Cynthia Kocialski – Startup from the Ground Up

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My book is Startup from the Ground Up: Practical Insights for Transforming an Idea into a Business. It’s a non-fiction book. Its purpose is to tell those people considering becoming an entrepreneur what they need to know in order to have a chance at succeeding.

If you ask first time entrepreneurs what it takes to create a start-up, most will tell you a great product idea. Founders are sure once they talk to an investor, they will fall in love with the product idea and fund the company. But the most important success factor for start-ups is NOT the product. The product is the heart of the company, its reason for the existence. A heart does not make a human being, and a start-up’s success hinges upon everything else.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a geek – a computer and electrical engineer by training. I grew up in upstate New York. I went to the University of Rochester and the University of Virginia. I’ve lived in New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami and San Francisco.
I love all those technical gadgets and gizmos. I have always been more fascinated by the business of technology than the technology itself. I prefer life outside the cubicle rather than inside it.

I have founded three companies – all technology companies. I have worked with dozens of start-up companies, and have seen them be created and build from the inside out.

What inspired you to write this book?

At about the same point in time, several friends and colleagues told me I should write a book. My first thought was “What would I write about?” Then it suddenly occurred to me that people like to hear me talk about all those start-ups I’ve been involve with. That was my topic, so I decided to write about start-ups.

How did you choose the title?

I used online surveys with readers to determine the title. First, I decided what search keywords potential readers would use to search. I surveyed what books came up on Amazon and BN with those keywords. From studying those titles, I came up with a few titles I liked. Then I conducted a couple online surveys. I gave the people involved in the study a short description of the book and asked them to suggest titles. Finally, I took my titles, the survey respondents’ titles, plus some of the most popular books on my subject, and conducted another survey. I asked people to pick which title they liked best and why.

The “why” was the most fascinating of the results – why they picked the title they liked. Sometimes they add which title they really disliked and why. Overwhelming, respondents said they didn’t like words that made a promise that the book couldn’t keep – like read this and become successful.

The audience didn’t like any of my titles. They chose one I received from the survey.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

The biggest obstacle was in figuring out what to write. Although I knew I wanted to write about start-ups, I didn’t have a specific idea. So I started a blog on the topic. I wrote about a wide range of issues. Eventually, I got a feel for what readers wanted to read.

Then I did some research and found what had been the more popular books on the topic, and I read their reviews on Amazon. I paid a lot of attention to the best and worst reviews.

Suddenly the light bulb went on, and I had the outline for the book. When I first started writing this book, I was going to write an e-book. But I kept on writing and writing, and the e-book turned into the book.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

Never in a million years would I have ever anticipated being a writer. I used to write the occasional technical article or white paper, but nothing regular.

My mother was in her 80’s by the time my oldest child was born. I lived on the opposite side of the country from my mother and she couldn’t travel. She loved to hear about what the kids were doing on a daily basis, so I got in the habit of writing and sending pictures to her over email. My mom loved the Internet.

And from there, the writing just moved into my professional life where I started writing more on emerging technologies and then on the companies that brought these technologies into the market place.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I am definitely a morning writer. I will wake in the middle of the night with a great thought and I immediately get up and search for my laptop.

I have am a geek and have been using computers most of my life. I cannot write without a keyboard, the words don’t seem to flow if I use paper and pen.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Writing a book is a lot like the topic of my book. If you think of the book as the product, the first task was to better define what customers wanted and then define the book from there. And while it took a long time for me to research and write the book, that wasn’t the hard part. Like a product, the more difficult part is the marketing. For most companies, marketing a product is one to two times as much effort as the design and making of the product, and this seems to be holding true for my book as a product as well.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would get the marketing effort started earlier. Since I self-published my book, I didn’t have a specific publication date. Without a date, I didn’t set up the promotion until later than I should have.

When my e-book became a book, I contacted some people who had self-published and some who had gone through a publisher. I am impatient and wasn’t willing to add the time needed to try the publisher path and honestly, I couldn’t see a great value add for the publisher approach. Although next time, I would like to investigate traditional publishing more.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I like to read self-published business book a lot because I am usually looking for answers or new ideas for my professional work. They are not the best written in terms of the language, but they usually provide the most useful and practical advice.

Some of my favorite books and authors are

Pietra Rivoli – The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy
Malcolm Gladwell – Tipping Point and Breaking Point
Seth Godin – Purple Cow
Harry Beckwith – Selling the Invisible
Mitch Joel – Six Pixels of Separation

For pleasure, I like to read mysteries or historical novels.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

No, not yet, but I do have a book idea. First, I need to concentrate of marketing this one.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Think about how you are going to the marketing the book early – not just a vague notion, but the details of how you are going to do it. Writers don’t write book so no one will read them, you want people to read and like them too.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Someone looking to start a technology company and is a first time entrepreneur.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

I write about start-ups at the Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog at www.cynthiakocialski.com/blog.

I also have a Facebook page that has quick insightful nuggets about start-ups as well as industry news at www.facebook.com/startupfromthegroundup