After you soak them in red ink a few years, high-technology companies do tend to lose their gleam and luster. But the ink does turn black for some high-technology aspirants, and if you want to understand what makes them different from the rest -- and how venture capitalists determine which ones are worth the risk -- it would be difficult to do much better than these two books.
"Marketing High Technology" and "Raising Venture Capital and the Entrepreneur" are pleasant alternatives to most "how-to" business books, which usually combine simplistic generalities with an unerring taste for cliche.
Indeed, what makes these books genuinely appealing is that they convey the quick-step style of the high-tech world as well as the insights about what makes technology companies work.
Davidow, once Intel's senior vice president of sales and marketing and now a venture capitalist, offers a particularly useful framework for understanding why most high-technology companies flame out rather than take off. He makes the point that most technology companies create "devices," not "products."
That's a subtle distinction and one much more useful than the industry cliche about companies being "technology driven" rather than "marketing driven."
Why? Because all technology companies are, to differing degrees, driven by both technology and marketing. The difficulty is in determining at what point a device, which performs a useful function cost-effectively, is positioned in the customer's mind as being a genuine product, something that fulfills an unmet need.
Davidow's theme is that "marketing must invent complete products and drive them to commanding positions in defensible market segments."
Students of marketing will recognize many themes from Harvard Business School's Ted Levitt in this book -- but they will see them, crisply and anecdotally, in a context that makes the challenge of succeeding in high-technology markets easier to appreciate. Indeed, stock market investors curious about whether to put their money into the high-tech horse race will learn what marketing measures to apply in their investment search.
By contrast, Batterson, a venture capitalist for Allstate Insurance Co., offers a high-tech view from the "start-up" angle. "Raising Venture Capital," unlike the usual get-rich-quick-with-a-business-plan books, reads like a rambling monologue on what venture capitalists do, what they try to do and what they think they're doing.
Batterson underscores the importance of knowing the difference between venture capitalists, who are simply concerned with getting returns on their investment, and those who are intrigued with the chance to "build a company" in partnership with the entrepreneur.
Similarly, he gives the harsh venture capitalist assessment of entrepreneurs who are driven more by ego than achievement.
The book will give the aspiring entrepreneur very precise ideas and instructions on how to manage venture capitalist expectations. Batterson has a lot of stories to tell and tells them well.
On the other hand, the book adheres a little too closely to its title -- it gives very little insight on what the next steps are should efforts to procure venture funds succeed. Batterson does not adequately bridge the task of raising money for a company -- and what that takes -- with the task of creating a corporate structure that can successfully use the new funds.
But even the casual/curious reader will come away from this book with a solid appreciation of what it takes to convince people to take a chance on a new idea and put real money into it.