The Innovation Stack Book Summary - The Innovation Stack Book explained in key points
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The Innovation Stack summary

Jim McKelvey

Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time

4.6 (149 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

The Innovation Stack by Jim McKelvey explains how companies create something entirely new and innovative. It cites examples of successful businesses and shows how they used the innovation stack to thrive amidst competition.

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    The Innovation Stack
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    Entrepreneurship is about treading uncharted territory.

    What does it take to build a business? According to Jim McKelvey, the answer is simple: copy what everyone else does.

    This might sound disappointing, but it’s true! Many lucrative businesses take an already established idea and repackage it into an ever-so-slightly different form.

    Take Shake Shack – one of the most successful burger chains in the US. All of its famous menu items were copied from other restaurants. Its burger and fries, for example, were inspired by Steak ’n Shake. And its frozen custard was taken straight from Ted Drewes – a locally popular company in St. Louis.

    Building a truly great business, on the other hand, requires a much different approach – one that involves stepping out into the unknown.

    The key message here is: Entrepreneurship is about treading uncharted territory.

    The upper echelons of today’s businesspeople are filled with successes in copying things that have already been done. But a real entrepreneur finds new ways to solve new problems. Look at it this way: to truly make a difference in the world, draw a giant circle around everything that humankind knows. And then leave the circle. 

    Think back to medieval Edinburgh, which had a giant stone wall – very much like this circle – protecting its citizens inside. So many people lived within this wall that six-story buildings were only separated by narrow streets called closes. Less than a meter wide, these closes doubled as sewers; no one had internal plumbing, and they had to get rid of their waste somehow. So if you – or if someone standing on the slope above you – slipped, you’d fall into excrement and cascade down into the stagnant Nor’ Loch lake.

    Now, life within the wall wasn’t great. But, for most people, it was better than what the wilderness outside offered: frightening beasts and certain death. Still, there were some brave explorers who looked over the stone ramparts and were curious enough to ask, What can I do out there? Though citizens inside the wall probably thought they were crazy, those who left were happy to risk their lives to discover something new and unseen.

    So, what does all this have to do with entrepreneurship?

    Well, today the word entrepreneur is basically used to describe anyone with a business. But, like their medieval predecessors who transcended the city walls, real entrepreneurs are fearless explorers.

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    What is The Innovation Stack about?

    The Innovation Stack (2020) explores what it takes to be a true entrepreneur – that is, to find a problem no one else has solved, and do everything you can to solve it. It reveals how two friends built a billion-dollar financial-services company from the ground up through courage, ingenuity, and a touch of humor. 

    The Innovation Stack Review

    The Innovation Stack (2020) explores the fascinating world of building successful businesses from scratch. Here's what makes this book worth your time:

    • The book offers a revealing glimpse into the behind-the-scenes stories of some of the most revolutionary companies, showcasing the challenges they faced and the innovative solutions they came up with.
    • With its practical insights and actionable advice, it provides readers with a roadmap to navigate through uncertainty and build their own successful ventures.
    • Through compelling storytelling and real-world examples, the book manages to convey complex concepts in an accessible manner, making it an engaging and enlightening read.

    Who should read The Innovation Stack?

    • Would-be entrepreneurs looking to build their first company
    • Established entrepreneurs seeking fresh inspiration
    • Anyone interested in the evolution of a multibillion-dollar company

    About the Author

    Jim McKelvey is a serial entrepreneur and inventor. In 2009, he cofounded Square, the acclaimed financial-payments company that’s now worth upward of $100 billion. In 2016, he founded Invisibly, which powers micropayments for online content. Before his entrepreneurial escapades, McKelvey made his living as a glass artist.

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    The Innovation Stack FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Innovation Stack?

    The main message of The Innovation Stack is that successful startups are built by creating new solutions to previously unsolved problems.

    How long does it take to read The Innovation Stack?

    The reading time for The Innovation Stack varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Innovation Stack a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Innovation Stack is a fascinating read that offers valuable insights into building successful startups. It's definitely worth reading for anyone interested in entrepreneurship.

    Who is the author of The Innovation Stack?

    The author of The Innovation Stack is Jim McKelvey.

    What to read after The Innovation Stack?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Innovation Stack, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • One Simple Idea by Stephen Key
    • Dear Founder by Maynard Webb and Carlye Adler
    • Resilient by Sevetri Wilson
    • How to Start a Start-up by ThinkApps
    • Million Dollar Weekend by Noah Kagan
    • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows
    • Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker
    • Startup Seed Funding for the Rest of Us by Mike Belsito