How should I get started in programming?
I like PHP and recommend:
- PHP Stream on CodeCademy
- PHP Academy on Youtube
- Getting Good With PHP by Andrew Burgess
- PHP 5 Power Programming by Andi Gutmans, Stig Bakken and Derick Rethans
- PHP Cookbook by Adam Trachtenberg
- Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
- CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
- The Zen and Tao of Programming by Geoffrey James
- Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction by Steve McConnell
Then going and building stuff. There are few substitutes for learning than building your own programs.
How should I get started in startups?
Excluding actually starting one, the best startup resources I’ve come across to date are:
- Paul Graham Essays
- The First Round Review
- Peter Thiel’s CS183 Master Class
- Essay Archive of Marc Andreeson
- How to Build a Startup Course by Steve Blank
- Pocket MBA by the New York Times
- YCombinator’s CS183B How to Start a Startup Class
- The Harvard Business Review
Collectively, they are probably the closest thing to an education in company building and should be read comprehensively. The best part is they are free or cheap.
What are you working on?
I’m working on quite a few things. A software startup that is a few websites; Lawyer, a legal directory and documents business; Medicine, a medical software business and online pharmacy; Surgery, a surgical directory. A real estate development company, SR Developments and some venture work with governments or other startups as Hummingbird Ventures.
Why don’t you drop out of university?
My grandfather grew up in a slum in India. He wasn’t a smart man but worked hard, studied and became a doctor. Education was his weapon of upward mobility and how he fought his way out of poverty. It would be deeply generationally insulting for me not to get a degree.
I don’t think you need to drop out of university to succeed and build a great company, even though it is a time sink. I’m firmly in the grow slowly and organically so am optimising not for speed and immediacy but endurance and longevity.
Edit: I have since graduated with a Comp Sci undergrad and an MBA.
How do we get you to speak at an event?
Send me an email. I’m happy to most of the time unless super busy. Let me know 2 weeks in advance with the topic you’d like me to speak about so I can prepare a talk. The only condition is I’d like to talk about something new, not redeliver an old essay. At the moment, I don’t charge a speaking fee but if I have to travel to deliver it, would appreciate if expenses are covered or a stipend is provided.
Can we take you out for coffee?
Sure, send me an email. I’m happy to meet with anyone but I apologise in advance if I’m too busy. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and that happens. Please have everything you wish to say pre-prepared as I’ve found that’s the best way to get maximum utility of the time spent.
Can we use one of your essays?
Everything on the site is released under an Attribution Creative Commons licence and is free and open for use for whatever purposes. Please keep them intact and link back to the original.
Why did you stop being an artist?
The long answer is because I didn’t really like it and to focus on other things. The short answer is I was fired by my management for not making them enough money which coincided with an increasing disinterest in the field.
What are the most influential books you’d recommend?
These are books I walked away from completely electrified or feeling like I’d understood something profoundly important and hard to learn that shapes the way you think.
- Hover Car Racer by Matthew Reilly
- Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton
- The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger by Charlie Munger
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Mastery, 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction and 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene
- How To Get Rich by Felix Dennis
- Founders at Work: Stories of Startups Early Days by Jessica Livingston
- Zen Koan, 101 Zen Stories and Tales of Old Japan
- The Making of Modern Medicine by Andrew Cunningham and Michael Bliss
- Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- A Short History of Financial Euphoria by John Kenneth Galbraith
- How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton M. Christensen
- The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
- The Beginner’s Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize: Advice for Young Scientists by Peter Doherty
- Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury
- Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
- Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
- Predictably Irrational, The Upside to Irrationality and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely
- Anti-Fragile and Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- DC and Marvel Graphic Audios by the Cutting Corporation
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- The Business of Venture Capital: Insights from Leading Practitioners on the Art of Raising a Fund, Deal Structuring, Value Creation, and Exit Strategies by Mahendra Ramsinghani
- How the Mighty Fall, Good to Great, Great by Choice and Made to Last by Jim Collins
- Ideas and The Modern Mind by Peter Watson
How do you help companies? Will you help ours?
Initially I used to try my best to help anyone that asked. But due to the high volume, I’ve had to set a fee available here: Hummingbird Ventures. They largely fall into two categories:
For a young startup most of what I do is crisis counseling with founders, brainstorming ideas and strategy, being a confidant and using their product then sending huge essay-length emails with detailed feedback on ways to improve. It’s like hiring an advisor.
For a big corporate, mid-sized company or NGO, most of what I do is figuring out the cheapest or most impactful way of accomplishing their goals and deciphering what they are, giving thoughts and insights on important topics, distilling bureaucracy and ideas into something actionable or helping fix some major problem they’re facing. It’s like hiring a consultant.
In nearly every case, I hesitate to call them clients, have said it was an excellent decision and saved a lot of money and heartache in the long run.