It is always fascinating to read about the journey of ultra-successful entrepreneurs, especially their thought processes and approaches they used to create and scale global businesses. When that person is a two-time ‘unicorn’ builder, the interest is heightened. (Lightning never strikes twice at the same place kind of phenomenon). And when you discover that the entrepreneur is not from the usual suspect, the US, but from one of the smaller countries in the world, Israel, then it is perhaps more relevant for entrepreneurs from upcoming start-up hubs like India.

Uri Levine, an entrepreneur and disruptive innovator, is the co-founder of Waze, the world’s largest community-based driving traffic and navigation app, which was acquired by Google for $1.1 billion in 2013, and former investor and board member in Moovit, aka ‘Waze of public transportation’, which was acquired by Intel for $1 billion in 2020. He has been associated with the creation of over a dozen start-ups, and has seen failure to middling success, to resounding success. He is known for building the first unicorn in Israel

He has now written this book, Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution: A Handbook for Entrepreneurs, based on his experience of creating, scaling and building Waze and other start-ups, which claims to be the ‘ultimate practical guide to starting and running a business’ virtually from idea to exit. On his website, Levine says, “The book also provides an inside look at the creation and sale of Waze and my second unicorn, Moovit, revealing the formula that drove those companies to compete with industry giants.”

What Levine has done is organise the wisdom he has obtained over the years into chapters based on specific areas, such as: firing and hiring; raising funding; understanding your users; reaching product market fit; scaling-up; going global; exit or deciding when to sell.

Certain readers can benefit from reading a specific chapter given the specific stage in their entrepreneurial journey (for example, those looking at raising money can head to chapter 5A on fundraising, while those looking to sell their company might dive straight into Chapter 12 — The Exit). My recommendation is that start-up entrepreneurs would benefit more from reading the book in its entirety once and then refer back to any particular chapter(s) when those specific issues come up in their business.

For me, it was a refreshing reminder of how defining the core problem leads to better answers than getting stuck on the solution one has arrived at. Years ago, in businessline, I had written an article, ‘In the problem lies the answer’, stressing on the need to get a firm grip on the problem one is trying to solve. Levine keeps that as the focus and urges entrepreneurs to use an innovation mindset to solve customer problems as also keep improving the experience and value for the customer.

Practical tips

Each chapter offers very practical, action-oriented tips; at the end, in fact, Levine helpfully provides his ‘Startips’. For the couple of early stage entrepreneurs I showed the book to, the chapters on ‘understanding the user’ ‘product market fit’ and ‘firing and hiring’ were the most educating and informative. In fact, the chapter ‘firing and hiring’ evoked some shock for the clarity with which Levine talks about the need to fire people fast! Levine is brutally frank on page 157, “Earlier in this book, I wrote that a start-up that doesn’t figure out PMF (product-market fit) will die. The second reason a start-up may die is because of the team’s or more to the point, the CEO’s ability to make hard decisions.”

Based on my own journey as an entrepreneur and thereafter as an investor-advisor to start-ups, I can say he has given a pretty accurate perspective of the roller-coaster journey of an enterprise — the various phases, the hard challenges that are faced especially in the early days, the crisis situations, the shifting priorities and, most of all, the constant struggle an entrepreneur has with uncertainty and doubt. And the not-so-surprising reality that the only thing that helps the entrepreneur prevail is an unshakeable belief, the grit to persevere against all odds and the deep desire to make a real impact.

Useful guide

The book is easy to read, written in simple, jargon-free language by and large, structured well and, overall, can be a useful guide to a freshly minted entrepreneur or one who is interested in starting the journey, or anyone else who wants to get a better idea of the reality confronting entrepreneurs and not get misled by the hype around valuations or eye-popping exits.

Would I say that I found new insights? Not really; it was more an affirmation of what I have learnt from my own lived experiences as an entrepreneur and subsequently, as an investor-advisor-educator. Plus, it serves as a useful reminder to keep an enterprise’s and entrepreneur’s focus on generating true value especially for users, and exhorts founders to keep the faith and forge ahead on this tough and, often, lonely journey despite the many challenges.

The reviewer is an IIMA alumnus of the 1983 batch and an entrepreneur, advisor and angel investor

Check out the book on Amazon

Title: Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution: A Handbook for Entrepreneurs

Author: Uri Levine

Publisher: Matt Holt

Price: ₹460