- Hardcover: 458 pages
- Publisher: Apress; 1st Corrected ed., Corr. 2nd printing edition (January 25, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590597141
- ISBN-13: 978-1590597149
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days 1st Corrected ed., Corr. 2nd printing Edition
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About the Author
Jessica Livingston is a founding partner at Y Combinator, a seed-stage venture firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Mountain View, California. She was previously vice president of marketing at investment bank Adams Harkness. In addition to her work with startups at Y Combinator, she organizes Startup School (www.StartupSchool.org). She has a bachelor's degree in English from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
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Top Customer Reviews
I do not know if the hardcover edition has this problem or not.
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.
Jessica Livingston has written an amazing book. If you want to read the stories behind some of the most well known software companies in the last 30 years, you will find it in this book. But Livingston hasn't just covered the usual suspects (Google, Microsoft), she has included a diverse collection from Steve Wozniak (Apple) to David Heinemeier Hansson (37 Signals), Dan Bricklin (Visicalc) to Blake Ross (Firefox). It covers a lot of ground from the early 80's software boom to the Web 2.0 starts ups. But there is more than just stories about starting companies, there is real advice from the frontline trenches of software start-ups. Keep your post-it notes and highlighter handy, if you are like me you will be annotating and highlighting a lot!
If you have ever considered a start-up you should definitely read this book. It's like picking the brains of some very experienced entrepreneurs. Anybody that has already tried their hand at start-ups will recognize the value of this book. Most will probably feel like I did, and wish that they had had this book before they started their first company. It could have saved me many painful lessons (both financially and personally). Reading these interviews is like having 32 mentors.
Like many people I am always a little skeptical of `success stories'. Just because someone did x, y and z, doesn't mean that I could follow these very steps and be as successful. Just because Aunt Ethel, who lived to be a 100, attributes her long life to drinking a glass of whisky every day, doesn't mean I can drink a glass of whisky every day and live to be a 100. Instead of a collection of fluffy `creation myth' stories written about software companies, Livingston has put a lot of thought into how she approached these interviews and has collected some real gems of insights from these entrepreneurs. She has uncovered a gold mine of valuable advice and information about starting a company. As you read these stories you start to see some patterns emerging. Some of these patterns I recognize from my own experiences, but others were new to me. Sometimes you see contradictory advice from different founders; one tells you, you need to focus on the technology and somebody else explains that it's more important to focus on business/market opportunity. There are definitely multiple paths to starting a company, but some advice is repeated story after story, and these seem to be universal truths.
Here are some of the universal truths that I culled from the interviews:
- Iterate through ideas, the first idea isn't always the best
- Business plans are important - but be prepared to change it many times
- You need to be naïve - "unencumbered by reality"
- Persistence makes all the difference
- Passion - you need to be really excited about what you are doing and think it's really important
- Understand and listen to your end users
The book is full of ideas and advice like this.
Overall, I can't say enough good things about this book. Obviously it's aimed at entrepreneurs, but I know there are going to be many people just interested in the stories behind their favorite companies or people. Personally I loved the interviews with Ray Ozzie, Joel Spolsky, Joe Kraus and Steve Wozniak. I was also fascinated by the stories behind companies like: 37 Signals, Six Apart, del.icio.us and Craigslist. I was even surprised by the story behind `Hot or Not', it's not as shallow as you might think.
Entrepreneurs -- wanna-be, new and experienced -- you NEED to read, think, digest and act on the advice in this book and your next/current entrepreneurial venture will go much smoother.
Inventor of ThinkCube
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.