of probably 200+ books I would read in my list of preferred books on Amazon. Every time I find an interesting book somewhere, or somebody recommends me a book, I add it to the list, and when I want to start a new book but don’t know which one, I revisit it.
I also do a bit of a check before starting to read a book, just to be sure I don’t waste my time. I read the reviews, maybe the Wiki page, and even the criticism of the book. I found out it takes far less to drop a bad book if you read the reviews than to go through it and stop at some point — you become invested in that book, although you know it’s bad.
Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
No, I choose my books based solely on my interests, and it does not matter who recommends them.
Links related to Bogdan Iordache and his projects:
Books mentioned by Bogdan in this interview:
- On the road – Jack Kerouac
- An autobiography – David Ogilvy
- Just Kids – Patti Smith
- Guns, germs and steel – Jared Diamond
- My years with General Motors – Alfred P. Sloan
- Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
- Good to Great – Jim Collins
- King of Capital – David Carey and John Morris
- Barbarians at the Gate – Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
- Founders at Work – Jessica Livingstone
- The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
- Crossing the Chasm – Geoffrey Moore
- The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
- The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
- Zero to One – Peter Thiel
- Blue Ocean Strategy – Chan Kim