Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman: Book review by Nishant Mittal
Updated: Jun 1, 2022
Reid Hoffman is a Silicon Valley legend. Being a part of the fabled "Paypal mafia", Mr. Hoffman went on to found LinkedIn (which sold for over $26 Billion in 2016) and is now running Greylock Partners - a premium VC firm with over $3 Billion under management.
Interestingly, Mr. Hoffman is also an avid author with terrific books like 'Blitzscaling' under his belt (I loved it!), and since 2017, has been running a podcast called 'Masters of Scale' where he interviews successful entrepreneurs. This book is essentially a condensed collection of learnings from those podcast episodes, indexed with the intention of giving clear lessons to aspiring entrepreneurs.
'Masters of Scale' features stories of entrepreneurs of all kinds in a typical 'hero story' format. From software techies to single-blade razor (or women's inner-wear) manufacturers, it features a variety of challenges that are faced by entrepreneurs in different stages of their lives. Many of the chapters (core lessons) of this book are similar to the ones in Blitzscaling, but the difference is in the approach of expressing those lessons.
You see, Blitzscaling relied on explaining concepts in a 'first principle' kind of a way, while this book aims at doing the same through a dense collection of 'hero stories'. Unfortunately, these stories, while great in quantity, seem far too brief and simplified. The depth and nuances are lost while the book jumps from one story to another, and what we get are lessons with contrived examples crafted to suit the narrative. The book doesn't feel as natural and deep as it could have been, solely because it's jumping through too many different stories, albeit superficially.
Nevertheless, the stories and the lessons are very potent. They're born out of experience and are supported with a recurring section called "Reid's Analysis", where we read Mr. Hoffman's thoughts on that particular matter. The book is divided into ten sections (lessons) and all of them are undeniably important. After finishing the book, I felt nice considering the wide areas of entrepreneurship I was exposed to. From manufacturing to retail, software, fast-food, and even Non-profits, the book really cast a wide net in terms of examples, and that's obviously helpful for any reader.
My favourite lesson was "letting a few fires burn", according to which a fast growing company has multiple fires burning at any given moment of time, and entrepreneurs in that phase need to pick the fires that need to be stultified, and just let the rest of them burn. This one hit me differently, because while building The Testament, I was also dealing with a lot of fires, and often found myself trying to extinguish all of them at once. The result? I got extraordinarily stressed out, and it didn't necessarily lead to breakthroughs. Mr. Hoffman quotes his experience of dealing with the same situation like a champ while building Paypal. It was quite amazing indeed.
While Blitzscaling was definitely a much better read, Masters of Scale is also a good book. You could surely pick it up!
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