For more than two decades now, my Category Design Advisors partner Kevin Maney has been writing books that have won fans in the technology industry and influenced the way tech companies work and think.
The latest acknowledgment of that comes from Sequoia Capital, one of the most powerful venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. This month, the firm published a post titled “Summer Reading List: 7 Books On Our Nightstand.” Along with books like the Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and the all-time classic The Power Broker by Robert Caro, Sequoia listed Play Bigger, the book Maney wrote along with Christopher Lochhead, Dave Peterson and Al Ramadan. The book introduced the concept of category design, and gave birth to CDA. In fact, Sequoia and a number of other VC firms tend to have copies of Play Bigger around their offices, and encourage founders of portfolio companies to read it.
A few summers before, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz, ran through his summer reading list for Quartz. Along with classics such as Crossing the Chasm and The Innovator’s Dilemma, Andreessen put on the list The Maverick and His Machine, Maney’s biography of Thomas Watson Sr., who built IBM in the first half of the twentieth century. (You may think of IBM as an ancient giant, but it was once a scrappy start-up, too.)
Go back to summer of 2009, and Jim Collins, author of the mega-hit Good to Great, published a long piece about Maney’s book Trade-Off. He wrote that the book’s core concepts aligned well with the discoveries he’d published in Good to Great and Built to Last. (Trade-Off sold decently in the U.S., finding an audience on Wall Street, but it sold really well in Japan.)
Maney’s other books have also become part of the conversation in technology and other industries. In 2018, his book Unscaled, written with General Catalyst partner Hemant Taneja, detailed how artificial intelligence and other technologies we’re inventing will transform major industries. Maney’s book The Two-Second Advantage, co-authored with Vivek Ranadive (then CEO of TIBCO), explored the intersection of neuroscience and computer science and showed what AI would become years before the technology made its way into the mainstream.
Go all the way back to 1995, and Maney’s first book, Megamedia Shakeout, looked into what will happen as all media goes digital. It was the first book on that topic to hit the market, and it came out just as the web took off. Maney quickly found himself in boardrooms and in front of thousands at industry conventions, talking about the ideas in the book.
Maney now spends most of his time with CDA, helping companies design and capture new market categories. But he’s not done writing. In fact, he’s back at work on another book that’s expected to come out next summer. Maybe it will make some reading lists then.