Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days” as Want to Read:
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  13,718 Ratings  ·  207 Reviews

For would-be entrepreneurs, innovation managers or just anyone fascinated by the special chemistry and drive that created some of the best technology companies in the world, this book offers both wisdom and engaging insights—straight from the source.

— Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, and author of The Long Tail

"All the best things that I did at Appl

Kindle Edition
Published (first published 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Founders at Work, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Monica If you are still looking, Elon Musk: Inventing the Future
by Ashlee Vance is the book you're looking for!
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Otis Chandler
Feb 13, 2007 Otis Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: entrepreneurs
Shelves: business, nonfiction
Loved every second of this book. Each chapter is a different story of a startup founder. I read it slowly so it wouldn't end, and read many chapters twice. My biggest take was that most founders didn't necessarily know what they were doing - or even that they were on to something big. But they were all determined to start a company - that was the only thing they all had in common.

Here are some good quotes from the book:

"I'd say determination is the single most important quality in a startup foun
Mohamed Diab Embbya
No structure, no themes, but 30 odd interviews with tech business founders, and yet it worked and made for a great read.

The business media usually distills fundamental concepts such as team building, creating a good product and perseverance to the point where you either get a generic phrase or a string of dull paragraphs where a single generic phrase would do; the effect is that reading about business becomes a boring activity, but Founders at Work was different.

It's not a how-to book but narrat
Paul Rivera
Jun 04, 2007 Paul Rivera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: entrepreneurs
everyone has a bad day/week/month.
Jan 08, 2016 Annie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read. An insightful look into the experiences of successful founders. One thing I learned is that even the best venture capitalists turn down unicorns.
مؤسسة هنداوي للتعليم والثقافة
تحميل مقتطفات من هذا الكتاب مجانًا
Sep 21, 2011 Herve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great book, so great I decide to write this post even if I have not finished reading it: Jessica Livingston in Founders at Work has interviewed 32 entrepreneurs about their story. The lessons are convincing, fascinating. Without asking for copyright, I copy here some quotes. The book is just a pleasure to read even if sometimes the Q&A are too specific about the start-up, but I assume it is part of the exercise. A Must-Read.

Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail about Risk Taking

As I say, f
Oct 09, 2015 Azamali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1 Max Levchin Cofounder, PayPal

CHAPTER 2 Sabeer Bhatia Cofounder, Hotmail

CHAPTER 3 Steve Wozniak Cofounder, Apple Computer

CHAPTER 4 Joe Kraus Cofounder, Excite

CHAPTER 5 Dan Bricklin Cofounder, Software Arts

CHAPTER 6 Mitchell Kapor Cofounder, Lotus Development

CHAPTER 7 Ray Ozzie Founder, Iris Associates, Groove Networks

CHAPTER 8 Evan Williams Confounder, Pyra Labs (

CHAPTER 9 Tim Brady First Non-Founding Employee, Yahoo

CHAPTER 10 Mike Lazaridis Cofou
Jun 19, 2007 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
fascinating first-hand accounts from founders of now-ubiquitous companies: hotmail, gmail, paypal, yahoo stores, hotornot, apple, etc etc. strangely, the technical aspect is rarely the most difficult part of the company - most of the founders say marketing the product was crazy hard.

interesting factoids you'll pick up from reading the book:
* hotornot was implemented in an afternoon to rate some random girl one of the founders had seen recently. the site spread virally and they had over 50,000 pa
Arjun Balaji
Jun 15, 2013 Arjun Balaji rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish there was a 4.5 on Goodreads. This book came into my hands highly recommended by several people and when I received it as a gift, I devoured it. Most of the advice in this book is timeless, and any fan of Paul Graham's essays will really enjoy this.

However, to me (an 18y old, reading in 2013), a lot of the interviews in the book, while interesting, were a bit dated. Because of how much the VC landscape (how money is raised, how interactions are had with VCs, etc), the cost of technology
Aug 20, 2008 Saurabh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one is a brilliant, brilliant book.
I'm so glad I picked it up and it's worth every paisa of the 450 bucks I paid for it.

If you think you are the entrepreneur kinds, this book is a must read.

If you haven't started your company as yet, it might just push you to do it - and for those who have started it and are getting completely sloshed by the experience, it shines a nice bright light on you - letting you know that eventually everything will work out -- and even the biggest companies today we
Jul 03, 2013 Andrus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating stories about early days of pre-2008 technology companies like Apple, Blogger, TripAdvisor, etc. Some of them were absolute gems worth a 6-star review, others that got into fine details about uninteresting stuff by today's standards (technical aspects of hardware in early '80s) needed faster page flipping. But all in all a must-read for early stage startup founders.
Jun 04, 2014 Jef rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the few books I've yet to finish, while it's great to see the journeys of the entrepreneurs in these stories there is mostly technical and very intricate details and the stories tend to drag on..

probably very helpful for the technical co-founder
Yaseen Hamdulay
A bit outdated but really inspiring. It's interesting to note the patterns between the different founders stories. The most unexpected being that many were unaware of the importance or enormity of the project they were in the process of undertaking.
Slavo Ingilizov
Mar 24, 2010 Slavo Ingilizov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great value. I've always preferred interviews with real people rather than a subjective opinion. This book not only tries to hit a specific topic, but also intentionally tries to just provide comparison data about some of the most successful entrepreneurs.
Sergey Leschenko
May 30, 2011 Sergey Leschenko rated it liked it
Shelves: it-related
Most stories are interesting as a history of Internet and software industry.
I really like chapter 24, interview with Philip Greenspun (ArsDigita), but the rest is hardly inspiring for me.
Jan 05, 2009 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best part of this book for me is seeing how much businesses change as they go from idea to reality.
Yair Flicker
Jan 14, 2017 Yair Flicker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An endearing collection of how 1990s - early 2000's era tech entrepreneurs launched their businesses (we have come a long way since then). Each of the ~30 chapters is an interview with a different entrepreneur, so you are reading directly from the source. This also means you can pickup the book and put it down as you like -- there is no storyline and none of the chapters are directly connected with one another. My only gripe is that it was a little long for my liking -- I was ready to be over wi ...more
José Vasco
Feb 10, 2017 José Vasco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book. Third time reading it and first time I could actually finish it. It's extensive in the variety and background of interviewee founders yet constant in its quality. I love it. Great insights from many different people of many different backgrounds. To re-read.
Jan 05, 2017 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it in the plane to my start-up.
Thought it was a great book with a lot of interesting insights and even though it was mostly about tech/internet and from 2006 it was still pretty valuable and just interesting to read/learn.
Wish there was a follow-up book.
Tadas Talaikis
Dec 31, 2016 Tadas Talaikis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why this one is great? I can hear the minds of interviewees as they are, without useless "I know why" abstractions.
Yevgeniy Brikman
A wonderful inside look at how a number of different startups were created. The book reinforced a few interesting trends for me:

1. Very few founders knew what they were doing when they first started; many of the ideas emerged accidentally, after many failures or experiments.

2. You *can* get more done with crazy hours and virtually all successful startups require them.

3. VC funding seemed to be an ingredient in the success if most startups, but was often a double edged sword, causing problems l
Instructive and specific stories. A bit scattered by nature of the format, so puts a substantial burden on the reader to see patterns and extract wisdom.
Lorenz Klopfenstein
A great interview collection with the founders of famous web-services (like Yahoo,, GMail and many more). Inspiring!
Jaime Montoya
Jan 05, 2017 Jaime Montoya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sharp questions raised by the interviewer and very sharp and savvy answers provided by the entrepreneurs in a very easy to going prose context.
Ryan Lackey
Dec 20, 2016 Ryan Lackey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: startup-core
Great selection of stories about early days at startups. Jessica Livingston herself knows more about startups than most other authors (she's a founding partner at Y Combinator, has been involved in helping startups for over a decade, and has an investment banking background.)
Sep 10, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting book. Initial impression was that the author had been quite lazy by choosing to leave the book in the format of:

Q: ...

A: ...

After reading ten or fifteen chapters, I realized how right she was. Reading this book is like taking all of these interesting people to coffee. It is helpful to read their stories and thoughts in their own words. There are clear threads that run between the founders and their sense of what made them successful(or failures). For example: write a business pl
Feb 20, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Founders at Work is a collection of 32 interviews done by Jessica Livingston of founders of tech companies. Many of the big names are present: Apple, Adobe, Yahoo, etc. A bunch of people have reviewed this book already, including those who are interviewed for the book, so I thought I would give my personal favorite parts of the book without trying to be comprehensive. The official site could certainly fill you in on the breadth of the book.

To me the most interesting interviews were:
- Steve Wozni
Mar 06, 2011 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an interesting collection of interviews with the founders (or early employees) of 32 different technology startups, from Craigslist, Firefox and Flickr to Yahoo! and Apple.

Because it's a collection of interviews, the usefulness of the stories or the ease of reading vary depending on who is being interviewed (and to a smaller extent, the author's questions). Some founders are better at reflecting upon and summarizing their experiences to be generalizable to readers and aspiring entr
John Abassian
Nov 02, 2011 John Abassian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days” is a very insightful book, full of informative material and entertainment at the same time. The book, while basically is just a large set of interviews, offers readers a very powerful and insightful look into the entrepreneurial process.

The book is a series of interviews with founders of large and successful technology companies, such as Apple, Yahoo, Paypal, and Hotmail, to name a few. The interviews are done in a very effective manner, short
Rodrigo Rivera
Jun 24, 2012 Rodrigo Rivera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jessica Livingston hat ein sehr gutes Kompendium geschrieben. In jedem Interview erzählt der Gründer von einem erfolgreichen (IPO oder erworben von einem großen Konzern) amerikanischen oder kanadischen Startup über die ersten Tagen der Firma: Vor/während und nach der Gründung.

Alles ist in einem sehr lässigen Stil geschrieben und das Englischniveau ist nicht anspruchsvoll. Der Inhalt ist aber sehr lehrreich. Generell betonen alle Gründer, dass ihre Idee ursprünglich sehr anders war und nur durch
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming
  • The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win
  • Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup
  • Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup
  • Joel on Software
  • Eric Sink on the Business of Software
  • Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web Application
  • Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
  • Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
  • Mastering the VC Game: A Venture Capital Insider Reveals How to Get from Start-up to IPO on Your Terms
  • Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist
  • The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development: A Cheat Sheet to the Four Steps to the Epiphany
  • Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competit ion
  • My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley
  • Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software
  • The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs
  • Lucky or Smart?: Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life
  • The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »

Share This Book

“Over the years, I've learned that the first idea you have is irrelevant. It's just a catalyst for you to get started. Then you figure out what's wrong with it and you go through phases of denial, panic, regret. And then you finally have a better idea and the second idea is always the important one.” 3 likes
“the less energy people expend on performance, the more they expend on appearances to compensate.” 2 likes
More quotes…