Flaviu Simihaian's Blog - Entrepreneur and Developer

Cannery Row - Steinbeck's Startup Novel

Thanks to Chris Halligan for recommending this book to me.

Reading John Steinbeck through the startup lens makes me notice Henri, a character who has been building a boat for seven years because every time he nearly finishes it, he changes it and starts over again:

"But suppose he finishes his boat. Once it's finished people will say, 'Why don't you put it in the water?' Then if he puts it in the water, he'll have to go out in it, and he hates the water. So you see, he never finishes the boat--so he doesn't ever have to launch it."

Makes me think Henri read the Lean Startup. That’s right, I just linked to my own blog post.

Here’s Steinbeck on Sales/Marketing:

"People didn't like him for telling the truth. They scowled, or shook and tapped their heads, they laughed as though they knew it was a lie and they appreciated a liar."

Just kidding, I love marketing. As does Doc (the main character):

"[He] still loved true things but he knew it was not a general love and it could be a very dangerous mistress."


"The things we admire in men, kindness an generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second."

Or, in Richard Frosts’ words, “who wants to be good if he has to be hungry too?”

Perhaps the best part of the book is a story in the last few pages. It’s about a gopher that took up residence in the low weeds in Cannery Row. He was a beautiful gopher and found the perfect place for a gopher hole.

The earth was black and soft yet with a little clay in it so that the tunnels didn’t cave in. There were no gardens nearby so no one would think of setting a trap near him. He built his palace perfectly and stocked it with plenty of food.

Every morning he sat in the entrance of his hole and made penetrating squeaks only audible to other gophers. And still no female appeared. He did this for weeks, and still nothing.


"he had to move two blocks up the hill to a dahlia garden where they put out traps every night."

Maybe I’m reading too much into the gopher story…or maybe you’re the gopher and the startup you should be working on is in the dahlia garden.


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