Founders at Work Give the Inside Story of 32 Successful Technology Entrepreneurs

If you're thinking of starting a Web or technology business, do yourself a favor and pick up Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston.  In the book, Ms. Livingston interviews 32 Founders of companies that went on to become successful.  The list includes well known entrepreneurs such as Steve Wozniak from Apple and Bob Davis from Lycos to lesser known founders such as James Hong at HOT or NOT and Caterina Fake from Flickr.  The interviews are candid and the stories these entrepreneurs tell is inspirational and enlightening.

Some entrepreneurs tell tales of persistence and of hanging on even in the bleakest of moments.  Evan Williams, one of the founders of Blogger describes how the company was on the verge of being shut down.  It had run out of money, laid off all its employees save for one, himself, and was running month-to-month in paying its bills.  Yet, he persisted and eventually sold the company to Google.

Other discuss the key insights applicable to any start-up.  Joel Spolsky from Fog Creek Software learned that spending resources on developing a better product provided a better return than time and money spent on marketing initiatives.  He says:

"Every minute, every developer hour we spent on any of these crazy (marketing) things - although they had some marginal return on the work that we put into them - was nothing compared to just making a better version of the product and releasing it."

HOT or NOT founder James Hong talks almost casually about how he and a friend came up with the idea, threw it up on the Web, and watched it take off.  And that's perhaps the greatest insight to come out of the book.  In many cases, the Founders seem almost surprised that their ideas and creations were as popular as they were.  Some launched them as hobbies, others were just experimenting and trying something new.  The prototype for Gmail was built in a day and Flickr "was kind of a lark.  It was a side project we built while we were in the process of building Game Neverending," said Caterina Fake.

But all of the entrepreneurs remained dedicated to making their business work, whatever that business turned out to be.  Stay flexible, remain dedicated, be thrifty, and hang-in there seem to be the main messages coming from Founders at Work

Sol Nasisi
Sol Nasisi: Sol Nasisi is the co-founder and a past president of BestCashCow, an online resource for comprehensive bank rate information. In this capacity, he closely followed rate trends for all savings-related and loan products and the impact of rate fluctuations on the economy. He specifically focused on how rates impact consumers' ability to borrow and save. He also has authored a wee

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  • JCT

    August 06, 2007

    True entrepreneurs break their asses and create their own rules for their industries. They don't read self-promoting "How to" books.

  • PhilR

    August 06, 2007

    @JCT - you've obviously never been an entrepreneur.

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