Startup Life as Entertainment: Introducing the Tech Startup Thriller

July 22, 2015

9:00 am

Entertainment featuring startup life is rapidly gaining popularity. From Betas to Silicon Valley, and moving on to Shark Tank, the glimpse into this strange world and the idea that you could have a viable business by utilizing this rapid ideation methodology is very attractive. This form of entertainment has also opened the door for reality shows, as well: ABC Family has announced that it will air “Startup U” featuring young entrepreneurs moving through the Draper University incubator program, and just yesterday, Brady Forrest of Highway 1 and Dave McClure of 500 Startups shared the trailer for “The Bazillion Dollar Club”, coming to the SyFy channel in September.

If Your Parents Don’t Understand Startups…

This form of entertainment appeals not just to fellow founders who live in the startup trenches day to day. It’s also a pretty insightful way for startups to explain their way of life with friends and family who have a hard time figuring out exactly what these folks endure. Why are they so stressed out about something called an “equity split”? What even does “culture fit” mean?  Somehow, it has always appealed to us to basically watch people do their job – be it forensic science, the practice of law that requires the wearing of shoulder pads, or the negotiation of a term sheet. And it just may very well make it easier for you to explain to your parents what you do by pointing them to any of these examples. Or, you could tell them to read this book.

Author Eliot Peper has masterfully created a three-part thriller that happens to be set against the backdrop of the startup world. Uncommon Stock follows young entrepreneur Mara Winkel as she navigates the startup terrain of pitch events, disappointed parents, business plans, and getting that first customer. Entrepreneurs will identify with and appreciate the advisory conversations that Mara has along the way, and might even tuck a nugget of wisdom away for later. But moreover, readers who love a good murder mystery are invited to start thinking about these things that startup founders deal with.

Announcing the Tech Startup Thriller Genre

I asked Peper whether he intended to weave so much startup advice into this series, especially in Version 1.0 and Power Play, books 1 and 2 of the set.

“If I had written a how-to for startups, I would need to list out all the lessons and then try to figure out how to patch them into a story. Instead, I wanted to give my audience a peek behind the curtain. This is far from being a how-to book. This is a thriller taking place in the startup world.”

Should founders be reading how-to books about startups, anyway?

“There are some great books,” Peper says, about how to run your startup. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a good one.” But he adds that his first foray into the writing world was intended to follow in the path of other thrillers that give you a look into interesting, complicated worlds.


“Jurassic Park received a lot of criticism, but it opens the reader up to this fascinating world of genetics and biology.” He also points out how John Grisham’s books definitely didn’t equip anyone to run a law office, but certainly offered an accessible look into the legal scene while telling a compelling, thrilling story.

Published by Brad Feld’s FG Press

The Uncommon Stock series was the first work of fiction to be published by Brad Feld’s publishing company, the FG Press. Brad Feld, who co-founded Techstars and runs VC firm Foundry Group, was the first fan of the series, completely excited about the idea of a tech startup thriller, and is quoted as saying that the story is “a gripping roller coaster ride through the world of tech entrepreneurship. Tears you out of your seat and into a brand new genre, the startup thriller.”

Peper, an emerging independent author, is no stranger to the startup world himself. He can claim the titles of startup founder, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, VC, and startup adviser; and in his time he has seen and heard the type of real-life stories that are too unbelievable to even be retold in a work of fiction.

Truth Can Be Stranger than Fiction

Fiction, however, is just what the most lovable character in the Uncommon Stock series recommends for entrepreneurs. In a speech that eschews books about entrepreneurship, Mara’s adviser and lead investor tells her:

“They should read science fiction, fantasy, or narrative nonfiction. They should read books that invite them to explore new worlds, imagine other realities, and think outside the box. Stories are the original form of virtual reality. They force you into extreme situations that you’ll never have to face in real life. But those simulations give you metaphors to deal with uncertainty. They let you peer into other people’s hearts and souls. Then you can draw your own damn conclusions.”

This advice resonates with me and I’ll pass it along to you: get started reading Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 and Power Play, and preorder Exit Strategy. You’re going to go on a hell of a wrenching journey as any good thriller promises, and I promise you that the “metaphors to deal with uncertainty” that you will pull out of it will enrich you for long after you’ve reached the end of it.

Image Credit: Flickr/Greta Ceresini



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Previously the Managing Editor at Tech.Co, Ann Diab has a background of launching and nurturing of startups and tech companies. Empowering and educating entrepreneurs and startups to better productivity and culture is her passion. Growth Manager at WorkingOn to enable folks all over the world to enjoy work and improve communication. Follow me on Twitter.

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