Review by Alice Waagen
Book by Donna Fenn
I find myself pretty skeptical these days that yet another business book can present new ideas that have not already been churned out by the prolific business press. It is a tribute to the quality of Donna Fenn’s book UPSTARTS on GenY entrepreneurs that I read it cover to cover, taking notes and sharing her ideas with others in my network.
Fenn’s book stands out from the pack in a number of unique ways. First, her writing style is clean, clear and absent from the usual jargon and clutter. It makes sense, because she is a career journalist specializing in small business trends, so not only does she know her subject area well, she communicates it in an engaging manner.
The premise of the book, as reflected in its subtitle, is how young entrepreneurs succeed by challenging a lot of the conventional “wisdom” offered by the traditional business gurus. Fenn does not overplay the generational theme but aptly uses it to illustrate the main themes of her research into successful GenY startups.
Her “8 Critical Lessons,” are based on the unique differences business leaders under the age of 30 bring to the table. Shaped by events of their generation, these young “upstarts” truly have added new and innovative approaches to creating new companies.
Each of the lessons is the focus of a chapter and every chapter is illustrated by a number of businesses. I found the diversity of businesses a compelling feature of the book. Yes there is the classic tech start up but also nonprofits, retail, hospitality and others.
Although the business protagonists featured here are young, the lessons identified apply to any business startup, regardless of the age of the entrepreneur.
Certainly, Upstarts is a book for business leaders, and I found it to be inspirational and uplifting to read about individuals challenging the odds, questioning the established way of doing things and taking risks. Like I outlined above, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart – but this book helps you realize that going out on one’s own to make a mark in the world can be more than a dream.