“Founders at Work” by Jessica Livingston

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days (Recipes: a Problem-Solution Ap)

Read from April to May 2007.

This is a collection of 32 interviews with founders from recent technology startups.  The book is well written and Livingston speaks enough of the technical language to ask the right questions.  This book fules the entrepreneurial spirit of the reader and makes clear that startups have their ups and downs – even though this particular story is about 32 startups that were successful, at least for a while.

The most engaging part of the story for me was how patterns emerged between the founders and common experiences they all shared.  It became clear that tech startups have to be ready for anything and be willing to alter the original plan again and again as development continues.  This flexibility plus a commitment to the customer regardless of the circumstances was also novel to me.  Often times you think of a startup running as fast as it can without regard for the customer, hoping the customer will understand the product.  The people interviewed in this book were the opposite – they only cared about the customer and constantly made changes accordingly.

It was also really interesting that many (of those interviewed over half) were established engineers with families and prior careers.  These interviews were particularly insightful to me, since the media glamorizes the phenomenon of a college drop-out success story.  For example, can you name the founder of Tivo?  Turns out they all were established middle-aged engineers.  That doesn’t make for a great scoup but certainly makes for more interesting reading.  The perspective these seasoned engineers provide on their experiences in leaving a steady job, steady salary, and steady lifestyle for the 24-hour pace of a startup fills the reader with confidence that he too can be successful in the startup.  And, even if not successful, that the experience was worth the effort.

I highly recommend this book if you have the desire to enter the tech industry at any level.  The interviews are short and sweet and you get a sense of each of the founders from their own words.  I hope Jessica Livingston continues to write about tech startups – I will keep reading what she writes.

Read more about it and buy it here.

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