The holiday season is a time to take step back, relax, and spend time with loved ones. Entrepreneurs, however, are notorious workaholics with serious detachment issues when it comes to their businesses.
In my experience, entrepreneurs are prone to using the soft glow from a Menorah to compose email, taking elevator pitches door-to-door instead of singing carols, or writing code beneath the Christmas tree. As many of you with close friends, family members, or significant others building a startup know, it can take serious plotting to attract their attention.
With that in mind, here is our list of 10 gifts sure to please even the most dedicated entrepreneur. But act quickly — you have less than a week until Christmas.
‘Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age’
Paul Graham is a entrepreneurial guru. His words ricochet across the startup community and are eagerly adopted as dogma by legions of eager followers. In his book Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age, Graham offers a glimpse into the “intellectual Wild West” of the tech industry and the forces that make it hum. He also discusses practical ideas about the importance of good design, how to strike it rich, and the benefits of breaking rules. It is a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur. The book is available digitally or in paperback or hardcover. $5-$30.
Coffee is a vital part of the startup ecosystem. Entrepreneurs commonly spend extended periods of time in coffee shops before they are able to afford an office and meetings commonly happen over espresso. You will be French-pressed (ha) to find an entrepreneur who isn’t fueled by copious amounts of caffeine. As much as I would love to furnish the entrepreneur in my life with a state-of-the-art, revolutionary, four-tap coffee brewer complete with a self-cleaning milk foamer that delivers an exquisite cup of coffee in 15 seconds (did I mention it connects to iPhones?), it is just not feasible. Unfortunately, the Scanomat TopBrewer is not yet available for sale in the US and outrageously expensive.
Perhaps the Chemex Classic Glass Coffeemaker is a slightly more reasonable gift. These coffeemakers are simple, elegant, and effective — the way all good software should be. They make it easy to brew delicious, high-quality coffee and look good in an office to boot. Plus, maybe the hourglass shape will remind the receiving party that there is more to life than the square of a computer screen. $35-$43.
Portable Ping-Pong table
Ping-Pong tables are a staple of startup offices. A rousing game of table tennis is a good way to stimulate blood flow through the body, bond with coworkers, and most importantly, provide mental space for brilliant “Eureka” moments. Plus you can convert it into a beer pong table for Friday happy hours. This Stiga mini-pong table is lightweight and foldable. It fits deftly into tiny, bootstrapped work spaces, and can you can easily transport it to different offices as the team grows (or dwindles). Along with the table, the set includes the net and post, paddles, and two balls. Because to be a successful entrepreneur, you gotta have balls. $108.
It may be acceptable in Startup Land to pair socks with sandals and sport an endless collection of swag, but keep in mind that “acceptable” and “attractive” are two entirely separate and distinct concepts. Every young CEO should have at least one presentable outfit that is well-made and fits well. Chances are good that at some point there will be investor dinners, swanky events with influencers and potential high-profile clients, or maybe even a nonbusiness occasion to dress nicely for. Like a date, for example.
Blank Label offers customized hand-cut, hand-stitched, hand-pressed tailored shirts. Customers can either browse the site’s collection of stylish shirts or choose every detail. They then answer 10 quick questions to help with tailoring because “you’re better than the pro fitting shirts in your wardrobe” and the shirt will be delivered. The result: instant style. Gift-givers can either design the shirt for their entrepreneur, or purchase a gift card. Shirts range in cost from $75 to $150.
For female founders, Bow and Drape is a fashion startup where women can custom design classic dresses and have them made-to-order. $200 to $400.
Running out of power is a major anxiety point for entrepreneurs who rely on their phones, tablets, and computers for, well, everything. With meetings all around town, long rides to the South Bay, and crowded coffee shops with limited electrical outlets, staying charged up can be quite the challenge. Enter Powerbag, which sells a line of backpacks, messenger bags and briefcases that come equipped with a complete charging system. Each bag has a battery, Apple connector, USB connectors and ports, and power adapters. It can charge up to four devices at a time. $140 to $250.
Manpacks is a subscription service that provides “manly basics” like socks, underwear, razors, toiletries, and condoms every three months. Each guy picks the specific items he needs on a regular basis so he doesn’t have to waste precious hours visiting the drug store. As it says on the site that this allows more time to “slay dragons.” In honor of the season, Manpacks is selling one-time delivery gift packs. For this particular scenario, I advise the CEO Giftpack. It includes boxer briefs, Windsor socks, V-neck undershirts, and shoe-shine wipes. $75.
A bevy of subscription services are out there for women, but we (for the most part) prefer to buy underwear ourselves, and something about a tampon subscription service seems inappropriate for the holidays. Beauty subscription service Birchbox has some excellent holiday offerings for the lady-on-the-go, including travel-sized scents, dry shampoo, and eye cream to mask those dark circles.
When starting a company, buzz is usually a good thing. Unless it is a distraction. Whether it is to block out chatty coworkers or hunker down to work with some serious electronic music, noise-cancelling headphones are a godsend for anyone trying to focus. The Bose QuietComfort model can be controlled from iPhones or iPods, include a mic for hands-free calling, and have a long battery life, which is great for long-distance flights. Or for three-day work-athons when your entrepreneur doesn’t leave the office for fresh air or supplies. $300.
iPhone 5 case and card holder
They may forget to shower, and they may forget their keys, but few entrepreneurs will go anywhere without their iPhones. These devices are like an extension of their body, so you may as well give them something attractive to keep it in. Hard Graft offers a range of drool-worthy wool and leather tech accessories. This phone case not only sheaths the latest Apple product, but also has a pocket in the back to carry along credit cards, cash, and of course, business cards. Hard Graft also makes products for iPads and iPad Minis, every size of the Macbook, and the 11-inch Air. $90.
Paul Graham advises the founders going through Y Combinator to focus on three things: talking to customers, building product, and exercise. This does not leave much room for family, friends, or significant others, but it does provide a valuable gift suggestion. Sitting at a desk all day is detrimental for physical health, and working out is a great way to relieve stress. Buy the entrepreneur in your life a Nike+ Fuelband to help them get the physical activity they need to stay on their A-game. Plus, the quantified self movement is gaining ground within the tech community and any entrepreneur is sure to get excited about the latest gadget fad. Nike is even targeting entrepreneurs with its Nike+ Accelerator to drive innovation in fitness technology, powered by TechStars. It’s both a functional accessory and a business opportunity. $149.
Whiskey is an entrepreneur’s best friend. It is a drink to help unwind at the end of a long day and a drink to calm nerves. It is a drink to celebrate with and a drink for drowning sorrows. Furnish your entrepreneur with a Whiskey Disks Tasting Set, which includes two crystal tumblers and four soapstone disks. After putting these disks in the freezer, they will chill the beverage without diluting the taste. (Preventing dilution is a good thing for whiskey and founders alike.) Also consider pairing it with a bottle of Kings Country Whiskey. This distillery is “hacking” whiskey-making through its unorthodox approach to production. $55 for the tasting set; $28 for a 200 ml bottle of the booze.