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Vladimir Oane, Tech Entrepreneur, on His Favorite Books and Lessons Learned

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Vladimir Oane is one of the most known technology entrepreneurs in Romania, founder of Deepstash, a company that wants to revolutionize how lifelong learners organize knowledge.

He was awarded by Forbes magazine at their “30 under 30” gala for the evolution of UberVU, the start-up he founded back in 2008. It was one of the first all-in-one social media services, and in 2014 had a spectacular exit, being acquired by Hootsuite. Vladimir is now the Director of Product at Hootsuite.

Prior to that, he was an advisor at How to Web and a marketing manager at CapainGO, an online hotel booking service. Vladimir was also the founder and CEO of Metromind, a web marketing agency based in Bucharest (Romania).

We contacted him and asked if he’s willing to answer us a few questions about books and what he learned from them. We were eager to know what his favorite books are, how they helped him grow, but also his reading habits and system for retaining information.

Read on – we all have a lot to learn from Vladimir.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

I am not sure I can point to an all-time favorite. There are so many amazing books out there. But since you only want one … I’ll give it a try. I will pick Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island for a non-business favorite. I don’t claim this is the best book out there. Not even in its category (whatever that is). But I adored this book as a young boy. I remember that the night when I was approaching the end of the book a power outage happened, and I finished it reading it with the help of candle light. I love this book that much. Jules Verne introduces a world full of mysteries, with challenges that seem insurmountable but with heroes that always find ingenious ways to overcome them using science and strength of character. It is also part of a Universe (like the Marvel one), building on some of the reveals from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” or “In Search of the Castaways”. Maybe your readers shouldn’t rush and grab this one unless they are 14 yrs old or deeply into steampunk adventure stories. But it meant a lot to me at the time. Maybe it sparked my interest in sciences or cultivated my sense of adventure.

As for a business book. I will probably go with Clayton’s Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma”. Clayton’s book not only defined “disruption” (a word that is still abused by journalists to this date) but it introduced me to strategic thinking. When I read the book I probably missed a lot of the nuances around corporate politics, as I barely had any work (or life) experiences. But I keep re-reading it from time to time and always find new insights.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell us about it?

Let’s take the book from above: Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma”. I can say I didn’t have a lot of business experience when I read the book, so I approached it with a very naive set of beliefs. At the time I was a young, idealistic entrepreneur. I was not scared that people will steal my ideas (so not entirely stupid) but I feared that a huge company like Microsoft would destroy any startup they put their eyes on. Competition in my mind was always won by the party with the biggest firepower. Clayton did a brilliant job of deconstructing this set of beliefs that it managed to convince a silly “businessman” like me of his case. The realization that sublime organization (that the incumbents are well known for) is a deterrence to innovation was eye-opening and it allowed me to focus on doing my thing and worry less about inexistent threats from the sky.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

The funny thing is that the books that had the biggest impact (like my Verne’s favorite) are not necessarily the best books, objectively speaking. They were good enough to present a new worldview that I was not aware of. Timing probably was more important than their intrinsic literary qualities. They “managed” to fall into my lap at the right time. Such a book was Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, a mediocre book by my standards of today, but deeply inspirational by the ones from yesterday.

When I read the book I did not know what an entrepreneur was. I had zero knowledge about money. Granted the book is quite unsophisticated but this is what probably made it click for me. It showed me a door that I didn’t know existed and for that I could say it changed my life.

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

I would say there is nothing more inspirational for entrepreneurs or creators out there than Ayn Rand’s works. Atlas Shrugged is considered her magnum opus but I will recommend The Fountainhead instead. It condenses most of her philosophy in a shorter book, without the intellectual whirlpools Atlas Shrugged is known for. The hero, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who refuses to compromise his artistic and personal vision for success. He chooses to battle the establishment and stand by his values against all odds. The story is simplistic but it serves as a vessel for communicating liberal values like individualism, private property, innovation or capitalism. All of which are foundational traits for any creator (entrepreneur or not).

Ayn Rand is journalist’s favorite author to hate these days. I am yet to see any serious counter-arguments to her ideology, most articles acting like hit-pieces from people who either didn’t read or didn’t understand her books. I would advise to ignore all the nasty review and pick her books.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I read every day and I rely on all sort of hacks to maximize my learning. I read while I commute, relying on audiobooks from Audible. I read at work, mostly during lunch breaks. And I read when I am back at home. Apart from audio I rely on Kindle for the text part. I still use paper books but I try to limit this format for the ones with a lot of images. I find visual heavy books impossible to read digitally.

Reading for me is the default activity. An activity I fall back on whenever there isn’t something more important or urgent to do.

How do you make time for reading?

I don’t find it a struggle. I comes naturally to me because I love learning, not because I am trying to emulate Warren Buffett. I just happen to like reading more than checking my Facebook feed.

Do you have a favorite place where you read or are you able to read just anywhere?

I can read anywhere. I am constantly trying to find ways to read and learn more.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

Glad you asked. Yes I do. I developed quite a complex method of taking and reviewing notes. I wrote a blog-post for people interested in my method. I store all my notes in carefully structured OneNote notebooks. And I have weekly review sessions.

How do you choose what books to read next?

It’s all detailed in my post but to sum it up: I pick my books based on the theme that I am mostly interested in. For a while I was into the history of the Rome, so I read all the books from my list on that topic. Other times I was interested in corporate structures so I read some books on that topic. Usually my interest are related to some projects I am considering or working on.

Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

Not really. I try to be very deliberate with my time, and that means that I try to stay away from other people’s opinions. I do trust my friends and family but my interests (usually) trump other people’s reviews.

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