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The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup
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The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,117 ratings  ·  115 reviews
Often downplayed in the excitement of starting up a new business venture is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will face: should they go it alone, or bring in cofounders, hires, and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising ventu ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published March 25th 2012 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Brad Feld
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman is another book that belongs on every entrepreneur’s bookshelf. It’s excellent.

I met Noam for the first time last week when I was at HBS. I was on a panel of VCs (me, Mike Maples Jr., Kate Mitchell, and David Frankel) talking to a room full of HBS alumni who are VCs. Noam and I had exchanged several emails over the past few months and he sent me a review copy of the book but it got lost in my infinite pile of books to read. After seeing him and talking to
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
My expectation for The Founder's Dilemmas was pretty high as a result of having just read several of Professor Wasserman's publications, including "Stewards, Agents, and the Founder Discount: Executive Compensation in New Ventures."

The book explores key decisions faced by startup founders throughout the life of a company ... from pre-founding, funding options, initial team and transitional hires, salary negotiations, board management, to exit. I especially liked Wasserman's explanation around th
Dec 12, 2013 rated it liked it
The Founder’s Dilemmas – The Answer is “It depends!”

The Founder’s Dilemmas is at the same time a fascinating and frustrating book. Fascinating because it’s providing very seldom seen (and mostly unknown) data about founders and high-tech start-ups. Frustrating because it is also seldom providing answers to the dilemmas founders may face. It took me the full reading of the book to finally understand that the answer Wasserman provides is that there is no best solution for a founder facing a proble
Atila Iamarino
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Um ótimo apanhado do que startups passam nos primeiros anos. O autor trabalha em cima de um banco de dados de milhares de empreendedores e empresas entrevistados ao longo de anos, para chegar em um cenário bem explicado ao longo do livro. Quem cria uma empresa precisa se decidir desde o começo o que quer priorizar: controle ou lucro. Quanto mais priorizar continuar dono da empresa e ter controle sobre decisões, menos ela tende a valer a longo prazo. E se quiser fazer dinheiro, vai precisar abrir ...more
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
If you are thinking about founding a business, or you are a founder of a business, I highly recommend checking if your library has this book. From Harvard Business School, Wasserman has studied the social and economic dilemmas and decisions of start-up founders for 10+ years, and in this book he gives us exquisite data on the results. Wasserman focuses on tech start-ups and businesses in the life sciences, but this book applies to all business founders if you read around the tech details and loo ...more
Athan Tolis
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: startups
“The Founder’s Dilemmas” comes recommended by relevant authors Brad Feld, Eric Ries and my former classmate Jeff Bussgang, all of whom really know what they are talking about.

It’s rigged up as a parallel structure between serious statistical research and anecdotal stories that are meant to guide you, the entrepreneur, in the early decisions that stand to influence the future success of your business.

So you get told “Evan next decided he would only hire junior developers via Craigslist” and then
Tigran Mamikonian
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Quite instructive book about different stages of startup development with plenty of examples and statistical data.

The central theme of the book is so called RICH or KING dilemma. Which refers to two basic types of founders - motivated to get profit (RICH), or motivated to control and creation (KING).

Of course there is a middle point to which author refers as "Ideal entrepreneur".

The book is longer than it could be, however I'd recommend it for reader who would want to dig deeper in this area. An
Vadim Sviridovich
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: entrepreneurship
В книге ученого из Гарварда представлены результаты научных исследований американских высоко-технологичных и биомедицинских стартапов. Подробно рассматриваются вопросы мотивации учредителей, анализа имеющихся и необходимых для создания компании ресурсов (человеческого, социального и финансового капиталов), а также способов и стоимости их привлечения. Проводится анализ жизненного цикла стартапа, а также доминантных проблем, возникающих на каждом этапе его развития.
Oleksandr Golovatyi
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best book for startup makers and persons who want to start working with startups. A lot of great examples are described in this book. For example, Twitter, FeedBurner, Odeo, Blogger and other successful startups histories. I read this book twice: in English and in Russian.
(in English)
Одна из лучших книг для начинающих ИТ предпринимателей и тех, кто хочет начать работать с стартапами. В этой книге описано множество замечательных примеров. Например, Twitter, Fe
Elias Tsoukatos
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
La verdad es que yo no soy muy fan de los Business Books ya que considero que cada negocio es un mundo en si, y que no todas las cosas que leas en estos libros es aplicable a tu propio caso. Sin embargo, este libro es diferente. Me gustó mucho. Yo en este momento estoy en la mitad de mi primer Startup y habían cosas que ni siquiera había considerado que este libro me permitió darme cuenta que podrían resultar un mayor issue en el futuro.
Kenneth Kinyanjui
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: entrepreneurship
This is one great book that I would recommend to anyone who is thinking of starting a venture or getting into a partnership to launch something.

A big percentage why most companies or ventures fail is due to people issues according to Noam Wasserman, this book prepares you with the tools needed to overcome people issues that may arise.

I enjoyed the many case studies presented in the book. I would also recommend if you are a founder already to get the audiobook from audible and listen to it on yo
Maisha Hoye
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
I thought I would relate better to the stories but my dilemmas didn't really apply.
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good for people who, yet, don't know when and with whom to start a startup.
Cole Simmons
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Coming in to starting my own company, I figured there had to be right answers. A right way to do things. And if you did things just in that manner, your chances of success would be significantly higher.

Boy was I wrong, and this book is what highlighted it. Compiled from the author's extensive research and data set of thousands of startups since the start of the millennium, he is able to draw conclusions about the dilemmas founders face, the possible paths, and what kind of outcomes they lead to.
Mihai Cozma
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting but overrated. It is very specific to only a few startup types, it stretches statistics too much at times and, while its main idea is great and worth remembering, it could have been explained just as well in half the page number or even less.
Josh Steimle
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a great addition to data-driven literature that can truly help entrepreneurs. It covers basics every entrepreneur should be aware of, like the perils of setting things up the wrong way at the beginning. But rather than just being the pontifications of someone who has been there done that, it's real data, showing the probabilities of things working out well or poorly depending on choices made during the founding process. Along with Founders at Work, Four Steps to the Epiphany, and Venture ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very good book, easy to read given the topic. Mostly based on research, and where not, is clearly stated.

The book covers a lot of grounds for startups from co-fouding, to hiring first people, getting investors, and selling the company. The book goes over the decisions founders will face and how they affect long term value or control of the company.

I would not recommend an eBook. There were a lot of footnotes and end of book notes, some of which I felt were really important. Having the book in eB
Luke Kanies
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it
This is probably a great book for someone thinking of starting a company, but useless for someone who has. And even then, it should have had a lot more information. It presented problems, but very few useful tools for solving them.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: entrepreneurship
Noam Wasserman evaluates all of the critical decisions (dilemmas) that founders of start-ups face. Some are more obvious than others, but they all have significant consequences that warrant thoughtful consideration.

According to the author, all of these dilemmas boil down to a central dilemma: wealth vs. power. Founders can choose to prioritize the value created and pursue a rich outcome, or they can prioritize control over the company to pursue what Wasserman calls a "king" outcome. (Spoiler: t
Popoy Mindalano
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone who intends to start a business undergoes a lot of confusions that sometimes hinders the progress of the intended start-up. These are called the Founder’s Dillemas and if you have already experienced it then this is the best book for you in order to deal with the inhibition proceeding and developing further.

This book provides us with a guide on how to best found a start-up. If you are confused whether to start solo or as a team, just for instance, then it will show us the necessary requ
Calvin Yuan
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are really thinking of starting a business, this book is a gold mine.

As many other reviewers have said, Wasserman mostly talks about the dilemmas that many founders face and the respective outcomes of each choice under those circumstances. He does not offer any conclusive solutions to many of the issues being raised. This is mainly due to there isn't such a panacea to all of these difficulties. Nevertheless, Wasserman's research is sound and comprehensive. He let me understand the import
Lee Pei Yit
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a comprehensive guide to being a founder, this book is NOT it. The author removes the day-to-day decision making and industry-specific decisions in favor of more general, long term but high impact decisions that tend to be neglected. This makes the book sound bland, since the drama and epicness of being a founder are surgically removed, but I would recommend any serious founder-to-be to take a good look at this book prior to starting anything.

On the negative side, the book
Vasiliy Sikorskiy
May 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
На мой взгляд, это заметки Капитана очевидности. Выводы наподобие: исследовав большой массив данных я обнаружил, что большее число учредителей в стартапе влечет сложность в коммуникациях внутри команды, но больше связей и возможностей для привлечения капитала. Да, ладно?! Или опять-таки "исследовав огромное число бизнесов" приходим к выводу, что если соучредители связаны родственными или дружественными связями, то они более склонны делить доли в равных частях. Класс!

Из хорошего. Книга дала некот
Ahmed Shahrour
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely deserved the 5 star rating. This book delves into three chapters where it begins with Founding Team Dilemmas (should you found alone, equity splits, etc.) and ends with Hires and Investors (Which hires to get onboard and which investor would best suit your goals). This is a perfect solution to the trial and error you'd have to go through to figure this information out.

In addition, the author references so many research articles it's unreal, and he always looks at both sides of an arg
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
A book which answers very well some questions entrepreneurs may have at the beginning of their journey. It is great to read it then to better understand the consequences of some early decisions on the later stages of a business.

I liked the examples backing up suggested resolutions - even though I felt they were very repetitive throughout. For a book talking about beginners' pitfalls however, I felt it ignored one of the most basic advice anyone can receive, which is the waste of time.

I found th
Todd Benschneider
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good read, in depth analysis, valuable insight for understanding successful teams in entrepreneurship. The average consumer will probably be turned off by the uneeded academic vocabaulary used throughout the book. Many conclusions drawn from statistical data sets but the book will probably be well received in scholarly peer reviews. Book should have a disclaimer on the cover that you will need a GMAT verbal score in the top 5th percentile to comprehend what the author is trying to explain. I am ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting book to induce thinking about founding a company.

The quantitative analysis is interesting and quite to the point. It becomes tedious to read after some point, but the book is short enough to complete before getting to dull with quant talks.

I appreciate and recommend reading the conclusion as an excellent summary of the whole book. The conclusion also scopes the book very well (North America, high-tech and life science domains), with warnings on generalizing the results too freely.
Yc Liao
Nice researches based on many cases in such a hard topic "Entrepreneurship". There are useful warnings in the book for business founders, though it more for a bigger corporation not the small business in my opinion. Not everyone will face the same issues, but it does provide guidance, insights that founders should be careful. Mainly based on cases in America, maybe not suitable for every culture such as in the far east there are concepts and motivations very different from the western world.
Les Trachtman
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Noam is the expert when it comes to founders and what makes them successful (or not). He is a pioneer in identifying the dilemmas that founders encounter and his writing is a "how to" for anyone considering founding or who has already founded a business. I've never met a founder who couldn't benefit from this book. Everything he has written is backed by extensive research. The facts speak for themselves.
Scott Wozniak
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a good book for founders of tech or life science companies who are planning to use investor funding. Yes, that's pretty specific. And if that's not you, probably not worth your time. But if it is you there is a wealth of case studies and principles to help you decide how to allocate equity, defining your role as a founder, etc. Ultimately, he focuses on the tension between being king (having control over the company) and being rich (making as much money as you can).
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