Laurențiu-Victor Bălașa from Underline on books and entrepreneurship
Laurențiu-Victor Bălașa, from Underline, is a Romanian serial entrepreneur.
In his entrepreneurial life, he’s started 8 companies, sold 3 of them and now he does some angel investment as well. His biggest company to date was T-Me Studios, a company that had, at some point, 750 million installs of their apps.
I actually know Laurențiu personally and we’ve met from time to time during our respective entrepreneur journeys. I still remember playing some poker together and, more than that, I remember “losing” some potential hires to his company. I also remember that he reads a lot.
Underline helps you remember what you read. In his words, “Underline makes it easy to create book notes from any type of book. You just take a photo of a book page, extract the text, add your thoughts and quickly create a book note”.
You can also use Underline to read the book notes of other users and that might help you decide what you need to read next. Of course, you can also do this by going through The CEO Library’s database, right? ?
Joking aside, you should go and test Underline. Everything that helps you read with more purpose, that helps you read more, is good.
Laurențiu reads lots of books, so I expected some good suggestions. And I have to tell you, even if I know him personally, the answer to the first question took me by surprise.
What’s your favorite book and why?
The Ending of Time by Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm. The book is the transcript of a lengthy discussion on the Divine between (probably) the greatest spiritual teacher of the previous century, Krishnamurti, and the great quantum physicist, David Bohm.
The first time I read it I was young and loved the back-n-forth between the two. It’s a difficult but very rewarding book. It really helped shape my views on life and reality. Defined me as an individual.
Besides that one, my favorite fiction book is actually a collection of books: The Foundation series by Asimov. I love his writing style. And I love science fiction too.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you?
Ben Horowitz wrote The Hard Thing About Hard Things. There’s a paragraph there in which he talks about hiring managers. I can’t remember the exact passage (Underline didn’t exist at the time) but it was something about the criteria for hiring good managers.
That really came in handy in my previous startup, T-Me Studios, when I was hiring project managers. I remember applying some of those principles in different interviews.
What books had the biggest impact on you?
Everything Robert Anton Wilson wrote really impacted me as a teenager. His books, together with everything I read from Richard Bandler, the founder of NLP, really shaped my perspective on how my brain works and helped me as an entrepreneur tremendously. As a founder, you’re constantly selling. I think everything I read from these two guys taught me how to sell from a very young age.
What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path & why?
- Felix Dennis – How to get rich – funny, witty writing style – contrary to the clickbaity title, the book has real value for founders. It’s an autobiography from a very smart founder.
- Viktor Frankl – Man’s search for meaning – to learn how to appreciate the entrepreneurial struggle and see how easy it is compared to real hardships
- J. Paul Getty – How to be rich – this is not a book about how to get wealth, but rather what sort of personality one needs to develop to face the challenges which wealth brings
- Andrew Carnegie – The autobiography of Andrew Carnegie – again, just to appreciate how easy it is to be an entrepreneur in modern time
- Catherine Pittman/Elizabeth Carle – Rewire your anxious brain – all entrepreneurs I know go through anxiety/depression phases – this book should help!
How often do you read? What format do you prefer? Do you have any favorite places?
I read physical and digital books. Physical books during the weekend and digital before going to sleep. I have a spot in my house, with a designated chair for reading 🙂
I think I’m reading once every other week. More than 2 books per month for sure.
How do you make time for reading?
I don’t feel like I need to make time. I love reading, and it’s now a habit, so it’s just part of my life.
Do you take notes or something similar?
I use Underline, the app I’m working on now, to remember what I read. I take notes there and revisit them. Sometimes I shared those book notes with friends/colleagues who are also using Underline.
How do you choose what books to read next?
Friend recommendations, recommendations from people I admire, shared book notes.
Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
What book are you currently reading?
Platform Revolution by Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Choudary. I’m looking to understand how to scale a 2-sided marketplace.
What are three common mistakes made by entrepreneurs?
Working on small problems must be the #1 thing. It’s so easy nowadays to address global markets, why not focus on that?
Another one would be not bringing on mentors/advisors with industry-specific knowledge.
The third – stopping after they’ve achieved a certain level of success.
Entrepreneurship is a gift, with a huge palpable impact on society. It’s the cornerstone of our capitalist system. Entrepreneurs have a social responsability to create past their level of personal comfort, with an eye towards the greater good.Entrepreneurship is a gift, with a huge palpable impact on society. It's the cornerstone of our capitalist system. Entrepreneurs have a social responsability to create past their level of personal comfort, with an eye towards the… Click To Tweet
Most successful people give the advice “follow your passion”. What would you recommend to someone who’s very young and not yet aware of their passion? Where should they begin their professional journey?
Look for what you are drawn to organically. What do you do on a Sunday afternoon, when you have nothing do to? Turn that into a business.
What common myths related to your industry do you encounter on a day-to-day basis?
The number one myth must be “it’s easy to create an app”. Creating a mobile business is extremely difficult, and requires a large, knowledgable team.
What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? (Peter Thiel’s favorite question)
I think absolutely any business can work. It’s a question of finding the right market. Consumption of goods and services is now so wide, I think markets are created and can be created anytime.
If you’re good enough, you can find or create a market for your product/service. You don’t need to find the new, hot emerging market to build a big business.
You might see certain trends/telltale signs that a market can emerge in a sector. But if you can see the emerging market, it’s too late. What you want is to just create that new market.
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All books mentioned by Laurențiu in our interview:
- The Ending of Time, by Jiddu Krishnamurti and David Bohm
- The Foundation series, by Isaac Asimov
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
- How to Get Rich: One of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets, by Felix Dennis
- Viktor Frankl – Man’s search for meaning
- J. Paul Getty – How to be rich
- Andrew Carnegie – The autobiography of Andrew Carnegie
- Catherine Pittman/Elizabeth Carle – Rewire your anxious brain
- Platform Revolution, by Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Choudary