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Founders at Work

I recently completed "Founders at Work" by Jessica Livingston. It traces the stories of startups' early days. It focuses on software and hardware companies from the technology sector. From overnight runaways like HOT or NOT to longer term ramp ups like TiVo. While reading the interviews from the 32 companies, I started to find reoccurring themes:

  • Have a cofounder, or two
  • Do something
  • Technologists think marketing is hard, but it is easy if you have a product people want
  • Be willing to make mistakes, provided you learn from them
  • Focus on the user
  • It's okay that you don't know how to do everything

While Paul Graham, who was interviewed, advocates certain founder qualities, I'm fairly certain at least one person interviewed violated each item on his list. That isn't to say his list is without merit, but if that is going to discourage someone, they probably didn't have it in them to begin with.

Since the book is composed of interviews, each founders' personality shines through. As such some of the interviews make for so-so reading, even for companies I was interested in. Overall the book does a great job of capturing a wide variety of companies at various stages of the computer revolution and the men and women that helped bring it about.

Tags: books entrepreneur