The Soul of an Entrepreneur
Work and Life Beyond the Startup Myth
We need entrepreneurs now more than ever, says David Sax. The award-winning business journalist has always worked for himself, and in fact, has spent the majority of his career writing about entrepreneurs of every type: from deli owners to hair stylists to rural farmers. His latest book, The Soul of an Entrepreneur, goes beyond the Silicon Valley start-up myth, in order to tell the real stories of small business owners who make up our economy. How can we support the everyday entrepreneur? Sax dives into the challenges, opportunities, and the long-forgotten human element of entrepreneurship.
“Sax is great company, a writer of real and lasting charm.”— The New York Times
In The Soul of an Entrepreneur, David Sax debunks the reigning Silicon Valley archetype that every business owner is measured up against. Becoming a successful entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to become the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, says Sax. Instead, he focuses on telling the real stories of everyday entrepreneurs —the local barbers, restaurants, family owned factories, and businesses small and large that hold our communities and economies together. For them, the current moment is a harrowing one. Many have been deemed non-essential and forced to close, while others are struggling to stay open in an unforgiving climate. Despite government aid, countless will not survive. Sax has always recognized the emotional and spiritual toll of being an entrepreneur—even during the best of times. His new talk considers how we can build the resilience needed to withstand the current crisis by offering lessons and stories from a diverse group of entrepreneurs. Perhaps even more importantly, Sax thinks about how we can ensure entrepreneurship is open and accessible to all—restoring the essential promise of our economy that everyone should have the opportunity to start a business if they want to. As Sax says, “We need to build a community of entrepreneurs who can lean on each other, learn from each other, and let one another know that while they may feel as though they are facing the world alone, their experience is shared, and in some way, their burden is too.”
In his previous book, the #1 Washington Post bestseller The Revenge of Analog, Sax explores the business story and cultural shift that occurred when digital upended every industry—and enabled a comeback for analog in the process. With common sense and uncommon charm, Sax is a chief chronicler of this resounding shift both on stage and in this acclaimed book, named one of the best of the year by The New York Times’ Chief Book Critic, Michiko Kakutani. He shows how digital’s one-size-fits-all promise is complemented and enhanced by a fusion of analog processes—and that this blend is most popular among companies that live and die by innovation. The Revenge of Analog has garnered enthusiastic praise for its blend of psychology, business sense, and old-fashioned reporting. Publishers Weekly calls it a book with “a calming effect, telling readers, one analog page at a time, that tangible goods, in all their reassuring solidity, are back and are not going anywhere.” Retailers and tech giants the world over are fusing screens with analog processes to boost creativity and outsmart the competition—and Sax has his finger on the pulse of what this means for the future of innovation.
A sophisticated analyst of major trends for consumers—and wider culture—Sax is also the author of two other fascinating accounts of pop culture and business. In The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up with Fondue, he argues that food trends are not only a collection of photos on Instagram—they have an everlasting effect on our culture, workforce, economy, health, and day-to-day lives. The New York Times calls it “a romp” through the food industry that will “leave readers wondering about how susceptible we are to the charms of any new food.” His first book, Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, won the James Beard Award for Writing and Literature. His other writing appears regularly in The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Yorker’s business blog, and LA Times, and he is a regular feature on CBC Radio and NPR.
Everyone wants to get their hands on that shiny new idea, the one that solves a unique problem, moves a million units, and inspires a miniseries. The problem, says David Sax, is that if you’re chasing the last bright shiny thing, you’re likely going to miss the solution you really need. In this vibrant and creativity-sparking talk, Sax threads together his knowledge of analog technology, food trends, and the myths of entrepreneurship to deliver an intrepid survey of innovation—and how it can really be pursued. He will share stories (sans rules, tips, and tricks) of agile innovators who looked to the moment and the medium, developing new ideas based on those calculations. As Sax colorfully explains, there’s lots to learn from the past: from analog to food trends to the myths and mistakes of entrepreneurship, we can create a truly innovative new future. Your audience will experience an incredibly entertaining synthesis of Sax’s areas of expertise—all of which come together to illuminate a brilliant and original approach to innovation that only Sax, with his lightning-quick wit, can deliver.
It’s now a cliché to announce that business and culture have moved to the digital realm. But while times have changed, the value of analog goods, ideas, and experiences has actually increased. With journalist David Sax, author of the critically acclaimed book The Revenge of Analog, you’ll discover why a return to analog might be a welcome shift—and best for business.
Vinyl records, notebooks, Polaroids, board games, and other seemingly obsolete products have seen robust growth in the last five years. Less efficient, more expensive goods are now coveted consumer items, largely sought out by millennials who want more than phones and apps, and are willing to pay for it. Analog goods offer tactility, authenticity, and emotional experiences that digital programs cannot; their inherent disadvantages are now their chief allure. But the revenge of analog also means we’re rediscovering the relationship between analog ideas and how we learn. Print publishing means better connections for readers, and a higher value for advertisers. Brick and Mortar retailers can deliver better profits than even the best ecommerce operations. Some of the most forward-thinking organizations embracing analog are actually based in digital technology—think Facebook, Google, Evernote, Yelp, and Pinterest, who’ve switched to paper, pen, whiteboards, and tech-free meetings to help employees retain information.
For students of culture, this talk explores the anthropological importance of analog experiences—how we’re also heading back for soulful, deeply human reasons beyond talk of sales. For analog-based companies, Sax’s message is a rallying call to rediscover their worth and potential. And for companies with a strong digital focus, this is a great opportunity to imagine new (and very old!) ways of embracing analog culture for hybridized success.