Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days Kindle Edition
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What surprised me most was how down-to-earth and normal most of these successful people were. Only a couple of them seemed full of themselves. The rest, surprisingly, were just the opposite. Their stories about their startup days provided insights into their values, motivations, aspirations, points of view, work ethic; as well as their worries, fears, doubts, and concerns; plus their approach to making tough decisions and a recognition of their personal limitations and flaws. Their interview responses are full of insights into their decisions about business development, product development, product management, pricing, promotion, distribution, customer service, technical support, accounting, finance, hiring and technology choices; and dealing with venture capitalists, business partners and actual or potential competitors.
The interviews also provide a lot of insights into technology trends and market trends during the time that the founders' companies were starting up.
Here are the companies whose founders were interviewed, in the order they appear in the book: PayPal, Hotmail, Apple, Excite, Software Arts, Lotus Development, Iris Associates, Groove Networks, Pyra Labs (Blogger.com), Yahoo, Research in Motion, Marimba, Gmail, WebTV, TiVo, Viaweb, del.icio.us, ONELIST, Bloglines, Craigslist, Flickr, WAIS, InternetArchive, Alexa, Adobe Systems, Open Systems, Hummer Winblad, 37signals, ArsDigita, Fog Creek Software, TripAdvisor, HOT or NOT, Tickle, Firefox, Six Apart, Lycos, Aliant Computer Systems, Shareholder.com.
This book is perfect for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, technology startups, technology companies in general, and business books in general. I've read the book once already and now I'm in the middle of reading it a second time. I wish there were an audio version of it.
Take away message for me: there are very few rules when it comes to founding a tech startup. Just be yourself, and toss the proverbial coin.
That being said, the quality of the book was great. It was full of all sorts of insights and experiences. They can all be summarized as don't give up, watch out for VC's but don't write them off, listen to your customers, be willing to change, make sure the initial founding team works together well, etc... But just listening the values does not do it justice. You really have to read the experiences. The book is full of all sorts of insights too, not just about entrepreneurship but also about the individual companies. For example I was really impressed about PayPal and the fraud stuff they did and how valuable that was. I just never knew. Overall I think the book was very well put together. Although some of the founders liked to talk a lot more than others and it droned on and on. But others were brief and insightful. I would definitely recommend this.
If I bought the print edition I suspect I would be giving it 5 stars. But really the kindle experience is probably worth 0 stars. But the content is so good that I figure 4 stars is fair. Since at this time I see hardcover editions for $5 or $6 new I would say go grab one of those now!!! The book is definitely inspirational.
The chapters covering Hotmail and PayPal showed some remarkable insight into how a given product can be marketed. Hotmail was a fairly straightforward shot from original idea to sales, (email from PIM DB is a fairly minor refinement technically -- it was huge from a business standpoint) but went through some massive changes in how that idea was sold. PayPal, on the other hand, went through profound shifts in the product itself, and also in marketing.
For me, insight into the founders' thought-processes as they rolled with the changes that they encountered was the primary value of the book. The author, then, is to be commended. Keeping the discussions of multiple interviewees relevant and picking out such insightful details is no mean feat. Every chapter so far has been excellent in these regards -- A further testament to her skills as an interviewer and editor.
If you are in or are considering going into a technical business, this book will help you understand the mind of those successful at that sort of thing. Most of the business advice I find is directed at the non-technical side of things, which is a very different sort of mind. That is what makes this book so particularly useful.
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