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The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062273205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062273208
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“The most valuable book on startup management hands down” (PandoDaily)

“Horowitz tends to dispense management advice in a kind of one-two punch. First comes the self-deprecating quip about mismanagement and misery, delivered with a knowing grin and capped with a two-beat chuckle. But soon the smile will vanish, and he’ll turn dead serious. His brow will furrow slightly, his eyes will widen and focus with an intensity that borders on scary, and he’ll speak slowly, deliberately. It’s almost as if you can’t afford not to listen.” (Fortune)

“There is more than enough substance in Mr. Horowitz’s impressive tome to turn it into a leadership classic.” (The Economist)

From the Back Cover

A lot of people talk about how great it is to start a business, but only Ben Horowitz is brutally honest about how hard it is to run one.

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley's most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, draws on his own story of founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and investing in technology companies to offer essential advice and practical wisdom for navigating the toughest problems business schools don't cover. His blog has garnered a devoted following of millions of readers who have come to rely on him to help them run their businesses. A lifelong rap fan, Horowitz amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs and tells it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, from cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

His advice is grounded in anecdotes from his own hard-earned rise—from cofounding the early cloud service provider Loudcloud to building the phenomenally successful Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm, both with fellow tech superstar Marc Andreessen (inventor of Mosaic, the Internet's first popular Web browser). This is no polished victory lap; he analyzes issues with no easy answers through his trials, including

  • demoting (or firing) a loyal friend;
  • whether you should incorporate titles and promotions, and how to handle them;
  • if it's OK to hire people from your friend's company;
  • how to manage your own psychology, while the whole company is relying on you;
  • what to do when smart people are bad employees;
  • why Andreessen Horowitz prefers founder CEOs, and how to become one;
  • whether you should sell your company, and how to do it.

Filled with Horowitz's trademark humor and straight talk, and drawing from his personal and often humbling experiences, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures.


More About the Author

Ben Horowitz is the cofounder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs building the next generation of leading technology companies. The firm's investments include Airbnb, GitHub, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Previously, he was cofounder and CEO of Opsware, formerly Loudcloud, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in 2007. Horowitz writes about his experiences and insights from his career as a computer science student, software engineer, cofounder, CEO, and investor in a blog that is read by nearly 10 million people. He has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Fortune, the Economist, and Bloomberg Businessweek, among others. Horowitz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Felicia.


Follow him on Twitter @bhorowitz and his blog, www.bhorowitz.com.

Customer Reviews

Having to make decisions and do things you dont like doing.
bb99
This book is a must read for anyone who is, was, or thinks they want to be a tech CEO.
Bud Michael
The book is very straightforward and the concepts are easy to understand.
John Chancellor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I knew this hybrid memoir and advice manual was different on page 20, when Horowitz writes: "We finished the third quarter of 2000 with $37 million in bookings--not the $100 million that we had forecast." These numbers are so huge, they sound fictional. His massive inter-business contracts and repeated fiscal brinksmanship resemble Jack Ryan adventures. I wondered how they'd reach neighborhood entrepreneurs seeking $30,000 for rent and payroll.

Then I realized: this business book sounds different because it is different. Some books aim for middle managers, people with limited authority but little power, and others offer moral framework without strategic guidance. Horowitz writes for CEOs, division heads, and other top-rank executives who make powerful decisions in essential isolation. Horowitz' intended audience has probably read innumerable books about how business should work; he illustrates how business really works.

That's good and bad. CEOs, venture capital entrepreneurs, and other soaring-eagle outliers are probably an underserved market. Middle managers generally have in-house mentors and have so many books written for them, they could get bulk-buying discounts at Books-A-Million. CEOs frequently have to re-invent the wheel, because only a handful ever exist at Horowitz's level. Horowitz steps into the mentor role, dispensing hard-won advice when every decision costs millions of dollars.

But CEOs at Horowitz's level remain rare for good reason. When he describes selling his corporation to a competitor, but retaining intellectual property rights, which he leases out for $30 million annually, he clearly operates a business model that only functions among the One Percent. Could you sell anything you made, but still own it, and license it back to your buyer?
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139 of 174 people found the following review helpful By Whippet on March 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Horowitz writes for startup CEOs who raise $20 or $40 million from top VCs. His own history, recounted in the book, shows just how irrelevant his own experience is to 99.9% of entrepreneurs.

This is a book for CEOs of VC-controlled startups. Its lessons are unlikely to apply to real businesses owned by--funded by--real entrepreneurs.

What makes sense for High Finance Entrepreneurship is usually suicidal for 99% of real businesses. VCs make their money by funding and promoting aggressively, and they don't care about losses. That's a luxury Main Street entrepreneurs cannot afford.

Finally, I would urge readers to be cautious of any advice given by a VC. It's typically self-serving and cannot be trusted.

I highly recommend spending time reading Michael Church's essays on VCs and VC-backed startups.
__________________________________

We're in Bubble 2.0. Guys like Horowitz become celebs so long as the bubble lasts.

In five years I cannot imagine this flimsy book being bought by anyone.

My background: I've been a VC and led two VC-backed software companies. Multiple exits, high IRRs.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As someone who spent 20+ years in Silicon Valley, including both the dotcom boom and bust eras, I felt Ben's pain when I read this book. When the valley was flying high, it was really high. Spending was ridiculous. There was nothing "Lean" going on in start-ups. Money flowed like tap water...and went down the drain in much the same way. And then the bubble burst. Chaos and calamity was rampant.

Ben Horowitz not only weathered the storm, but he went public instead of going bankrupt. He turned a low of $0.37 a share into a $1.6B sale to HP. His stories of what he and the team went through, the excruciating decisions he had to make, and how he ended up winning (buying a company in order to keep a $20M deal with EDS)...an exceptional story.

So, the question is, how does his experience apply to those of us who are struggling with our own tech start-ups? While some of the advice was a bit preachy, what I like about Ben's advice is the brilliance of thought behind it. For instance, the Freaky Friday strategy. His Sales Engineering and Customer Service teams were at war. His flash of brilliance came from watching a movie on TV. He decided to permanently swap the responsibilities of the leads of the two organizations. What resulted was a fast understanding of the OTHER guy's issues...and a quick path to a mutually designed, collaborative solution. Brilliant.

Other pieces of advice flow to the heart of leadership. He has defined the job of the CEO and distilled it down to the essence of the job--for instance, making decisions in absence of all the data, having the courage to stand behind and in front of your decision, and being able to sell others on your decisions.
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26 of 35 people found the following review helpful By James Strock VINE VOICE on February 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ben Horowitz has written a 21st century management manual. It's derived from his personal experiences. He refined his thinking and expression from blogging. The result is a book that can be a useful companion, in his words: "providing clues and inspiration for others who find themselves in the struggle to build something out of nothing."

There's a great divide in much of the management literature. One the one side are the theorists. On the other side are the offerings from doers, in the field.

Where Horowitz shines is in linking theory and practice. This makes his book valuable for almost anyone, at any phase of their career, in starting up or turning around an enterprise.

Horowitz wisely eschews overbroad attempts at universally applicable precepts. Instead, he offers ways of thinking about common, recurring situations: hiring, firing, buying, selling, cashing out, moving on.

My sense is that most readers will find value by turning to this book for inspiration in dealing with specific challenges. Rather than reading it straight through, readers may look to the sections, with titles such as: "When Things Fall Apart," "Take Care of the People, the Products, and the Profits--In That Order," "How to Lead Even When You Don't Know Where You Are Going," and "First Rule of Entrepreneurship: There Are No Rules."

The chapters are brief, bite-sized. They are divided into easy-to-follow sections and summaries. Many include references to popular culture. You can turn to them on the run.

Anyone in management can find value in one or more ways in this book. At the very least, it's a reminder of a reality that can be easy to overlook when facing a "hard thing" that only you can fix: you are not alone.
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