Finding the Exit

I bought the Kindle version of Finding The Exit after seeing it mentioned in a female founders’ community where I am active. I finished reading the book in 1.5 days dedicating two hours each in the morning and in the evening, such was the flow of the story, which weaves Ms Lea A Ellermeier’s origin story with the story of her business that she painstakingly built and successfully sold to 3M, the latter being “the exit” mentioned in the title of the book.

While I try to be as kind as I can, I have in the past been super critical of memoirs for their sanitised presentation of the protagonist. I flag this book as an exception, as Ms Ellermeier has taken a searingly honest lens to herself, including sharing her doubts and fears and rage with the reader, while sharing the story of her childhood and young adulthood without self pity or schmaltz. In the Indian culture, we often refer to the NavRasa, the nine emotions we feel. The book contains and (in me at least) evokes them all.

Most books written by successful entrepreneurs often suffer from hindsight bias, as well survivorship bias to the extent of excluding some of the detail of the toughest parts. Some are just abstract advice with stories drawn from the experiences of others as well as their own. This book, while quick to read, completes the arc from creation difficulties through fund raising, team building, tough negotiations, managing a cofounder relationship across two continents while also managing a relationship and a family, the dread of almost not making payroll, all the way to the exit. That makes it a good book in my, er, book for founders to read.

As good writing goes, the characters in the story are well-developed but Ms Ellermeier manages to reserve her judgement of all of them leaving it to us, the readers, to think about how we might have reacted to or dealt with those people, those situations and those challenges. 

One of my oddest habits is to sit through credits in a film in a cinema hall, and to read acknowledgements in full in a book. I am glad I did that with this book too. I won’t spoil the fun for anyone but I would highly recommend reading till the end of the acknowledgements for a plot twist that was unexpected but makes sense when you read about it.

Star rating: 5 out of 5 

Usefulness note: I would recommend it to all the founders building their businesses. The book is a quick read but one that will make them feel less alone and more energised and motivated.