Book Summary of Reboot By Jodie Fox

“Reboot” is Jodie Fox’s memoir of her experiences as an entrepreneur building a successful shoe business called Shoes of Prey. She provides valuable advice on navigating the challenges of building a global business and emphasizes the value of owning a business, even if it fails.

Reboot by Jodie Fox offers valuable insights into the challenges of building a global business. The book covers topics such as choosing a business idea, navigating cultural differences, creating a healthy company culture, and managing mental health as a business owner. It uses examples from Fox’s experiences with Shoes of Prey and includes perspectives from other successful entrepreneurs. The book also offers tips on supporting employees and managing mental health in business.

Lesson #1: Getting Your Business Started

To expand on Fox’s approach to finding a new career path, here are some additional tips to consider. First, reach out to professionals outside your existing network and consider job shadowing to gain hands-on experience.

Take online assessments to identify your skills, interests, and values to help build your career wishlist. Keep in mind that it’s okay if you can’t find a perfect match initially because research suggests that passion for a career can develop over time. Don’t hesitate to pursue a job that only fulfills some of your passions as it may become more satisfying with time.

Turn Your Idea Into a Business

Inspired by her personal experience designing shoes at a Hong Kong market stall, Jodie Fox and her co-founders launched Shoes of Prey. The website allowed women to design and order custom shoes, replicating and scaling the unique and fashionable experience of owning one-of-a-kind footwear.

Finding the Target Community for Your Business

Entrepreneurs often start their businesses to solve problems they encounter as consumers. Jodie Fox founded Shoes of Prey to provide affordable and fashionable custom shoe options. Sahil Lavingia expands on this concept in “The Minimalist Entrepreneur,” emphasizing the importance of identifying a problem and target community when starting a business. To find potential communities, individuals should start with their interests and social groups, joining relevant communities to better understand their needs. For those looking to move from idea to execution, Fox offers valuable tips.

Tip #1: Research Potential Competitors

Fox and her team researched competitors and found only one with a poor customer experience, while Nike’s successful sneaker customization service indicated a market for shoe customization. Fox advises conducting research to see if a business idea has already been executed well.

Shoes of Prey’s niche of affordable, high-fashion shoe customization for women has not been filled since the company closed. While other companies offer customization options for athletic shoes and sneakers, the challenge of manufacturing unique shoes while offering countless design possibilities limits scalability opportunities.

Tip #2: Create and Test a Prototype Product

To validate a business idea and maintain a positive mindset, Fox recommends simplifying the product and testing it with target customers. The Design Sprint process by Jake Knapp is an effective way to gather feedback quickly, as it involves developing a prototype and testing it within a structured and collaborative five-day workweek. This process provides valuable insights without spending excessive time or money on product development.

Find Your Suppliers

Fox suggests that finding suppliers can be difficult, especially for businesses that require manufacturing. To overcome this challenge, Fox and her team returned to Hong Kong to meet with owners of stores similar to where they had originally designed their shoes. Initially, many suppliers were hesitant to work with Shoes of Prey due to their unique manufacturing needs.

However, when the 2008 global financial crisis caused a slowdown in large factory orders, the suppliers were willing to take a chance on Shoes of Prey. Fox recommends finding suppliers online through business websites like LinkedIn, attending industry events to see manufacturers’ samples, and researching suppliers of brands that make similar products.

How to Evaluate Potential Suppliers

Choosing the right supplier is crucial for any business, especially when specific needs must be met. Shoes of Prey prioritized finding suppliers who could handle small orders. When selecting a supplier, factors such as cost, reliability, and location should be considered. Reliability is important to ensure timely delivery of quality goods, and location can affect shipping times and environmental impact. While international suppliers worked for Shoes of Prey, it presented challenges. Ultimately, choosing the right supplier requires careful consideration of your business’s needs.

Lesson #2: Navigating Cultural Differences in an International Business

To run an international business successfully, it’s vital to understand cultural differences. Fox highlights the significance of everyday cultural differences and specific considerations when working with different cultures. Hiring local employees and meeting the expectations of customers are also important. Understanding cultural differences helps build long-term, trusting relationships with global partners. You can take a college course on cultural awareness or use apps like Duolingo to learn another language.

Be Aware of Everyday Differences and Special Considerations

Fox stresses the importance of cultural awareness when working with international suppliers, as ignorance of cultural differences can result in misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and strained relationships. For instance, in China, appearance is important to convey success, and Fox realized that dressing well was important to her suppliers. As a result, she started wearing more expensive clothing and jewelry to meetings to signal that Shoes of Prey was a serious business. Adapting to cultural differences is vital in establishing successful international business relationships.

How to Dress for Success in International Business

Understanding cultural differences is crucial for successful international business relationships. This includes being aware of everyday cultural differences and specific considerations such as holidays. Fox learned this lesson when she misjudged her appearance and failed to consider Chinese New Year’s impact on her business relationships.

To prevent similar mistakes, it’s important to research appropriate business attire and important holidays. Additionally, integrating international holidays into your corporate structure can promote a respectful culture. Erin Meyer’s method for measuring cultural differences can make understanding these differences easier.

Hire Employees Local to the Other Country

Fox and her co-founders recognized the significance of local employees in working with international partners to navigate language barriers and cultural differences. These employees can fulfill diverse roles, including liaising with employment agencies, establishing a local office, handling shipping and packing, and maintaining communication with suppliers for seamless operations and quality control.

Hiring reliable and open-minded local staff is crucial to ensure a clear understanding of your international operations. Consider enlisting the help of recruitment experts to find the right candidates for these positions.

How to Hire Employees in Another Country

Fox and her co-founders faced a challenge in hiring local employees in China due to unfamiliar legal and logistical processes. They learned that there are three options: setting up a branch or subsidiary, hiring international workers as independent contractors, or partnering with an Employee of Record (EOR).

Each option has its own benefits and considerations, with the first being the best for those establishing a physical presence, the second offering flexibility but requiring understanding of the country’s regulations, and the third being a quick and easy solution with an established entity in the country.

Understand the Needs of International Customers

Understanding cultural differences is important when communicating with customers in new markets. Different countries have varying customer service expectations, and adjustments may be necessary to meet these expectations. For instance, Shoes of Prey partnered with someone who understood Japanese culture to handle the elaborate packaging process, which enhances the customer’s experience.

Moreover, cultural distinctions affect customer satisfaction research, as the most valuable information comes from underlying assumptions that contribute to customer ratings. Companies should pay attention to these assumptions to better connect with customers in different countries.

Lesson #3: Making Big Decisions

Fox’s third lesson at Shoes of Prey was making decisions in uncertainty. This causes stress for entrepreneurs, activating the amygdala and reducing activity in the striatal system. To combat this, Fox moved forward before feeling ready, chose the best possible solution, and kept solutions simple. Shoes of Prey found asking for regular shoe size was more accurate than elaborate foot measurements. Fox followed the KISS principle, advocating simplicity in decision-making.

Lesson #4: Creating a Strong Company Culture

Fox’s advice for building a strong and positive company culture involves clear policies, expectations, and support for employees during times of transition. In addition to this, she has also shared tips on overcoming decision paralysis.

Set Up Structure and Expectations

Fox learned the importance of establishing clear policies and structures early on to create expectations for employees at Shoes of Prey. HR policies create a common set of expectations and standards of acceptable behavior, ensuring legal compliance and protecting against litigation.

When Shoes of Prey moved to the US in 2015, they hired an HR manager who created policies to support the growing team, including employee surveys, training sessions, and clear promotion tracks. These measures improve employee satisfaction and retention.

Provide Support During Difficult Times

Fox stresses the significance of supporting employees during challenging transitions to foster a positive company culture. When Shoes of Prey relocated from Australia to the United States, they offered their employees the option to move and provided resources such as administrative checklists and temporary housing. This support helps alleviate stress and promote a smoother transition for employees.

More Ways to Support Employees During a Move

Additional tips to support employees during a company relocation include informing them as early as possible, seeking their input on the new location, offering opportunities to visit, providing information about the area, and offering assistance such as finding a new residence, granting time off, flexible hours during the move, and relocation bonuses. These measures can help employees prepare for the move and facilitate a smoother transition.

Example #2: When the Company Is Struggling

In the final months of Shoes of Prey, Fox supported her employees by holding regular meetings to discuss the company’s financial situation and reduced employee hours instead of deferring their salaries.

She also provided opportunities for employees to find other jobs, sending their names to other companies and offering references. If your company faces a similar situation, it’s crucial to communicate openly with employees and provide support such as reduced hours, severance pay, and utilizing state workforce agencies if applicable.

Lesson #5: Dealing With Mental Health Struggles as a Business Owner

In this section, we will discuss ways to care for yourself as a business owner based on Fox’s experiences. We’ll cover strategies for dealing with imposter syndrome, as well as mental health challenges like depression and burnout that can occur when building a business. We’ll share some of the lessons Fox learned and provide guidance on how you can manage your own well-being as an entrepreneur.

Managing Imposter Syndrome

Fox battled imposter syndrome, despite the success of Shoes of Prey, feeling insufficient as a business owner. She believed that any challenge she couldn’t comprehend was proof of her incompetence. To counteract these emotions, she wrote down one positive accomplishment each day and documented her successes in a spreadsheet. When she encountered feelings of inadequacy, she referred to her achievements as proof of her competence.

How to Combat Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is prevalent in the business world and beyond, causing self-doubt and hindering individuals from acknowledging their accomplishments. While keeping a success log is helpful, it’s crucial to address negative thought patterns. To overcome imposter syndrome, individuals should recognize when these feelings arise, reframe negative thoughts, talk to others, and view failures as opportunities for growth.

Managing Depression and Burnout

Fox experienced burnout and depression during her time at Shoes of Prey due to neglecting her personal life and health. Burnout is prevalent among entrepreneurs due to financial concerns, work-life imbalance, and daily stressors, with over 60% experiencing it. While taking time off is the best solution, it’s not always possible. Fox suggests combating burnout by prioritizing quality sleep, spending time with loved ones, pursuing passions, and being in nature.

Strategies for Improving Your Mental Health

Fox discovered the importance of balancing her mental health with running a business. To manage her struggles, she found solace in trusted healthcare professionals, a supportive community, and hobbies outside of work. During the company’s collapse, her community proved to be a valuable resource. Seeking help from professionals and developing a supportive network can benefit those dealing with mental health challenges. Engaging in hobbies outside of work is also important.

Book Summary of The Cold Start Problem By Andrew Chen

In “The Cold Start Dilemma,” Andrew Chen provides a step-by-step guide for creating a successful tech firm from scratch while utilizing the network effect. Chen explains five stages of expanding a tech firm, drawing on interviews with over 100 successful entrepreneurs.

“The Cold Start Problem” by Andrew Chen presents a five-stage plan for building a thriving tech startup through the network effect. The stages involve creating and replicating a subnetwork, accelerating growth, overcoming negative growth, and fending off competition. Chen also offers guidance on marketing, user incentives, and profitability.


Background: What Is a Network-Based Business? 

A network-based business is a product or service that gains value as more people use it, and it involves interactions between users. The more users a network-based product or service has, the more valuable it is to each individual user. Examples of network-based tech products include social media platforms, online marketplaces, and multiplayer video games.

These businesses take advantage of the network effect to expand quickly and profit from the user data they collect, an endlessly valuable resource.

Step #1: Create Your First Subnetwork

To create a business at a massive scale, the first step is to create a functional and small network, called a subnetwork, that is as small as possible. The size of the network required to meet the threshold for functionality will differ for different types of businesses.

Chen advises starting with a productive subnetwork and progressively growing it over time. Compared to attempting to establish a huge, dominant network all at once, this is far simpler. You may finally develop a huge and successful network by building innumerable separate but connected subnetworks.

Counterpoint: Prioritize Speed Over Stability 

The writers of Blitzscaling dispute with Chen’s advice to give stability priority in the early stages of a business, contending that a company might achieve quick development by forgoing stability, becoming the first major player in a new industry. Being the early market leader has benefits, such as luring top people and investors, which makes it challenging for rival companies to compete.

Here are a few tips for how to get your first subnetwork up and running.

Tip #1: Attract a Group of Users All at Once

Chen suggests that you should persuade a number of users to join a subnetwork at once in order to fast establish network stability. The “Tipping Point” is the quantity of users needed, depending on the product, to establish a working subnetwork. Users will frequently use your product and could recommend it to others after you reach subnetwork stability, providing you a steady or expanding user base.

But, if a subnetwork lacks sufficient users to become stable, its sparse user base will leave the broken system, causing the subnetwork to disintegrate. A specific subnetwork’s size isn’t the sole criteria in determining its viability because certain people’s influence, such as that of “Connectors,” might have a disproportionately large impact.

Tip #2: Target a Niche Group (at First)

According to Chen, a product should be made for a particular user group, such as an online community or event attendees, to ensure that it meets their needs and gives consumers someone with whom to communicate in order to maintain subnetwork stability. By doing this, a reliable subnetwork may be created, making future network expansion simpler.

The secret to creating a successful business is to target a certain market first before broadening it later. No network is too tiny, according to Chen, as long as it is reliable, although Moore suggests concentrating on markets that are lucrative enough to support growth. Network effects will occur after you draw in enough subnetworks of specialized users, making your network valuable enough to draw in a larger audience.

Moore advises creating a product for a niche market since a smaller market is simpler to control and profitable. This is due to the fact that specialized markets are closely knit together, which makes it simpler for a solid product to develop momentum and become well-known.

In contrast, competitive mainstream marketplaces make it challenging for startups to compete with well-established networks that cater to a broad audience. Startups may entice whole subnetworks away from rivals and compete with market leaders by focusing on an underserved segment and developing a product that uniquely caters to that group.

Geoffrey Moore suggests that targeting a niche audience can help startups gain a foothold in a market and achieve profitability. Niche markets facilitate better communication among users, allowing word-of-mouth promotion. Additionally, startups can disrupt larger networks by developing products specifically tailored to underserved niche markets.

Big corporations often ignore niche markets because they may not generate enough profit to justify the investment needed to meet their specific requirements. In contrast, startups can use this to their advantage by focusing on niche markets. Clayton Christensen’s book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, delves into the reasons why bigger companies tend to avoid competing in these markets.

Tip #3: Keep the Product Simple

Chen advises that to create a successful and expanding subnetwork, startups should focus on designing a product that performs one function perfectly and is easy to understand and use. By keeping the product simple, it becomes easier to attract and retain users, expand the network, and increase its value. Users are more likely to share a product that is simple to explain and understand.

Donald Miller advises that creating a customer-focused story can be the basis of all your brand messaging for a simple product, helping your audience understand what it is, how to use it, and how to explain it to others. The story should identify the customer’s needs, describe how your product can help them overcome a problem, and empower them to achieve their goals. With a simplified marketing message, customers can be compelled to take action and engage with your product.

A story-based marketing approach communicates essential product information, leading to growth. By focusing on what customers want and how the product solves their problem, the messaging catches their attention and encourages them to engage. This approach promotes network growth as customers internalize and share the brand’s story, filtering out irrelevant information and focusing on what’s necessary to improve their lives.

Tip #4: Cater to Your Difficult-to-Attract Users

Successful products and services that serve two-sided markets like online marketplaces, rideshare apps, and social networks require the ability to attract and serve both sides equally. However, one side, known as the “Hard Side,” can be more challenging to attract, causing network instability.

To address this, it’s crucial to design your product with a deep understanding of the Hard Side’s needs, behavior, and incentives. Providing value to both sides and constantly improving the user experience through feedback loops is key to overcoming this challenge, according to Chen.

Appealing to hard-to-reach users is essential for network stability, but it’s only one bottleneck that could limit growth. To maintain steady growth, it’s crucial to identify and tackle each bottleneck one at a time. If attracting hard-to-reach users isn’t enough to drive growth, then it’s time to identify and address new bottlenecks.

Step #2: Repeatedly Replicate That Subnetwork

To achieve exponential growth, it’s important to repeat the process of building subnetworks. As you establish more subnetworks, the next one becomes easier to build, leading to the Growth Explosion. During this phase, cost-effective strategies aren’t necessary, and unprofitable ones can help you dominate the market quickly.

Chen advises prioritizing profits after achieving the Growth Explosion stage, but several tech giants with millions of users remain unprofitable, raising concerns about a potential tech bubble. Despite this, investors are still pouring billions into startups, and the market continues to value growth over profits.

Chen recommends developing a replicable process for launching new subnetworks. The following sections outline various strategies that can be utilized to expand the product’s reach to new subnetworks, which can be phased out after achieving growth. A combination of these strategies can be employed to determine the most effective approach.

Strategy #1: Pay Users to Use Your Product

Chen advises having a replicable process for launching new subnetworks, with various strategies to spread the product to new users. Paying users to complete tasks or offering a free product with premium features can be effective but may require outside investment and sacrificing control.

Strategy #2: Artificially Inflate Your Network

Chen suggests a strategy to boost early growth, which involves temporarily increasing the network’s size by having employees participate in it. For example, hosting gaming events to create a more active network for a board game app. However, it’s important to avoid misrepresenting the network’s size to investors, which can damage trust and potentially lead to fraud accusations.

Strategy #3: Only Let Users Join by Invitation

Chen suggests three strategies for launching new sub-networks: paying or offering the product for free to attract users, temporarily participating in the network to inflate its value, and limiting users to those with an invitation from an existing user. These strategies aim to create lasting and stable sub-networks, increasing the likelihood of long-term success.

Step #3: Streamline and Accelerate Growth

Chen suggests three strategies for launching new subnetworks: paying users, participating in the network yourself, and making the product invite-only. The Growth Explosion stage will be reached after successfully launching enough subnetworks, where the network effect will accelerate growth to challenge market leaders. Chen advises focusing on refining the product to amplify the network effect at this stage. However, rapid expansion can distract from providing the best possible product to existing customers. The network effect drives growth by attracting new users, retaining existing users, and profiting more from them.

Goal #1: Optimize Network Growth

Chen suggests that a bigger user base facilitates word-of-mouth advertising and that companies should enhance their product by adding features that organically expand the network, such as enabling users to share content beyond the app. To encourage users to share the product, companies can make it captivating or exclusive, offering social currency.

Goal #2: Optimize Network Preservation

Chen says that having a larger user base allows for more data collection, which can be used to improve the product and retain users. By identifying the most engaged users and analyzing their behavior, businesses can make targeted changes to keep them interested. For example, a board game app could add a “discover new games” feature to encourage users to play more games and increase retention.

A Low-Budget Alternative: Conversations With Customers

To improve your product without analyzing data, you can gather valuable information by speaking directly with customers about their past behavior rather than opinions or predictions. In his book, The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick recommends asking objective questions, such as when customers last used your app and which social network they used before yours, to gain insights that can inform product development and make it more engaging.

Goal #3: Optimize Network Monetization

Chen states that more users can benefit your product in three ways: attracting more users, providing more data for analysis, and increasing revenue. Offering premium features that become more valuable as the network grows can incentivize users to pay for them, optimizing network monetization.

Don’t Stress Out About Raising Your Prices

Chris Guillebeau suggests that as your startup grows, raising prices is reasonable, but many small business owners fear losing customers. However, customers expect occasional price increases and it can boost profits without significant customer loss. Guillebeau also advises offering premium and super-premium tiers to increase revenue and make standard prices more attractive.

Step #4: Push Through Negative Effects of Growth

To achieve rapid user base growth through the network effect, Mike Michalowicz suggests designing your business to function without your direct input. Extreme growth can create new problems that harm product quality and hinder further growth. Three unique problems of large networks can stall growth and must be addressed.

Problem #1: Market Saturation

Chen highlights the value of a large user base for product monetization, but excessive growth can cause problems and hamper quality. To sustain growth, Chen advises innovating beyond the original idea and targeting new users or introducing paid features. This opens up new revenue streams and ensures continued growth even after market saturation.

Market Saturation Shouldn’t Be Your First Assumption

How Brands Grow argues that entrepreneurs may underestimate their market potential and set low sales goals, hindering customer acquisition. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid risky decisions until market saturation is confirmed. Instead, entrepreneurs should target all potential users and set aggressive growth targets until they become market leaders.

If growth stalls, entrepreneurs should identify obstacles deterring specific demographics from using the product rather than assuming market saturation. For instance, a language-learning app should investigate factors hindering user growth in certain demographics.

Problem #2: Community Dilution

As a network grows, community dilution can occur due to an influx of malicious users or mainstream adoption. To prevent this, subnetworks can be created with tight moderation tools. Avoid heavy-handed moderation and censorship by applying transparent rules consistently across the network.

Shifting User Motivations Can Dilute Your Community

Community dilution can occur when the network becomes mainstream or malicious users join. To regulate this, subnetworks can be created with tight moderation tools. However, if users’ motivations change, such as prioritizing audience building over personal connections, it may cause an irreversible cultural shift in the network.

Problem #3: Too Much Content

Chen recommends creating subnetworks and automated moderation tools to prevent community dilution and information overload. Precise discovery algorithms can also aid in content search. However, such algorithms may have adverse effects, such as promoting disinformation and political polarization.

Step #5: Ward Off Challengers

Chen states that becoming a market leader and earning profits through the network effect requires monitoring competitors and adjusting user acquisition strategies. Data analysis is crucial to track user behavior and the impact of these strategies. However, success can lead to negative mindset effects, such as entitlement and paranoia, so keeping ego in check is important.

Avoid Making “Beating Competitors” Your Primary Goal

Chen highlights the need to monitor and compete with rivals as a dominant market leader. However, Sinek suggests that focusing on a noble mission is more important than obsessing over competition, which can demotivate employees. Sinek advises learning from competitors and improving your product, rather than solely stealing their users. He argues that prioritizing competition can hinder learning from competitors and ignoring their strengths.