Julia Enthoven, Co-Founder of Kapwing, Sets Up Her Reading List at the Beginning of Each Year
Former product manager at Google, Julia left the job last summer, in the quest to build her own impactful product from scratch.
Together with Eric Lu, a friend she met at Google, she focused on building a startup. After a couple of failed ideas, Julia and Eric launched Kapwing.
Kapwing is an online toolbox for short-form video. Its features include a modern meme maker, a video subtitle editor, a video resizer, a custom trimmer and watermarker, and several video effects. The idea was born after they noticed how much short-form video is consumed online, and they wanted to help video content creators to make fun stuff in less time.
Keep on reading to find out more about the books that changed Julia’s worldview, boosted her confidence, and how fiction can help you in your work.
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
I don’t have a favorite book! Recently, I enjoyed and learned a lot from Influence by Robert Cialdini, a book about how you can persuade, sell, and lead using soft skills. I think Cialdini does a great job of blending the research with stories that illustrate how you put his tactics to work.
For non-business, I’ve loved so many different books that it’s hard to pick a favorite. Recently, I’ve enjoyed The Art of Fielding and Americanah, and I love classics like A Farewell to Arms and Lord of the Flies. As for non-fiction, Half the Sky (about crimes against women, especially in the developing world) and Whatever it Takes (about the Harlem Children’s Zone and the work of Geoffrey Canada) both changed my worldview enormously, and I thought they were both super compelling.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
We use principles I learned in the book Nudge to inform our pricing strategy. Kapwing is free to use, but it costs $2/video or $10/month for unlimited videos to remove a small Kapwing watermark from their output video. In Nudge, Sunstein and Thaler describe loss aversion, or the tendency for people to value things more highly once they own them. For Kapwing, we apply this principle by allowing the user to make their video before asking them to sign in or pay us; only after the user has made their video do we send them to the auth wall and paywall. According to loss aversion, users are much more likely to pay us for their video if they’ve already created the video than to pay us preemptively. Nudge also talks about scarcity, status quo bias, and defaults, all of which we employ in some way on our payment page (by marking our price as “limited time only”, defaulting to the unlimited plan, and using a recurring subscription model).
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
Lean In had a big impact on me. I read Sandberg’s “manifesto” in the last semester of University when I was about to start an intimidating new job at Google. It helped me be more successful at work and also boosted my confidence, ambition, and drive to be successful in a male-dominated industry. I think every leader should read Lean In to understand how unconscious bias effects even the most well-intentioned employees of both genders.
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
For people interested in designing or building software products: The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman and The Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen. Both books have informed my product sense and helped me make decisions about great UX. I also think every young person should read Mindset by Carol Dweck. Adopting a growth mindset – an attitude that you can develop any skill if you practice enough and choose the right strategies – has helped me embrace challenges and build confidence, an important foundation of success.
Generally, I think tech people should read novels about different places and cultures than their own. Fiction brings fresh ideas into your work and reminds you of human anecdotes outside of the tech bubble.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
I like physical books. I can’t really explain why, but I love to be surrounded by them and keep a tall bookshelf in my room. The books I’m reading sit on my bedside table so I can read before bed.
How do you make time for reading?
It’s hard. To set a reachable goal, I make a list of 6-8 books at the beginning of the year of books I definitely want to read and make myself at least get to those. I also read a lot when I travel.
How do you choose what books to read next?
I have a long list in Google Docs of books that other people have recommended, and I try to split my reading time between fun fiction, Literature, and professional books. Generally, when I finish a book, I’ll just pick one in the next category.
Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
All of my friends and mentors are book-recommendation gurus, and I often hear the same titles recommended again and again.The great thing about reading is that other people don’t judge what you’re reading; you can read something funny and entertaining or educational or dramatic depending on what mood you’re in.
Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I’m currently reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelo and The Storyteller’s Secret by Carmine Gallo. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is beautifully written, and I really enjoy the voice of the protagonist and think it’s sad and fascinating to read about her time in history. Since Kapwing is still a very young company, The Storyteller’s Secret helps me think about how I can communicate the origin story of Kapwing to our users and other people. I’m enjoying both!
Links where you can follow Julia Enthoven or find out more about her projects:
All books mentioned by Julia Enthoven in this interview:
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
- Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn
- Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough
- The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback by Dan Olsen
- The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don’t by Carmine Gallo